Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cruising the Web

Ah, a snow day with time off from school. The kids are happy making snowballs and teachers get to sleep late.

So how many people watched the President's State of the Union last night? I just can't imagine ginning up much interest at all for him to stand up there and make promises no one trusts him to keep about programs he wants to create to address the conditions in the economy he's presided over already for five years. I'm with Charlie Cook. State of the Union addresses are boring and the only people who care are politicians and the media that hope to get a bit of play by hyping the thing. Fortunately, in this day and age, one doesn't have to waste time watching all the hoopla; one can just read the address. Which was how it was done until, in his immeasurable hubris, another overly ambitious president, Woodrow Wilson, decided that he needed to deliver the address in person, and this tedious tradition was born. And we still have to endure a couple more from this guy. Yeesh!

As the WSJ writes today,
Most of the rest of the speech tried to address the economic insecurity that his own policies have done so much to create. Thus the odd combination of claiming credit for the recovery, even for the domestic oil boom he has resisted, while fretting about stagnant wages for "the middle class."

Not that his small-ball proposals would help. His proposal to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour—he proposed $9 a year ago—is an empty gesture because most Americans make more than the minimum and many of those who don't will end up with a wage of $0 if their employer reduces the number of employees. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline would do more for the jobless than his $24 billion a year palliative to extend jobless benefits.

The puzzle of the speech is that he far spent less time on the issues that might get done—immigration and tax reform, freer trade—than he did on the liberal priorities that are unlikely to pass. If he really wants to repair his Presidency he'll focus on those bipartisan possibilities. But that will require a change int he way he has governed for the past five years much more than a single speech.
But hey, giving speeches is what he's known for. In the Obama playbook, it's always the right time to give a speech and address the country's problems with shopworn rhetoric.

And it might be an awfully tough sell to the American people to trust the federal government to do even more right now when, on the heels of the disaster that is Obamacare and suspicions arising from stories of the NSA, trust in the federal government keeps sinking every day. And, as the National Journal notes, Obama's approach is going to make a tough election year even tougher for vulnerable Seante Democrats facing challenging reelection battles.

Hot Air (and isn't that an appropriate name after a big Obama speech?) provides a round-up of fact-checks done on the State of the Union.

Timothy Carney reminds us of all the corporate welfare that lies behind Obamanomics and all the Democrats' populist speechifying.

Remember how Obama derided Bill Clinton for aiming at doing small stuff instead of big transformational policies like Ronald Reagan. Well, the joke's on him.
On Tuesday night, five years after he was sworn into office promising transformational change, Obama delivered a State of the Union speech recognizing both implicitly, and at times, explicitly, that the political arguments still consuming Washington would prevent him from winning any significant domestic policy victories for the remainder of his presidency.

Gone was the idea that the power of his personality and the magnitude of the moment would fundamentally change American politics, allowing him to enact a vast liberal agenda. This isn't going to be an era of bold new infrastructure projects on the scale of the interstate highway system; green energy isn't going to be this generation's equivalent of landing a man on the moon; the nation won't be interconnected with a high-speed rail network; there won't be sweeping new legislation to reduce carbon emissions.

nstead, Obama distilled his vision into a series of small-bore ideas he's mostly presented before on ending tax loopholes, creating manufacturing hubs, increasing the minimum wage, and improving job training, among others. Though he urged Congress to act on these priorities (along with immigration, climate change, unemployment insurance, and universal preschool), he did so without much expectation that anything would pass through a Congress in which Republicans control the House of Representatives. He couldn't even muster up much passion to deliver his ritual indignant scoldings of GOP intransigence. Instead, he has resigned himself to bypassing Congress and taking limited executive actions where he can.
Of course, he has definitely transformed this country with his health care law. But I don't think anyone is all that thrilled with those transformations right now. And it is that failure that is making impossible any continued transformation that Democrats might be yearning after for this year.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the economy, he is trying to get us to forget all his previous attempts to fix the economy and how little they've worked. But he's promising to do more of the same. Ed Morrissey captures this approach.
Obama seems to think that he’s just arrived on the scene, but it has been his economic and regulatory policies for the past five years that produced this stalled economy and stagnation environment.

And what did Obama propose to solve this? The same policies that produced it — spending on supposedly shovel-ready public works, short-term gimmicky incentives and government programs, most of which have nothing to do with freeing capital to unlock job creation.

No one expected Obama to offer anything innovative or new, so it’s hardly a disappointment. But like his last few State of the Union speeches, it was largely a laundry list of priorities far out of touch with Americans who just want to get back to work.

David Harsanyi contemplates all the dog whistles that are out there that, amazingly, only liberals can hear.