PRESIDENT Barack Obama suggests we can fix many of the problems facing this country if only members of Congress would “put the nation's interest before party” and “forge reasonable compromises where we can.” If only Obama were willing to follow his own advice!
Instead, during his first four years in office the president has consistently taken a my-way-or-the-highway approach. Whether it's been through enactment of Obamacare or blowing up budget deals with last-minute demands for ever more spending, or going all in on green energy or ignoring entitlement reform, Obama has stiff-armed opponents in pursuit of his progressive agenda.
He delivered plenty of soaring rhetoric during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, but the message was essentially the same: a shot or two at the previous administration, a jab at the wealthy, demonization of those who don't buy the idea that climate change is to blame for every major storm, and most of all, the need to keep spending.
“Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan,” and “We can't just cut our way to prosperity,” Obama said in zingers aimed at Republicans who would like to see at least some effort on the president's behalf to trim the deficit.
Obama said he'd be willing to make changes in Medicare and other entitlement programs. He mentioned offering savings that would be similar to those forwarded by the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission — the group he ignored during his first term. We were encouraged by this mention Tuesday, but it was clouded by his boilerplate point that changes can't be made “while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful.”
This was a common theme from The Great Divider. He trotted out the well-worn lines about secretaries paying higher tax rates than their wealthy bosses, ensuring government works “on behalf of the many, and not just the few,” being on guard against “billionaires with high-powered accountants.” The list went on.
Obama sought to get out in front of the sequestration battle — the looming $1.2 trillion cuts, spread over a decade, that are set to begin March 1. He noted that Americans think that's a bad way to do business, but left unsaid that sequestration was his administration's idea.
We were pleased to see Oklahoma get a mention as a state noted for its early childhood education efforts. Less pleasing was the president's call to siphon money away from oil and gas producers and steer it toward technology aimed at reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. This sounds, as columnist Victor Davis Hanson wrote, like a way to tax “newfound private wealth in order to blow it on uneconomical sources of green energy projects.”
Obama kept a straight face in saying his administration would “keep cutting red tape and speed up new oil and gas permits.” Not so funny was the president's promise to use executive action, if necessary, “to reduce pollution ... and speed the transition to other forms of energy.” Yikes!
The president's call for a new approach to education, including a stronger focus on producing graduates to move into high-tech jobs, was intriguing. But raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour, as he proposed, would hurt businesses and lower-skilled workers.
The speech was well delivered. But making speeches is what Obama does best. It's the follow-through that counts. On that front, the president so far has provided only reason for pause, not praise. We're not optimistic that this will change.