The State of the Union in 2013

The official Whitehouse web page on the State of the Union speech asks as to give our responses, so as is the tradition at Windypundit, I have a few thoughts. In a break from tradition, however, instead of posting the whole speech, I’ll just post a few excerpts

Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.

Your mileage may vary.

So, together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the State of our Union is stronger.

Hey, the state of the union is strong. Who saw that coming?

But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs — but too many people still can’t find full-time employment. Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs — but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

Two things: First, corporate profits are paid to shareholders, where they are counted as income. So somebody must be getting the money.

Second, most economists believe that the income statistics understate the welfare increase due to advancing technology. Our phones are better, our cars are better, our computers are better. These things are hard to convert to a dollar value, so in the interest of reliable measurement, they are left out of the calculation. I’m not saying it’s tons better, but it’s better.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

Remember those phrases. I have a feeling I’ll be mentioning them again.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion — mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

I’m not sure exactly what he’s talking about, but that sort of statement about deficit reduction usually just means that our current plan for the next ten years is to spend $4 trillion less than our previous plan for the next ten years. It doesn’t mean we’ll actually spend less than we have been, and anyway it’s all kind of theoretical at this point.

Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs.

Actually, there’s some evidence it’s increasing some costs…which is, I guess, not incompatible with slowing the growth…well played Mr President, well played.

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

God, it’s always about manufacturing with politicians! Like the rest of us don’t count. Only about 9 percent of the people have manufacturing jobs. Does anybody remember “make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few” from only a few paragraphs back? I guess sometimes government does work just for the few.

So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America. We can get that done.

Industrial policy. Because that always works.

Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar.

Yes. I agree. If we’re going to invest in research, it should be in the kind of basic science that benefits everybody. That’s generally the sort of thing where a little government investment can go a long way.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods — all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.

That’s not quite how the science works. It’s almost impossible to attribute a single weather event — such as a hurricane or a drought — to climate change. Sometimes, the weather just does what it does. It really could just be a freak coincidence. Global warming is proven by statistics, not anecdotes.

I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. We’ll work with the states to do it. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.

Actually, lower energy bills should be their own reward. If that’s not good enough, perhaps it’s time to increase the cost of energy.

So tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children. Let’s prove that there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let’s start right away. We can get this done.

Hey, giving out public construction contracts! Obama really is from Chicago! I guess sometimes government does work just for the few.

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before, so what are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill. Why would we be against that? Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks refinance? Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.

I wish I knew what he was talking about here. Government promotion of the idea that banks should loan money to everyone who wants a home was a big cause of the mortgage crisis.

And that has to start at the earliest possible age. Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for a private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America. That’s something we should be able to do.

Hey, more jobs for teachers! I guess sometimes government does work just for the few. I mean, this may not be a bad idea, but it’s also a handout to Democratic supporters.

So tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria — where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

You could also let the banks take more risk on student loans and restore the right of college students to declare bankruptcy. You’ll get more bang for your bucks when the people providing the bucks have more skin in the game.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration has already made — putting more boots on the Southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

The reduction in immigration is almost certainly because our economy tanked, not because of Obama’s odious border enforcement.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship — a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

Again, there is no frickin’ line. Not unless you actually start letting them in. Although maybe that’s what he means with this part:

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

…Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.We should be able to get that done.

The key phrase being “no one who works.” The general rule of demand is that people buy less of something when its price goes up, so raising the minimum wage should reduce the number of available jobs. As it happens, however, econometrics studies have found little if any effect on jobs from raising the minimum wage (probably because low labor mobility forces workers to take below-market jobs). But if we keep raising it, eventually we’ll get it high enough to start killing jobs. I hope this isn’t the time.

In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher.

What, other than class warfare, do those things have to do with each other? CEO’s get lots of money for a variety of reasons, not all of them good, but that’s a problem of corporate governance that has little to do with minimum wage policies.

Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.

Propping up failed cities is not a good policy. Cities with shrinking populations should make adjustments to what they’ve become.

Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance anymore. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods.

The homes are vacant because people don’t want to live there. Why fight it? Tear down the vacant homes and turn them into parks. Or let neighbors buy them to expand their plots, as larger play areas for children or as small farms for locally-grown food. Or maybe car parks. Really, just do whatever works when population density declines.

And this year, my administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, and education, and housing.

These cities are emptying out. They don’t need housing.

We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest.

No. Please don’t. It will just distort business decision making to try to score some tax relief, probably by gaming the system. Also, if you do this, then businesses that did the hard work of hiring and investing last year will then be forced have to compete against businesses that got a government handout this year. That’s not fair.

Now, as we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That’s why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way. So in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

Obama has promised transparency before, and he failed to deliver. Heck, he’s actively fought transparency. The only prosecutions of those involved in torture under the Bush administration have been those who blew the whistle on it.

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. Now, we know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private emails. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.And that’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.

That doesn’t sound good…

But now Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks. This is something we should be able to get done on a bipartisan basis.

He says “secure our networks.” I hear “control our networks.”

Now, even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not just dangers, not just threats, it presents opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I’m announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union — because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.

Free trade is always good. If that’s what this is (and the whining from the protectionist left suggests it is) then it’s a good thing.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all — not only because it creates new markets, more stable order in certain regions of the world, but also because it’s the right thing to do. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades by connecting more people to the global economy; by empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve, and helping communities to feed, and power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.

That all sounds real good. I hope it happens.

In defense of freedom, we’ll remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy.

More freedom in the world. Sounds great. See if you can send a little of that freedom our way while you’re at it.

Defending our freedom, though, is not just the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home.

Then stop violating our rights. That would be doing your part!

Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource: our children.

Protecting the children. That never ends well, legislatively speaking. In this case, it’s gun control:

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans — Americans who believe in the Second Amendment — have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.

If you want to get “weapons of war…off our streets” then stop giving them to police departments!  These guys and especially these guys are not outgunned. And neither was this guy, or these guys. If you want to get weapons of war off the streets, you go first. Reverse the trend toward increasingly militarized police forces.

But as Americans, we all share the same proud title — we are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe.

It also describes the rights we’re supposed to have and the freedoms that the government is supposed to protect.

It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter of our American story.

I suppose it does. My chapter would not include the War on Drugs, grabby TSA agents, vast armies of border guards, or cops and other government officials that hate us for our freedoms.

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