The State of the Union in 2017

I got bored writing about the State of the Union addresses a few years ago — Obama was the same thing every year — but maybe the new guy will be more interesting. Let’s see what Donald Trump had to say in his State of the Union Address. I’m just going to think out loud a bit here. I warn you now: It’s not going anywhere important.

(I’m really tired of hearing why this isn’t the State of the Union Address, so I’m resisting calling it his address to a joint session of Congress. They are all just big political speeches that get a lot of coverage.)

Transcript by the failing New York Times. Applause notes and Times fact checking omitted, reformatted for readability:

I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.

It’s always nice when a speaker inserts the subtext of his speech directly into the speech.

Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds, families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns.

Here we go again. He’s reliving his election glory…

But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus, as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.

Finally, the chorus became an earthquake, and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first, because only then can we truly make America great again.

Okay, we get it, we get it. You won, Donald. Now what.

Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.

[Note to self: Insert list of everything Trump has lied about and all the promises he has failed to keep.]

Thank you. It’s been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the nation on the progress I’ve made in keeping those promises. Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart and many others have announced that they will invest billions and billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs. The stock market has gained almost $3 trillion in value since the election on Nov. 8, a record.

And you’re going to take credit for all of that, aren’t you?

We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every government agency and we’re imposing a new rule which mandates that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.

That’s nice as an abstract idea, but the 2-for-1 rule will just encourage bureaucrats to game the system. And it only works if there’s some kind of accountability when regulatory bodies don’t comply with your silly rule.

We’re going to stop the regulations that threaten the future and livelihood of our great coal miners. We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs.

Jobs. Politicians always have to make everything about jobs. The benefit of building oil pipelines is getting to transport oil more efficiently. Jobs are part of the cost of building oil pipelines.

And I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.

Why not use the most cost effective steel for the pipeline, regardless of where it comes from? Isn’t it important to spend wisely?

We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Sigh. The TPP had problems, but it would probably have produced a net benefit, and it would have help connect the United States to the Asian markets.

To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a task force on reducing violent crime. I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the director of national intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread all across our nation.

Oooh, you created a task force! And coordinated a strategy! I’ll bet the criminals are quaking in their boots now!

To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?

What would you say to the thousands of American families that lose parents, brothers, and sisters, along with their income, you deported them for no good reason?

As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS, a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women and children of all faiths and all beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.

Aspirations and goals are not a plan, plans are not operations, and operations are not victory.

Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited. Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.

That’s a suspicious number. “Out of the labor force” typically refers to everyone over the age of 16 who doesn’t have a job. That includes unemployed people, but it also including students, non-working spouses, retirees, the disabled, and anyone else who doesn’t have a job. Many of these people are not working because the don’t want to. That’s not necessarily an economic problem (although the situation gets more complicated if they are receiving welfare transfer payments).

This is why we usually focus on the unemployment rate — those are people who want a job but can’t get one, and that’s always bad. However, since the unemployment rate recovered a few years ago, a lot of Obama critics have chosen to focus on labor force participation which is just over 62%, the lowest it’s been in 30 years or so, but not that much lower than the highs of 67% in the 1990s.

We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since Nafta was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Manufacturing jobs have been declining as a percentage of the work force since World War II. Yet we manufacture more stuff than ever before. We’ve gotten really efficient at it, so it doesn’t take as many people. There’s no place to bring those jobs back from.

Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion.

It’s deceptive to talk about goods while omitting the trade in services. And either way, trade deficits by themselves aren’t bad for the economy.

But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy, making it easier for companies to do business in the United States and much, much harder for companies to leave our country.

It will be harder to attract companies to do business here if they know they’ll have a hard time leaving. Also, attracting companies here will raise our trade deficit, if you’re the kind of person who worries about such things…

Right now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world. My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone.

It will be a big, big cut.

I actually agree with cutting a lot of business taxes, but that money is going to have to come from somewhere else if you don’t want to run the national debt way up.

At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class. We must create a level playing field for American companies and our workers — have to do it.

If you’re going to reduce taxes on the middle class, you’re going to have to raise taxes for someone else. The poor don’t have anything to tax, so does that mean you’re going to tax the crap out of the rich?

(In theory, Trump could also be planning to reduce spending, but that’s not the direction he’s going in the rest of this speech.)

The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, warned that “the abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people.”

Republicans have a long history of craven protectionism.

I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers be taken — advantage of us any longer. They have taken advantage of our country no longer. I am going to bring back millions of jobs.

Nope. There’s nowhere to bring them back from.

Another Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program: the building of the interstate highway system. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.

This is probably true. The construction industry and its political supporters has been exaggerating the scope of the problem for decades, but we really are going to need to do a lot of rebuilding over the next 10 or 20 years.

To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States, financed through both public and private capital, creating millions of new jobs.

This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American and hire American.

Because God forbid a government project should actually buy from the lowest bidder that meets specifications, which is what you’d do if you thought infrastructure was important. But no. It’s always about jobs with politicians.

Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs and at the same time provide better health care.

What? No ponies?

The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we are going to do.

This is Trump all over. (And, really, most politicians.) Expand choice, increase access, lower costs, provide better health care…all great ideas. But how? Aspirational statements are not a plan.

Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits. As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone. Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his state, the state of Kentucky, and it’s unsustainable and collapsing.

One third of the counties have only one insurer, and they’re losing them fast, they are losing them so fast. They’re leaving. And many Americans have no choice at all. There’s no choice left. Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor and keep your plan? We now know that all of those promises have been totally broken. Obamacare is collapsing, and we must act decisively to protect all Americans.

Yes, Obamacare has some real problems and may be collapsing into a death spiral (indicators are murky), but how will your plan be better? The American healthcare system is gigantic, expensive, and politically connected. It’s going to be really hard to fix. Just saying you want something better is not enough.

Here are the principles that should guide Congress as we move to create a better health care system for all Americans.

Oh, well maybe I spoke too soon…

First, we should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the health care exchanges.

That’s just another aspirational statement.

Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded health savings accounts, but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by our government.

Okay, that’s actually part of a plan. I could even get behind some of these ideas.

Thirdly, we should give our state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.

Another aspirational statement. Although I guess it is nice of him to mention a plan for poor people since tweaking taxes only helps people with a decent income.

Fourth, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.

Not sure what that means. Tort reform? Drug manufacturer immunity?

And finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines which will create a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring costs way down and provide far better care. So important.

Another idea I can get behind. Not a huge deal, but a step in the right direction if implemented properly. But then we go off into a fantasy world…

Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing and hope. Our citizens deserve this, and so much more, so why not join forces and finally get the job done and get it done right?

On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country and for the good of the American people.

My administration wants to work with members of both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents that they have paid family leave to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clean water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.

[…]

If we slash the restraints, not just at the F.D.A. but across our government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles just like Megan.

Eliminating unnecessary government restrictions is a nice idea in theory.

In fact, our children will grow up in a nation of miracles. But to achieve this future, we must enrich the mind — and the souls — of every American child. Education is the civil rights issue of our time.

I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children.

Broadly speaking, I’m in favor of school choice, but most school funding comes from the states, so it seems like this should be a state initiative. Just get the federal government out of the way. Maybe impose a few standards to head off corrupt bullshit.

But to create this future, we must work with — not against — not against — the men and women of law enforcement. We must build bridges of cooperation and trust, not drive the wedge of disunity and it’s — really, it’s what it is, division. It’s pure, unadulterated division. We have to unify.

Great, what do you propose that law enforcement does to earn back the trust they’ve lost?

Police and sheriffs are members of our community. They’re friends and neighbors

— Then they should goddamned well act like it! Stop riding the streets like an occupying army. Stop the violent raids for drugs. In fact, stop arresting people for victimless crimes. Stop throwing young men in jail when they belong in school. Stop harassing citizens with fines and jail for minor violations. None of my friends and neighbors do shit like that. Come back when you’ve cleaned up your act — consistently punishing bad cops would be a nice start — and we’ll talk.

And we must support the victims of crime. I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims. The office is called Voice, Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media and silenced by special interests.

I’m all in favor of better crime data, but how exactly does tracking immigrant crimes help the victims? It sounds like just a cheap shot to demonize illegal immigrants. Frankly, it’s kind of a creepy thing to do.

Finally, to keep America safe, we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war — if they must — they have to fight and they only have to win.

I am sending Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.

It would be nice to get some details about this military build-up.

We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two world wars, that dethroned fascism and a Cold War and defeated communism. But our partners must meet their financial obligations.

Or what? We can’t actually withdraw our support without risking the safety of Europe, which would risk our own safety.

Think of the marvels we could achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people. Cures to the illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope. American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream. Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect. And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace, and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.

When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before, for all Americans. This is our vision. This is our mission. But we can only get there together. We are one people, with one destiny.

We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same great American flag. And we are all made by the same God.

When we fulfill this vision, when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American greatness began. The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts, the bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls, and the confidence to turn those hopes and those dreams into action.

The calls to setting free the dreams of our people are nice, but the “one people…one destiny” stuff is a little scary. What if we don’t all have the same dreams? I worry about this kind of thing. It tends to devolve into national greatness bullshit, where our nation’s leaders expect us to sacrifice to fulfill their grand visions instead of pursuing our own petty goals like having happy families that live in nice homes.

(Sigh, I seem to have edited out all the parts of the speech where he wants to ramp up the war on drugs, but yeah, he’s a drug warrior.)

Still, it’s not as self aggrandizing, authoritarian, bigoted, or batshit crazy as it could have been. In fact, it sounds kind of mainstream Republican (except for the anti-immigrant stuff). I guess that counts as a win these days.

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