Delayed Reaction - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Delayed Reaction

It took me a couple of days to summon the strength to watch President Obama’s seventh State of the Union Address (the sixth if you don’t count his 2009 address to a joint session of Congress); the speech was an hour-long exercise in deception, hypocrisy, and narcissism — which is to say it was more of the same from the most insular and self-absorbed politician of our generation, a man who never stops campaigning.

Within the first seconds of his long-winded address, the president, missing only a cone-shaped hat and a magic wand in his attempt to recast reality, said that while the first part of the 21st century was replete with terrorism and economic turmoil, “tonight, we turn the page.”

Yes, the man who told us that his election would cause the end of rising seas now suggests that the thrilling chapter of history in which The One, outdoing even Moses, saved his people and perhaps the world, has come to an blissful close and we are now to enter a new gilded age of pax Americana in which everyone can have everything for free. Apparently our president studied at the Big Rock Candy Mountain School of Public Policy.

He also hopes — perhaps with good reason — that Americans are ignorant of some basic facts.

Obama noted that the economy is growing but neglected that this is the slowest economic recovery in modern American history. He pointed out the declining unemployment rate but neglected that much of the drop is due to people simply leaving the workforce. He cheered our declining dependence on foreign oil but neglected to mention that he has opposed increased domestic energy production at every turn and (in)famously said “you know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” (Actually, we can. And the Energy Minister of the United Arab Emirates made clear last week that OPEC’s decision not to try to prop up prices is because they want to force American shale oil producers out of business.)

Perhaps the most galling line of the speech — and that’s saying something — was the president’s claim that “the shadow of crisis has passed,” a remarkable assertion as ISIS (which the president, nearly alone, insists on calling ISIL to avoid reminding people of his failure in Syria) is seizing territory in Iraq, Syria, and now “gaining ground in Yemen, competing with al Qaeda.”

How stupid does Obama think we are? (Don’t answer that question.)

Most of the evening was spent on domestic policy, namely all the things Obama wants to spend your money on. The president said he would not be offering a “checklist of proposals” but then went on to do just that.

Here’s a sampling of the goodies he wants to hand out, whether through tax credits or cash subsidies or regulatory manipulations, in a transparent attempt to buy votes for Democrats in upcoming elections:

  • Day care for children of working parents.
  • College, this time particularly community college, for which he wants to “lower the cost — to zero.”
  • More unspecified health care benefits.
  • More unspecified ways to make buying a home less expensive.
  • More unspecified ways to make retirement “more secure.”

The president clearly missed the irony when he said later in the address, regarding his changing U.S. policy toward Cuba, “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new.”

Because few things have accomplished so little at such a great cost as the American welfare state, which began under FDR but was kicked into high gear fifty years ago through President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs. And few things increase the price and risk of individuals’ economic decisions more than government “help.”

Day care is expensive because of government regulation. College is expensive because of government subsidies. Health care is expensive because government policies often make it appear “free.” Making homes more “affordable” by forcing banks to issue mortgages to unqualified borrowers was a proximate cause of the financial crisis. Telling people that government will take care of them in retirement has decimated the American savings rate and guaranteed that millions will become wards of the state if and when Social Security does not cover their basic costs of living.

And to make all of these things cheaper or simply free, the president makes it sound so simple: let’s just close some loopholes. In other words, although he didn’t say it explicitly, the president proposes, as he always does, to massively increase taxes on corporations and high income earners. The president must know that when it comes to federal income tax, the top 1 percent of earners pay more than the bottom 90 percent. That is not a typo. Somewhere, Karl Marx is smiling but it’s still not enough “legal plunder” for Barack Obama.

As Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation put it, “In the 50 years since [LBJ’s 1964 State of the Union speech which announced the “war on poverty”], U.S. taxpayers have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. Adjusted for inflation, this spending (which does not include Social Security or Medicare) is three times the cost of all U.S. military wars since the American Revolution. Yet progress against poverty, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau, has been minimal, and in terms of President Johnson’s main goal of reducing the ‘causes’ rather than the mere ‘consequences’ of poverty, the War on Poverty has failed completely.”

That’s right: When something doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to do something different — unless that something involves taking from those who earned it and giving to those whose loyalty or dependence you wish to purchase, in which case it’s damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

One suggestion Obama breezily made, as if obviously uncontroversial, has received very little attention in post-speech analysis but represents his fundamentally socialist, economically ignorant and un-American view of the proper role of government: He wants to end the ability of “the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth.” That’s right: the president suggested, as if it were just another “practical” idea, an enormous change in the way estates are taxed, the latest liberal to try to profit by the death of Americans. His argument: It’s “unfair” that rich people die rich whereas middle class people tend to spend their retirement savings in their latter years. He also wants to eliminate the ability to withdraw earnings tax free from 529 college savings accounts to pay for college. Under this president, nothing you own is safe.

The president also wants to redistribute money in other ways with proposals including:

  • Mandating paid sick leave.
  • Increasing the minimum wage.
  • Legislating equal pay for women “doing the same work.”

Federalizing sick leave and wage rules is an unwise and unconstitutional (pace tacit Supreme Court permission since the late 1930s) imposition into what should be private negotiations; just as the prior Obama wish-list involves transferring money from taxpayers to those whose votes Democrats want to purchase, sick leave and wage laws transfer money from employers and investors to workers — at least those workers who will still have jobs after the inevitable increase in unemployment among low-skill and first-job employees, and likely among women, is forced on business owners who can’t keep up with increasing government-mandated costs.

By the way, if it were true that women are systematically paid less than men for the same work, all other factors being considered, wouldn’t devious employers — whom we all know care only about profit — hire women and fire men to boost their bottom lines? The myth of widely varying pay between men and women is just another liberal ploy to divide Americans and increase the power of an already too meddlesome bureaucratic state.

After quickly going through a list of foreign policy issues (because international affairs are an annoying distraction from fundamentally transforming America) including terrorism, Cuba, Iran, cyber security, Ebola, and international trade — the one place where he rightly disagrees with many in his own party — President Obama made the astonishing claim that “no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” In fact, almost every international issue he glossed over in a few trite sentences poses a greater challenge than climate change.

Obama repeated the recent “news” that 2014 was “the planet’s warmest year on record,” a statement which fails to mention that 2014 was statistically indistinguishable from other recent years (it being measured as just a few hundredths of a degree warmer, well within any margin oferror, which even NPR recognizes). Similarly, Obama said that 14 of the warmest 15 years recorded were in the past 15 years but somehow forgot to mention that there has been approximately zero warming during that time.

More importantly, the minuscule warming that the warmest data sets show is still far below the “end is nigh” predictions of Algore, Barack Obama, and the United Nations alarmists who want to use climate change as an excuse to call for multi-hundred-billion-dollar international wealth redistribution in the name of “climate debt” and the imposition of government controls on energy use in the industrialized world. It’s all about money and power and attacking capitalism; “climate” is the Trojan horse used to bring otherwise unacceptable policy proposals into the political mainstream.

All this without even proving that a slightly warmer planet would be harmful for human life. The opposite is likely the case: the modest warming that has occurred in the past century has correlated with longer life expectancies, hundreds of millions of people moving out of poverty, increased food production, and other immeasurably beneficial changes for much of humanity. As Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute put it, those things are “the real hockey stick.”

Surface temperature measurements are prone to error and manipulation and systematic warming bias, but the more accurate satellite and weather balloon data series (indeed, accuracy was the reason these data collection methods were created) show no warming for more than 18 years. In this more accurate record, 2014 was just another unremarkable year in an unremarkable period — except, that is, for the remarkable magnitude of the errors of the alarmists’ predictions.

It took a British newspaper, the Daily Mail, to ask Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), how sure NASA is that 2014 was in fact the warmest year since 1880. The answer: 38 percent. That’s not a typo either. “However, when asked by [the Daily Mail] whether he regretted that the news release did not mention this, [Schmidt] did not respond.” Can you say “inconvenient truth”?

The only thing more astonishing than the audacity of the claim that 2014 was the warmest year on record is the complete lack of skepticism and context provided by the breathless — almost joyful — “mainstream” media as they parrot the warmists’ hyperbole that the planet is burning up and we should all be very afraid. (See here, here, here, here, and here, just to name a few.) But far be it from Barack Obama to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

The rest of the president’s 2015 State of the Union speech was mindless filler including criticism of today’s politics as “more divided than ever” while forgetting that he spent the past hour telling Republicans that he’ll veto anything they send him unless it’s on his wish list and promising to “crisscross the country” to flog his big-spending and tax-hiking agenda which he knows has precisely zero chance of being enacted just to make the GOP look mean, if not downright evil.

“Imagine,” he says, “if we broke out of these tired old patterns” and stopped arguing about things like whether what you earned actually belongs to you or to the government. Imagine if you could stop seeing immigration as an issue of the rule of law or national security and instead just “see something of ourselves in the striving young student.”

Imagine, I thought, while trying to put aside images of John Lennon, if we didn’t have a president who might be best described the same way Nick Gillespie described Pajama Boy.

President Obama repeated his comprehensively disproven mantra that he is open to hearing Republican ideas and to working together for the nation’s benefit. I don’t even think he believes it; certainly Republicans don’t. As if the thumb-in-the-eye style of this administration might be forgotten, the day started with a correspondents’ lunch at the White House in which place cards for Fox News reporters had “News” removed while those from ABC, CBS, and NBC each said “News.” So much for breaking out of tired old patterns, Barack. And by the way, Fox News crushed every other cable TV outlet with its SOTU viewership of about 3.5 million people.

After Barack Obama spent the few weeks prior to SOTU previewing the goodies he proposes to hand out to voters, fewer people watched the president’s speech than watched any State of the Union since Bill Clinton’s final address in 2000. And who can blame them, knowing that the president would offer impossible proposals, pointlessly chide Republicans, offer a brief moment of false humility, and act as if the American public loves him half as much as he loves himself. 

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