President Barack Hussein Obama II makes the State of the Union speech in an environment that is far from ideal. The Democrats have just lost their supermajority in the Senate on what seemed like the eve of passage of health care reform, with the winning of a seat that had been held by Democrats since 1972 to Republican Scott Brown. This jolt certainly reminds everyone that the political environment in America is constantly in flux. A healthy indicator of a thriving democracy on the one hand whereas the constant flux of "reform" that is being proposed might be an indication of a sickness that far exceeds the bounds of any health insurance coverage.
The speech was promised to be long and I know that for many it will not seem long enough when you consider the bevy of issues that the nation and President Obama are facing. A deep recession with no definite end in sight, a trillion-plus deficit, unemployment "stabilizing" in the double digits, bailouts for the rich and Main Street left a shambles--just to touch the surface...
Here in Lee County it would almost seem we are at the ground zero of the implosion of the housing bubble. If you doubt me, take a drive through neighborhoods in Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral that have been boarded up, the houses sometimes gutted, renters sometimes not knowing when the bank will take possession of their homes, strip malls, gas stations, and grocery stores evaporating out of business...I hope you are ahead of me on this if you are a local otherwise try leaving the house once in a while if there seems to be a point.
Obama tried to open up with a message of cautious hope, claiming the "worse of the devastation has passed." God, I hope so.
Quickly finding his comfort zone, he displayed his compassion for the weakest and least of us and then tried to show a common ground among us all. What frightens me is when he tries to say there is a common ground between the children of homeless parents and bank executives.
Delving immediately into the economy, he did just what I was afraid of and tried to justify the bank bailout while claiming he hates it. I am still of a mind that bailing out the irresponsible rich to keep them irresponsibly in place just wasn't the way to go.
Then, Obama pleased me. He suggested a "fee" on the banks. Not a tax but a "fee." You know, like those fees with fourteen syllables that you have to look up the meaning of that banks hit you with about four-hundred times in the last ten years if you're the average American.
And a more perverse part of me just likes the idea of a black guy telling the banks to hand him some money while congressmen are applauding it.
This is fine political artistry at its finest.
The haters made themselves known when President Obama brought up the stimulus bill. Welfare for the rich in the form of bank bailouts are great according to these people. When people who have more than they need shake down the government that's just great. But when the needy get something somehow this means we're encouraging the worst kind of entitlement mentality.
Let's face it. The wealth is there. It's just all jammed up in the attic and it had to get it shaken loose down to where it's needed in the "basement" of the average American on what appears to be the needs-assessment hierarchy. If the corporations wanted to create jobs that did that out of the kindness of their heart I'd be all for it. Apparently, they'd rather just make the people at the top rich while exploiting their workers to the max, making a profit off their labor and then not fairly compensating them.
This is the richest nation in the world. The ultra-rich didn't get rich on their own but on the backs of millions of wage slaves and when they get their chance to repay those who worked so hard to make them rich all they do is grumble. Where's the humility in that? Hmm?
Anyway, digressions aside, this President who tries so hard to be bipartisan was obviously loved by the majority of the room and hated by a significant minority.
The applause overwhelmed the boos but the boos were damn set on making themselves known.
"How long should we wait?" Obama started to ask.
He mentioned that other nations aren't waiting. Big nations like China are catching up to us , Big time.
"I do not accept second place for the United States of America," Obama said.
All jingoism aside, that was a darn rousing line.
Obama was now speaking to the heart of the average American. We like to work. We like to get things done. We are practical, creative, let's get down to it folks. We are proud. And "we can not allow financial institutions...to take risks that threaten the whole economy"!
I just hope he really means it.
Next, Obama spoke about American innovation. He went back to speaking about clean energy and tied it into job creation. Then, he mentioned "safe, clean" nuclear power plants and offshore drilling and "clean coal."
At this point, I became vaguely nauseous but determined to type on restraining the efforts of my back brain.
Then, I realized that apparently more politicians doubt global warming than any other group I am aware of other than possibly fire ants.
Goals! "We will double our exports!" (I noticed Rahm Emmanuel seems really displeased at this point, must look into that. Then again, isn't he always?) "We need to invest in the skills and education of our people!" "Revitalize our community colleges!" "Increase Pell Grants!" (but clean coal? ug) "No one should go broke because they chose to go to college!"
Yes, and he mentioned rewarding success in public schools another great way to break up teacher unions.
Finally, he got around the health "insurance" reform. Yes, it's health "insurance" reform now. The idea of taking the insurance out of the equation isn't even a consideration, of course. Single payer has been off the table right from the word "go."
Apparently, Michelle Obama is going to become the anti-obesity queen sort of like Nancy Reagan was the anti-drug queen. That's part of the approach that will bring down costs by over a trillion dollars over the next decade (for who?!).
He admits he didn't explain it clearly to the American people but doesn't explain why.
Apparently, the health "insurance" reform won't get us out of the hole, he explained.
Then, he blamed the deficit squarely on the last administration which I'll give him. However, it's no excuse to act anything like the last administration which he has.
Obama called on the federal government apparently to tighten its belt just like people on Main Street. Like Lehigh has. In other words, let's gut the federal government after bailing out banks is what my generous socialist mind is hearing.
Didn't Clinton say: "The era of big government is over" to appease a violently right wing congress?
Yes, that lead to "record surpluses" before it can again.
As long as we make sure the rich are doing ok.
Obama promised to protect social security and Medicare and nothing else. I'm pretty sure the military will continue to get almost half of our federal tax dollars, however. And the two wars we're in, they haven't even gotten mentioned an hour into the speech.
But he moved onto lobbyists. Let's restrict lobbyist. Obama believes the Supreme Court has "opened the floodgates" to corporate spending in elections. I'll give him that. It scares me silly. In fact, I think we need an amendment to the constitution to stop giving corporations the rights of citizens (but this isn't about me, is it?).
And then Obama spoke about transparency again. I thought he'd be afraid to touch that after taking so many steps backward in the transparency department throughout his campaign. For instance, I thought the health care debate was going to be live on C-SPAN.
At 10:00 p.m. we still haven't been reminded we're in two wars. REMEMBER?
Obama then humiliated the Republicans for being obstructionists. I'll give him that. However, those as far left as me are ready to join them for different reasons. I really want Obama to stand for something more than just getting a job done no matter how it turns out which seems to have been his approach to health care reform so far.
10:04 finally, he mentioned terrorists. We killed or captured far more in 2009 than in 2008. Obama said he wants to support Afghans to help them forge a nation that won't support terrorism. This remains to be seen. It's a nice idea.
"This war is ending and all of our troops are coming home," Obama said of Iraq, without giving a definite date.
He also said it was important to support our troops when they come home. I agree. I think they deserve the moon. In fact, I urge people to volunteer their services to support our military men and women returning to the homeland. They need it.
Obama seems to be slightly more realistic and practical in his approach to terrorism than his predecessor. I hope that means less mayhem and death in the future. We've had and dished out more than was reasonable under the leadership of George W. Bush and that's all I'm going to say about that.
Obama said our destiny was connected to those beyond our shore and then he moved onto the subject of Haiti which I applaud him for since its hard not to compare him with the lackadaisical approach of the Republican before him when catastrophe struck common people.
President Obama ended on a high note, again calling for everyone to stick together and reminding us of all the strides in civil rights that this country has made, strides which are reflected, of course, in the fact of a black president.
He attacked sound bites as detrimental to our democracy, which I agree is a just one of many drastic problems with the corporate media.
Obama then ended his speech rather brilliantly by suggesting that he gets more inspiration from the common American than we might be expecting from him.
"The spirit that has sustained this nation for two centuries lives on in you," Obama said.
"...we don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment to start anew to carry the dream forward and to strengthen our union once more."
Yes, it's be easy just to throw up our hands. But he's right. Quitting is the worst possible outcome. We face challenges abroad and in our neighborhoods like never before but quitting is not an option.
I'll take that much to heart.