« Journalistic Logic for Dummies, ACORN Edition | Main | Following the Sterling Lead of Media Matters, Andrew Sullivan Beclowns Himself »

January 28, 2010

Thoughts on Obama's First SOTU Address

Does it strike anyone else as amusing that the morning-after buzz about Barack Obama's first SOTU speech is more focused on the silent reactions of two audience members than on the President's supposedly masterful rhetoric?

Without saying a word, the listeners eclipsed the speaker. This, we are told, is shameful and reprehensible. The big bullies!

During the Bush administration, of course, the ability of ordinary folk to speak truthiness to power was all the rage. Tradition shattering outbursts of political Tourette's Syndrome were touted as refreshing honesty: shining examples of civic courage made flesh before our wondering eyes. Now, of course, the erstwhile Questioners of Authority long for the good old days when it was unheard of for mere peasants to notice that what their President has to say is quite literally not true.

Audacity, it would seem, is a virtue best practiced by those in authority, and authority is best not questioned by the likes of you and me. Translation: do not try this at home: you're not smart enough.

Likewise unacceptable to the former Speak Truth to Power crowd are sotto voce observations that the President - pre-SOTU spin notwithstanding - is once again blaming his predecessor. And did you notice the disrespectful disrespect of those who dissed the President by not reacting at all?


No wonder America is suffering from a trust deficit. Our President is in denial and there's a jarring disconnect between the problems we face and his proposed solutions:

There was no rendezvous with reality in the speech, no serious policy initiative or vision to restore private-sector growth. Maybe he imagines the economy will limp along and recover just enough by 2012 to give him a shot at that second term, provided he wants one. But that’s small consolation to Americans now and to his own party, which must run congressional, Senate, and state elections in a year in which the administration offers not a single serious measure commensurate with the nature of the economic problems we face. There is no one, apparently, in his administration with enough creativity and gumption to bring forth even the most obvious measures (a payroll tax cut, a corporate tax moratorium) that might induce businesses to relocate and hire here. And that “no one” includes the president, who seems to know even less about market economics than he does about the Supreme Court’s latest ruling.

It seems almost eerily prescient that most memorable lines of the evening were spoken not by the President of the United States, but by a lowly state governor:

It was Thomas Jefferson who called for "A wise and frugal Government which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry ....and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned..." He was right.

Today, the federal government is simply trying to do too much.

The President's message, in contrast, was quite simple: government needs to do more. The answer to rising deficits and ineffective government intervention is more deficit spending coupled with more of the policies that failed so spectacularly last year. There is a certain seductive symmetry to the President's prescription for what ails us:

President Barack Obama has embraced a contradiction. He wants both a freeze of a lot of discretionary spending and a new “jobs” bill — which is made up entirely of new discretionary spending.

Before the House of Representatives’ recess last year, it passed, by a narrow 217-212 vote, a $155 billion stimulus bill to fund more “shovel-ready” projects and jobs for state and local government bureaucracies. Its passage raised a serious question that still must be answered. The $700-plus billion stimulus package that was passed in February has proved a failure in just about every way a piece of legislation can fail. Why continue on with a second stimulus?

Why indeed? If you were as smart as Obama, you'd keep your impertinent questions to yourself.

Posted by Cassandra at January 28, 2010 08:37 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Dunno - He seemed like a fish outta water.


Posted by: Boquisucio at January 28, 2010 12:58 PM

I did listen/watch most of the speech (needed to put it on mute a few times to talk to someone in the house/was also on the computer), but one of the many things that irked me was his bit about forgiving student loans: forgiven after 20 years, no matter what, but forgiven after onlt 10 years if you take a job paid for with taxpayer monies....

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 28, 2010 01:52 PM

Of course, he didn't phrase it quite that way...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 28, 2010 01:53 PM

It was a floor wax!

No it's was a dessert topping!

Wait! It's both!

Tax cuts! Spending freeze! More stimulus! More shovels! More government employees! Fewer government employees!

Hectoring. Partisan. Campaign rhetoric throughout. At least he had a nice tie on.

2012 can't come soon enough.

Hiding out in Ohio with lots of beer and guns (and out of exclamation points), I am

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 28, 2010 04:01 PM

Could not bring myself to watch the SOTU address. I can not watch, much less listen, to the loathsome individual that occupies the office of the POTUS.

"Hiding out in Ohio with lots of beer and guns (and out of exclamation points), I am
Sounds like a plan. I think I'm going long on beer, canned goods, vegetable seed, ammo, and firearms.

I think I'm going to short exclamation points, common sense, fiscal responsibility, or for that matter, any assumption of responsibility from the Foggy Bottom dwellers, while keeping the tar on simmer.

Nope, there's little left that Teh WON and/or Congress can do to cause me to expend a perfectly good exclamation point.

Ah what the heck, smoke em while ya got em --!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

277 days and a wake up.

Posted by: bthun at January 28, 2010 04:44 PM

This was the first speech of his Awesomeness that I'd watched since the election. I didn't think it was particularly good or bad. I mean, policy-wise, of course it wasn't for me. But it terms of bringing people back who might have been wavering, it was eh.

Can someone explain to me, though, in what sense (if any) taxes have been lowered for the vast majority of Americans? I know there was a slight change in the calculation of withholding, but that doesn't actually change the tax bill come April, does it? I know tax REVENUES are down, but I thought that was solely because the economy tanked.

Posted by: Texan99 at January 28, 2010 05:16 PM

Can someone explain to me, though, in what sense (if any) taxes have been lowered for the vast majority of Americans?

That promise, like all of his promises, comes with an expiration date.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at January 28, 2010 06:08 PM

No, but seriously, has there been a tax cut, or only a change in withholding calculation? I thought I followed this stuff pretty closely, but I'm wondering if I've missed something, being a quarterly-filing contract-worker-type myself.

Posted by: Texan99 at January 28, 2010 06:15 PM

Is this what you're thinking of Texan99?

It's a temp credit, as in teh gub'mint will be magnanimous and take less of your product away from you for 2009 and 2010.

Encore for the tax man.

Posted by: bthun at January 28, 2010 06:52 PM

OK, thanks -- looks like a tax credit of up to $400/year for many people, which starts getting phased out starting at income of $75K a year and goes away completely at $95K a year. Is that really 95% of Americans? OK, maybe. The IRS instructions stress that everyone's withholding got adjusted in anticipation throughout 2009, but lots of people won't actually be eligible for it and will just have to pay extra tax with their April 2010 returns.

I wish I could think that an extra $400/year for people of moderate income could turn joblessness around. Unfortunately, as welcome as some extra cash always is in a family budget, the way to stimulate jobs is to give all those bad rich people an extra $50K a year, because they're the ones doing the hiring. Someday we're going to have to find a way to quit hating them for being rich.

Posted by: Texan99 at January 28, 2010 07:13 PM

Assuming the tax rates as published at "UncleFed" (no clue if it's reputable or not: It's just what I found first for "2008 versus 2009 tax rates" in google)...

The tax brackets have changed and have slid up slightly. So you will pay a little less tax compared to 2008.

If my math is correct...

If you make:
17k - 65k it drops $32.50
68k - $131k it drops $312.50
138k - 200k it drops $480.50
209k - 357k it drops $908.00
373k+ it drops $1213.00

The spots I've left out is where it transitions from one plateau to another.

Given that the 2009 Median Family income for the US is $64k, half of all families will see less than a whopping $33 in relief.

Yay :-|

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at January 28, 2010 07:19 PM

PETULANT: (via Merriam-Webster)
1 : insolent or rude in speech or behavior
2 : characterized by temporary or capricious ill humor : peevish


Posted by: HomefrontSix at January 28, 2010 11:24 PM

"PETULANT: (via Merriam-Webster)
1 : insolent or rude in speech or behavior
2 : characterized by temporary or capricious ill humor : peevish


Posted by: HomefrontSix at January 28, 2010 11:24 PM

As is said, if the shoe fits...

This must be the first POTUS fully committed to the No Administration Left Behind concept. By comparison, Jimah Cahtah's administration will finally, to borrow a baseball euphemism, get out of the squared-away-as-a-soup-sandwich basement.

And with news of the POTUS asking the DOJ to move the 9/11 terror suspects out of New York, N.Y., I offer the villains a drive-time tune, in honor of the Best&Brightest™ Can't-shoot-straight, inside-the-beltway-gang.

Posted by: bthun at January 29, 2010 07:07 AM

"There was no rendezvous with reality in the speech" - perfect.

Posted by: nan at January 29, 2010 08:37 AM