What’s wrong with this cartoon?

Stuart Carlson via Go Comics

Here’s a simplistic take on President Obama’s State of the Union speech.  Carlson, the cartoonist, sympathetically depicts Obama as calm and optimistic.  Meanwhile, Republicans are shown as afraid to work on the nation’s problems.

But why should we buy Carlson’s conception of what our country’s problems are?  Serious issues, like the national debt and our values crisis, are missing from the junk pile.  And of the concerns listed in the cartoon, some are hardly worth addressing, at least on the federal level.  Gun violence has declined drastically compared to twenty and thirty years ago.  “Mental health crisis” is more apt to a mountain of national dysfunction than “guns.”

Carlson’s cartoon reinforces the myopic notion that big government activism is the way to solve national problems.  But why propose a new federal preschool initiative when the extant Head Start program has been found to be of questionable value?  Like the manufacturing hubs proposal, it’s just another reinvention of the wheel, adding to the accretion of federal programs that don’t do what they’re supposed to.

The policy proposals laid out last week were predictable.  And so has been media coverage.  A report by Rachel Rose Hartman of Yahoo does little more than relay the White House’s talking points unchallenged.  Fair enough, we can recount all the times Yahoo reporters have uncritically parroted Republican initiatives.  On one hand.

Consider also an AP fact check of Tuesday’s speech.  In contrast to his challenges of Obama’s statements, fact checker Calvin Woodward goes out of his way to thoroughly stomp on Marco Rubio’s mention of a balanced budget amendment.  Dismissing it as unserious, he conveniently forgets that such an amendment failed to pass Congress by one vote as recently as the Clinton presidency.  He beefs that federal revenues declined during the recession, but ignores that they’ve since recovered.  And he launches a lengthy apologetic as to the necessity of deficit spending at the federal level.  We can only imagine the AP giving such generous balance to a Republican president.

As Kohaleth observed, “Nothing is new under the sun.” Mr. Obama wasted the bully pulpit again. Rather than make a genuine effort to unite the nation and move it forward, he did what he knows how to do best: deploy emotional rhetoric to build political advantage for his own party.  The President remains a one trick pony.  Media and the public they serve are largely lost in the pomp of the speech.  The only paean we can honestly deliver is one that declares Obama’s speech another pale and uninspired echo of “Hope and Change.”

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SOTU 2012: The Tax Loophole Jump

SOTU 2012:The Business Tax Loophole Jump

 

There were some nice things about Tuesday’s State of the Union Address:  Representative Gifford’s recovery, the accomplishments of our awesome Navy SEALs, and Mitch Daniels’ well-spoken and clever GOP response.  And there were some not so nice things.

Looking at the fiscal picture, President Obama’s speech boiled down to two proposals: shuffling business tax credits and asking for more money on things we already spend a lot on.  Among the various behaviors the President aspires to manipulate through a fresh scrambling of our already deeply convoluted tax code: who businesses hire, how much they pay those employees, what  manufacturers make, and where they make those things.  Has the White House not gotten one of those memos on tax simplification?  What ever happened to the recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles report they commissioned?  All of the new tax credits (read: loopholes) will only distort market behavior.  And market distortions are “what got us into this mess.”

Then there are the new outlays he requested.  First, to create a new bureaucracy, the Trade Enforcement Unit.  I think he is going for the Jack Bauer vote by calling it a unit, as in “Counterterrorism Unit (CTU).”  Its a worthy cause, but can’t it be done by retasking existing agencies?  Next on the list is money to transform community colleges into “community career centers.”  I don’t know what they were before if not that!  Just a place to find a date for Friday night?  Finally, he asked us to fork more money over for teachers.  But it seems like school voucher programs don’t count.  Democrats only accept more money for education when it doesn’t threaten unions.

I don’t think our President has managed to outdo himself in 2012.  Last year’s “Winning the Future” (WTF) theme with $53 billion for high speed rail projects is just too tough to beat.  And that outlandish record will hopefully stand if this State of the Union address is President Obama’s last.

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