Friday, March 1, 2013

President Obama's 2d Term Agenda

Photo by WaPo. For a full transcript of the SOTU address, go HERE
This is the second in a three part series of articles about the President's agenda for his second term.

First impression: I need some new ties. I have no pastel, Easter-colored neck ties. I was not invited to attend the SOTU address this year, but had I been present in the House Chamber, I would have looked out of place. Lilting Lilac. Sky Blue. Fuzzy Peach. Mint Green. Bunny nose Pink. We went from Mardi Gras to Easter Sunday in one fell swoop.

As long as we are dispensing with the trivia, what did you think of Marco Rubio's "water moment" in the Republican rebuttal? I found the moment humanizing but the hoopla about it de-humanizing. If you don't know what I am referring to, consider yourself lucky and the matter closed. Enough said?

Speaking of social media, my Facebook friend and frequent PhilosFX commentator, CT, said this fanfare of banality all reminded him of a favorite Frank Zappa quote,

"Politics is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex."

Frank may have been on to something, but, like it or not, we are governed by the people we elect, following the process outlined in our Constitution. So let's take a more serious look at what the State of the Union Address tells us about where the President sees the Nation in relation to where he'd like to take us.

  • Increasing the minimum wage
  • A path to citizenship and tougher border security
  • Only “modest” Medicare and Social Security reforms
  • Increased gun control
  • Ending the war in Afghanistan
  • Increased infrastructure spending
  • Addressing climate change
  • Increasing sharing of information to prevent cyber attacks

Some folks look at this list and see a fairly pragmatic agenda. Some other folks look at the same list and see a threat to our freedom in the form of big government take-over. Some folks never get past the fact that our President self-identifies as a Black man, although I dare say that fewer and fewer citizens are paying attention to race and gender. President Obama is not the Black President. He is the President (who happens to be Black). That color-blindness is a good thing, as long as people are truly focused on issues that matter more, such as the strength of the Nation and the health and well-being of her people.

Personally, I look at the list and I see a fairly pragmatic agenda, which is what I want to see. Which is why I am immediately suspicious. Rhetoric sways people. Recall these stirring words from Part One, the President's second inaugural address.
" . . . each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution.

"What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration . . . We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

"The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few, or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people. Entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed . . . "

 
A President of the United States can use phrases like "unalienable rights" and government "of, by, and for the people" in speeches, even as his policies

"... point away from a republic of liberty and toward bureaucratic despotism.  President Obama's policies - from Obamacare, to higher taxes and runaway debt, to increased regulation of the economy and of family life - are in direct contradiction to these words in his second inaugural address.

"President Obama can only get away with misusing the words of America's founders because too many Americans today have not been properly educated about our American Heritage.

"And if this is allowed to continue, our great nation will become less free and less prosperous, and the intrusive bureaucratic state will expand." --Dr. Larry P. Arnn, President, Hillsdale College

Let's get past the melody and the message and get to the meat. How will the agenda laid out in the SOTU address contribute to the strength of the Nation and the health and well-being of her people? So the challenge now is to connect the beautiful melody of January's Inaugural Address with the inspiring lyrics of this State of the Union Address and produce the actual sheet music of the President's Budget for FY 2014. Follow the money.

Of course, the words are eloquent, but as we know, a brilliant plan without a supporting budget is just fantasy

Given the gridlock in Congress and their track record of producing budgets of late, I would say,

"Welcome to Fantasy Island."