Posts Tagged ‘state of the union’


“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.” – James Madison

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over a member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” – British philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

“Disregard Barack Obama’s rhetorical cotton candy about aspiring to be transformative. He is just another practitioner of reactionary liberalism and champion of a government unchastened by its multiplying failures. The word ‘entitlements’ was absent from his nearly 7,000-word State of the Union address — a $183 million speech that meandered for 61 minutes as the nation’s debt grew $3 million a minute.” – columnist George Will

“America is on a path to bankruptcy. It’s easy to get bogged down arguing about lots of small cuts, but we’ll only make progress by abolishing whole departments and entire missions. I hope the public understands it has to be done.” – columnist John Stossel

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For those who missed this dribble and want to see and hear the Kind spew the same old rhetoric.


By Alvin Felzenberg

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what can be said of plagiarism? President Obama’s second State of the Union address contained enough recycled ideas and lines lifted from speeches of others to make historians wince. I suppose this is what one does when one not only has nothing new to say, but is required by custom and Constitution to come forth with a report of some kind by a certain time and day.

Had Obama or his writers been considerate enough to have informed listeners of where some of the president’s best lines and offered-up ideas originated, the speech might be remembered for its cutting and pasting of great and not-so-great moments of the past performance of others. After quoting Robert Kennedy early on, Obama tried to have his listeners believe that everything else he said that we might remember were his or his writers’ creations. Had the president submitted the text of his second State of the Union Address in the form of a college term paper, he would have been sent forthwith to the nearest academic dean. Once again, our public affairs are such that we have one standard for presidents and another for undergraduates. Now is as good a time as any to let Obama’s listeners in on what the late Paul Harvey would have termed “the rest of the story.”

Early in his address, Obama said that he wanted the nation he leads to be a “light to the world.” The last president who set such a mission for the nation he led, and in those exact words, was Woodrow Wilson.

Obama’s concept of the “American family” may well have had its origins in the first State of the State address New York Governor Mario Cuomo delivered in 1983. Cuomo proclaimed the state of New York as a “family.” He also talked about multiple partnerships, both public and private.

In an address to the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990, Margaret Thatcher delivered what might go down as the most memorable line in Obama’s second State of the Union address. The British Prime Minister told her American audience that the United States was the “first nation to have been founded on an idea.” It took the president a few additional words to get this idea across.

Obama’s pointed mutterings about a second “Sputnik Moment” being upon us and his recollection of how American policymakers responded to the last one with increased expenditures on infrastructure, science, technology, and education were clearly intended to evoke the spirit of Dwight D. Eisenhower. His setting of specific deadlines and goals was vintage JFK, but for the absence of any sense of challenge to his audience, list of benefits the United States would derive from them, or any semblance of a shared adventure the American people were about to embark upon.

There was a certain Back to the Future feel to the masterful tributes Obama paid those Ronald Reagan might have described as “ordinary heroes.” After all, it was Reagan who began the practice of inviting citizens who had done extraordinary things to sit beside the first lady in the House gallery as the president recited their achievements. It was also Reagan who reminded his listeners that the greatness of America emerged not from the hand of government, but through the entrepreneurial spirit of the American people.

Obama received his most sustained applause when he said, “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.” Leaving aside the faulty grammar (people change places with people, not with nations), the poaching from John F. Kennedy’s immortal inaugural address was obvious enough for the most historical of Obama’s listeners to notice. (“I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.”) That Obama could utter almost identical words days after paying tribute to Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of the delivery of that famous speech and not making reference to it suggests a self-absorption rare even among presidents.

Most pointedly, the low point of Obama’s speech came when he brought back government re-organization from the ash heap of failed efforts of previous presidents who sought to save money without inflicting pain on a public that had grown accustomed to government largesse. This one, like all that talk about all those green energy jobs that lay before us, had fallen out of the presidential repertoire with retirement of Jimmy Carter. Obama might have had the decency to have Carter on hand to witness the moment. He will have another chance should he, when he delivers his budget, bring back that other Carter flop from yesteryear, “zero based budgeting.”

Even Obama’s feigned attempt at humor had an antecedent in the remarks of a predecessor who spun better yarns than this president. Obama informed his listeners that salmon comes under the jurisdiction of one department when swimming in fresh water and under another when swimming in salt water. He rhetorically inquired what happened to the fish when “smoked.”

Somewhere in the White House library resides a published letter Franklin Roosevelt wrote to an adviser in which he complained that some bears were the property of the Interior Department, while others belonged the National Parks System. FDR, tongue in cheek, warned of a pending custody battle over cubs that emerged from illicit unions of bears crossing departmental jurisdictions.

It would appear that the only president of note whose imprint was absent in Obama’s long awaited and much-anticipated speech was Obama. This was supposed to have been the moment when the nation found out whether he was at the core a Rooseveltian liberal of a Clintonian centrist. What it got was a cut and pasted version of great and not-so-great State of the Union and other addresses of the past.

Sometime last year, many suggested that Obama would have an easier time getting his message across if he was less dependent on his teleprompter. This may be the year his writers are advised to throw away their books of political quotations. Then we may finally find out what the president truly believes and what he hopes to achieve in the office he so ardently sought.

Original Article


President Obama offered the GOP an olive branch on health care and Reagan-style optimism in an address that didn’t satisfy the talking heads—but will be seen by many Americans as common sense.

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By CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Calvin Woodward, Associated Press Wed Jan 26, 10:56 am ET

WASHINGTON – The ledger did not appear to be adding up Tuesday night when President Barack Obama urged more spending on one hand and a spending freeze on the other.

Obama spoke ambitiously of putting money into roads, research, education, efficient cars, high-speed rail and other initiatives in his State of the Union speech. He pointed to the transportation and construction projects of the last two years and proposed “we redouble these efforts.” He coupled this with a call to “freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.”

But Obama offered far more examples of where he would spend than where he would cut, and some of the areas he identified for savings are not certain to yield much if anything.

For example, he said he wants to eliminate “billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.” Yet he made a similar proposal last year that went nowhere. He sought $36.5 billion in tax increases on oil and gas companies over the next decade, but Congress largely ignored the request, even though Democrats were then in charge of both houses of Congress.

A look at some of Obama’s statements Tuesday night and how they compare with the facts:

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OBAMA: Tackling the deficit “means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. Health insurance reform will slow these rising costs, which is part of why nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit.”

THE FACTS: The idea that Obama’s health care law saves money for the government is based on some arguable assumptions.

To be sure, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated the law will slightly reduce red ink over 10 years. But the office’s analysis assumes that steep cuts in Medicare spending, as called for in the law, will actually take place. Others in the government have concluded it is unrealistic to expect such savings from Medicare.

In recent years, for example, Congress has repeatedly overridden a law that would save the treasury billions by cutting deeply into Medicare pay for doctors. Just last month, the government once again put off the scheduled cuts for another year, at a cost of $19 billion. That money is being taken out of the health care overhaul. Congress has shown itself sensitive to pressure from seniors and their doctors, and there’s little reason to think that will change.

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OBAMA: Vowed to veto any bills sent to him that include “earmarks,” pet spending provisions pushed by individual lawmakers. “Both parties in Congress should know this: If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.”

THE FACTS: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has promised that no bill with earmarks will be sent to Obama in the first place. Republicans have taken the lead in battling earmarks while Obama signed plenty of earmark-laden spending bills when Democrats controlled both houses. As recently as last month, Obama was prepared to sign a catchall spending measure stuffed with earmarks, before it collapsed in the Senate after an outcry from conservatives over the bill’s $8 billion-plus in home-state pet projects.

It’s a turnabout for the president; in early 2009, Obama sounded like an apologist for the practice: “Done right, earmarks have given legislators the opportunity to direct federal money to worthy projects that benefit people in their districts, and that’s why I’ve opposed their outright elimination,” he said then.

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OBAMA: “I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.”

THE FACTS: Republicans may be forgiven if this offer makes them feel like Charlie Brown running up to kick the football, only to have it pulled away, again.

Obama has expressed openness before to this prominent Republican proposal, but it has not come to much. It was one of several GOP ideas that were dropped or diminished in the health care law after Obama endorsed them in a televised bipartisan meeting at the height of the debate.

Republicans want federal action to limit jury awards in medical malpractice cases; what Obama appears to be offering, by supporting state efforts, falls short of that. The president has said he agrees that fear of being sued leads to unnecessary tests and procedures that drive up health care costs. So far the administration has provided grants to test ideas aimed at reducing medical mistakes and resolving malpractice cases by negotiation, but has recommended no change in federal law.

Trial lawyers, major political donors to Democratic candidates, are strongly opposed to caps on jury awards. But the administration has been reluctant to support other approaches, such as the creation of specialized courts where expert judges, not juries, would decide malpractice cases. In October 2009 the Congressional Budget Office estimated that government health care programs could save $41 billion over 10 years if nationwide limits on jury awards for pain and suffering and other similar curbs were enacted.

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OBAMA: “Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying — without the pat-down.”

THE FACTS: High-speed rail has been most successful for trips between cities roughly 200 to 500 miles apart — planes are more efficient for longer distances and cars for shorter trips. Administration officials say it’s inevitable that there will fast passenger train service between U.S. cities since projected population growth — 70 million more people in the next 25 years — will otherwise create congestion so severe that air or highway travel between nearby cities will become impractical.

But there are many major hurdles that will have to be overcome. Congress has approved $10.5 billion to jumpstart selected high-speed rail projects, but some industry estimates for the cost of a truly national network with service to major cities in every region of the country range from $500 billion to $1 trillion. Also, it’s doubtful that all service will be truly high-speed, often described as a minimum of 110 mph. Frequent stops could force trains to travel slower for safety even if they are capable of higher speeds.

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OBAMA: “The bipartisan Fiscal Commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it — in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.”

THE FACTS: Obama’s fiscal commission did not simply recommend cutting excessive spending; it proposed that the deficit could only be tamed by cutting $3 for every $1 of new revenue raised — in other words, a painful mix of spending cuts and tax increases. Instead, Obama proposed an overhaul of the corporate tax system that would eliminate loopholes and tax breaks but also reduce tax rates. The net effect would be neutral; it would not reduce or raise any revenue. Obama has yet to sign on to any of the ideas, even though he promised when creating the panel that it would not be “one of those Washington gimmicks.”

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OBAMA: “To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.”

THE FACTS: With that comment, Obama missed another chance to embrace the tough medicine proposed by the commission for bringing down the deficit. For example, he ruled out slashing benefits or partially privatizing the program, and made no reference to raising the retirement age. That left listeners to guess how he plans to do anything to salvage the popular retirement program whose trust funds are expected to run out of money in 2037 without changes.

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OBAMA: As testament to the fruits of his administration’s diplomatic efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons, he said the Iranian government “faces tougher and tighter sanctions than ever before.”

THE FACTS: That is true, and it reflects Obama’s promise one year ago that Iran would face “growing consequences” if it failed to heed international demands to constrain its nuclear program. But what Obama didn’t say was that U.S. diplomacy has failed to persuade Tehran to negotiate over U.N. demands that it take steps to prove it is not on the path toward a bomb. Preliminary talks with Iran earlier this month broke off after the Iranians demanded U.S. sanctions be lifted.

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Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, giving the GOP response: “Whether sold as `stimulus’ or repackaged as `investment,’ their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much, taxes too much and spends too much in order to do too much.”

THE FACTS: The economic stimulus package passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress in February 2009 didn’t raise taxes. Instead, about a third of the package — nearly $300 billion — was made up of temporary tax cuts. The biggest was Obama’s Making Work Pay credit, which provided up $400 to individuals and $800 to married couples. There were dozens of other tax cuts, including a more generous child tax credit, a tax credit for buying a home and a sales tax deduction for buying a car. Many, but not all, of the tax cuts have since expired.

Obama’s health care law imposed new taxes, including a penalty for some people who don’t get qualified health insurance, starting in 2014. But Obama extended Bush-era tax cuts that were due to expire at the beginning of the year. He also enacted a new one-year cut in the payroll tax for 2011 for just about every wage earner.


Rep. Gabrielle Giffords may be released from intensive care and transferred to a brain rehabilitation hospital as early as this week, ABC News has learned. The fluid accumulation in her brain that concerned doctors over the weekend has already begun to subside.

Meanwhile, at tonight’s State of the Union address, members of both political parties will be wearing black and white ribbons in a show of solidarity with Giffords and the people of Tucson. In a special gesture, her friends in Congress will leave one seat unfilled.

“There is going to be a chair left empty to symbolize what we all know will be a triumphant return to the House of Representatives when she comes back to us full strength,” said Giffords’ friend and colleague, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.

In Houston, Giffords’ husband, NASA Commander Mark Kelly, plans to watch tonight’s State of the Union Address from the hospital. While he keeps watch by her side, the clock is ticking on a critical decision. Kelly has said he will decide within two weeks whether he will command the space shuttle Endeavor’s final mission in April.

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President Obama will make a plea for both parties to work together in his State of the Union speech, saying that “the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.” “At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election,” he’ll say, according to excerpts released by the White House. “At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world. We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.”

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Source: politico.com