Whenever you think about the intrinsic value of a president’s delivering his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress—Thomas Jefferson simply sent his to Capitol Hill in writing—this year’s SOTU has to be an interesting proposition: the country is in deep trouble economically, and the president is running for re-election.
Never underestimate the possibility that a politician will turn in a performance that changes the political narrative, but President Obama certainly has an interesting Tuesday evening before of him. It won’t be enough to croon a line from Al Green (and have Maureen Dowd proclaim this “cool”).
Joseph Curl has a piece in the Washington Times that looks at the dismal state of the union by the numbers: the unemployment rate was 6.5 percent when Obama was elected; now it is 8.5. It would be considerably higher—11 percent—if the number of unemployed who have given up looking for a job were factored into the equation. There are fewer payroll jobs than there were in 2000 and 40 percent are “low paying” jobs, 10 percent higher than when Ronald Reagan became president.
Electricity bills and the cost of gas have risen significantly. But this is perhaps the most disheartening bit in Curl’s analysis:
Since December 2008, a month before Mr. Obama took office, food-stamp use has increased 46 percent. Total spending has more than doubled in just four years to a record high of $75 billion. In 2011, more than 46 million people — about one in seven Americans — got food stamps. That’s 14 million more than when Mr. Obama took office.
One of the likely themes of the SOTU is that the economy has been rigged against the middle class—and it has. But it was rigged by policies of the Obama administration. What does it take to get into or stay in the middle class? Employment. The president’s latest move in his war on jobs was the disgraceful rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, a cowardly act of appeasement to his affluent environmental base.
CNN’s preview of the SOTU includes this:
Throughout his speech, the president will weave in an emphasis on middle-class values and that this is make-or-break moment for that segment of American society, likely putting it into stark terms, according to the sources. He'll suggest that the United States has a choice to either become a place where only the wealthy succeed, or it can level the playing field and give everyone an opportunity.
Wait a minute here, what on earth does it mean to say that we’re becoming a country in which only the wealthy can succeed? Note to President Obama: many of the wealthy succeeded by starting out poor or middle class and becoming wealthy. Sure, some people inherit money. Somebody succeeded generations ago. But the wealthy in the U.S. have become wealthy in a free-market system that allows them to start businesses and hire other people. What President Obama has done is embrace policies that rig the economy against those who would succeed in becoming wealthy and creating opportunities. This is the American nightmare.
We can also likely expect that the president will try to blame Congress for the dismal state of the union. Indeed, as Joseph Curl points out, there is only one person in the country who is not to be held accountable for the state of the union. Care to guess who?