President Obama’s First State of the Union

President Obama’s first State of the Union (SOTU) was given at a crucial time in his presidency.  Since his election in November 2008 swept the Democrats into power in Congress for the first time since 1994 President Obama has had a rocky road.  His nominees, though undergoing an intense vetting process, yielded several who failed to pay taxes and whose backgrounds were far from politically beneficial to the President.  His stimulus package, passed with ease, has been decried as a worthless purveyor of pork which will do nothing but add to our deficit.  His much championed climate change bill was DOA in the Senate and while both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed health care reform bills, many House and Senate Democrats are of the opinion that the victory of Scott Brown in Massachusetts is a public rejection of Obama’s health care agenda.

In short, President Obama has a lot to talk about.  None of his major policy items, beyond the stimulus, have made it to his desk in this first year in office.  With the largest first year approval rating drop in history for a President (Rasmussen has a drop for the low 80s to the mid to high 40s), Obama needs to get momentum back on his side.  This speech is crucial to do so, since he will capture most of America as his audience and be able to put forth his agenda.

What I intend to do is to analyze the President’s speech from a transcript pulled from the White House web site.  There are numerous themes the President hit on, so I will address them one by one.  So sit back and enjoy.After getting through his soaring opening rhetoric, the first issue is the most pressing one:  the economy. Originally, I hoped to place Obama’s comments in the post and then respond with mine, but that may not work in all instances.  For example, his statements on the economy are large, so I am going to respond piece by piece.

Now, let me repeat:  We cut taxes.  We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families.  We cut taxes for small businesses.  We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers.  We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children.  We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.

95% of working families?  We’ve fought this battle, I’ll leave it with this link if you’re still interested.

Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.  Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy; 300,000 are teachers and other education workers.  Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, first responders.  And we’re on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.

There are 2 problems with this paragraph.  First, that we have absolutely no idea how many jobs would have been lost if the stimulus package had not passed and we have no real way to measure it.  At best this number is a guess, at worst a pathetic attempt to self promotion.  Second, 2 million is a rather high estimate, especially when the White House’s own policy advisors were split on exactly how many jobs were saved and when the website has congressional districts which do not exist displayed as major areas of job savings.

Obama continues by calling for a new jobs bill.  What it will do beyond providing jobs in a government bureaucracy, I do not know.  He then continues and after praising the banks for repaying $30 billion in TARP loans, we have this proposal:

So tonight, I’m proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat.  I’m also proposing a new small business tax credit – one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages.  While we’re at it, let’s also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.

I disagree with the first.  Our government needs to get its house in order first.  If we want to get money down to the small businesses faster (I haven’t seen anything saying it isn’t, so if you have some information to that effect please let me know), then lets pass tax credits for those loans for the provider and the recipient.  I am all about tax credits to business which higher new employees.  Eliminating, or even just cutting, capital gains taxes would be beneficial as well except that it will decrease government revenue, which I sincerely doubt Congressional Democrats will like.  My take on this paragraph:  lets see some action.  Next section worth talking about:

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives.  And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.  It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.  It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies.  And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year.  And this year I’m eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.

Clean energy jobs.  Notice how the House’s Cap and Trade bill is being construed as a green jobs bill?  The problem is that such a bill is going to cost jobs and economic development that we can ill afford right now.  I do love the nuclear power plants idea.  These new plants operating in France and Germany are incredibly safe.  I would love to see this happen.  Biofuels has a load of problems, including how to create a proper delivery system.  On a side note, ethanol needs to go, as it makes gasoline cost more and makes it dirtier.

I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy.  I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.  But here’s the thing — even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -– because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.  And America must be that nation.

I am going to toot my own horn here:  President Obama, climate change “evidence” has some problems, which I have detailed extensively.

Obama’s next foray includes increasing exports, helping improve education with competition, and college student loans.  I have to do some more thinking on this before I pass judgment on this, but on the surface it does not sound terrible.  Next up, Health Care!

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