SOTU 2012

Published by marco on

These are some thoughts I had as a read through the State of the Union 2012 – Transcript by Barack Obama (C-Span) (PDF).

The Synopsis[1]

  1. The U.S. military is the awesome.
  2. Soldiers are better than civilians.
  3. American businesses have been wayward, but should be forgiven and paid to come home.
  4. Americans are wicked smart and more enterprising than anyone else on the planet, but they have been chronically undereducated and under-trained
  5. College costs too much; college tuition loans will kill us all
  6. We need more fossil fuel energy; we need to subsidize those companies that promise to get more of it for us
  7. America’s infrastructure is in bad shape. It would be great if it wasn’t.
  8. Anyone with an underwater mortgage should be able to refinance it at an affordable and stable interest rate
  9. We should totally go after financial malfeasance with renewed gusto (or any gusto at all)
  10. Tax the rich, even Obama, who’s pretty rich himself. For God’s sakes, your position is utterly indefensible.
  11. Out government is broken. But it’s totally going to fix itself. You just watch.
  12. The Congress and Senate are full of millionaires who cheat and lie a lot. Corruption should no longer be legal.
  13. Iran? Fuck those guys. Totally still hungry for nukes; don’t care what the facts are. More yummy sanctions for them!
  14. And in conclusion: veterans are awesome, too. Did I mention that our military is the awesome? I think I might have.
  15. God loves America more than any other country. So there.

Live Blog

These are just notes I wrote as I read through, with some light editing.

This year’s theme—as it is almost every year—is the promulgation of myths. The first one to be addressed—as it is almost every year—is how mind-bendingly awesome the U.S. military is, how selfless and efficient and goal-oriented and moral and all-out fan-fucking-tabulous everyone in the military is—to a man (or woman, presumably). And how they are, in fact, collectively worth every last penny spent on them and just about the ass-kickingest thing about being an American is knowing that so much of the taxes you pay on the pitiful income you get goes to supporting this unprecedented force for good.

I hope I’m not overstating here. I think I captured the level of Obama’s adulation and sycophancy pretty well.

They are, in fact, so awesome that we should all try to be like them (undereducated and mindlessly focused on executing orders regardless of how immoral? –ed.) Our left-wing peacenik liberal president just told the country that it should follow the example set by the military. Recent immigrants from the DPRK just got a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs. The beloved leader has spoken.

But the SOTU is about dreams—specifically an American one of an America that never really existed—and, while we’re dreaming, let’s spin a fantasy of what America could be like. The country to which Obama’s America aspires sounds suspiciously like pretty much any country in Europe, actually. But enough about cool things we could do. Let’s talk about something more American than apple pie: war. Let’s hark back to WWII—because, really, who wants to listen to a State of the Union where we don’t hear about how awesome America was just after WWII? Über-altruistic Marshall Plan for the win—anyone who doesn’t think so is a liar and a fool.

On to the economy!

“In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money. Regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior.

“It was wrong. It was irresponsible.”

And yet, my administration hasn’t pursued criminal prosecution or asset-retrieval with even a hint of the alacrity that you would expect. Oops…he didn’t really say that, but if he has a soul at all, he was thinking it.

“And we’ve put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that never happens again.”

That is a lie. He knows it’s a lie. Every fatcat in the room knows it’s a lie. The entire media knows it’s a lie. The captains of industry, chortling into their rolls of fat like Jabba the Hutt—they’re laughing because they paid him to say it.

Hell, Chris Dodd—the co-sponsor of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act—is now president of the MPAA, so you can see how dedicated he is to keeping money and corruption out of Washington. The other co-sponsor—Barney Frank—was essentially gerrymandered out of a job this year. Glass-Steagal has not been re-instated, fines and settlements are still laughable wherever nearly non-existent regulation actually rears its pitiful head and so on and so forth.

Yeah, it was a lie.

On to the auto industry, which is, apparently kicking ass these days. Too bad we (the people) already sold back our stake, right?

“And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.”

When? Last year? In the three years since their bailout? And what kind of jobs are these? And just so we’re clear: the President is holding up Detroit—Detroit (just to be clear)—as a sign of hope for America. Unemployment in the Detroit metropolitan area is rampant, with various sources citing as low as 11.2% (government numbers) to just over 20% (Simply Hired) to almost 30% (HuffPo). Kudos to Obama for even daring to mention Detroit, but as a success story? What is Michelle growing in her organic garden? I thought Obama stopped smoking?

American companies should try to be a little nicer to America. We’re hurting over here, so companies, listen up:

“Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.”

Great. It’s not rape if we ask for it, right? Cue the tax amnesty where companies can repatriate profits at almost no tax burden, cue the bills to remove pesky regulations on working conditions (how else are we supposed to compete with the Chinese?) Cue an accelerated race to the bottom.

But Occupy Wall Street has had some effect because Obama’s back at it, talking about the inequality of opportunity and relative tax burden.

“We should start with our tax code. Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.”

So, how to solve this? I guess if we reduce the tax burden to 1%, some companies might be guilted into actually paying them. Better than nothing, right? And then they’ll be able to do that business at home, right? So abolishing corporate taxes completely would fill the bill? Sounds like a socialist plot.

“It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.”

Aren’t the slave labor markets to which we are trying so fervently to return much more of a problem? You know, when you talk about being “competitive”? And those foreign manufacturers just choked on their suppers when they heard America accuse them of heavily subsidizing their industries. Methinks the pot calleth the kettle black.

On to energy! How’s the green-energy president doing?

“Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.”

Yay! … wait, what? WTF?

“Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade”

Yay! Untold environmental damage in exchange for 2 months worth of jobs over the next nine years. Yay!

“And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock – reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.”

I have a question. What’s that technology called? F-something, no?[2]

“Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings”

And here we go: more giveaways to big business because how are they supposed to declare gargantuan, untaxed profits when they have actually pay for their own businesses? Obama chastises the oil companies—“We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough.”—and now wants to subsidize other energy sources, not acknowledging that it’s almost certainly the same companies hoovering up the new subsidies. These are energy companies, not just oil companies. In almost the same breath as he promises to “end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable”, he pledges to bequeath a new subsidy of “$100 Billion […] over the next decade”.

That’ll show ‘em.

But where do we get this money, Mr. President?

“Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”

OMG that would be awesome. Except for two things:

  1. How much money are we actually talking here? Didn’t the military budget actually go up again? When everybody whined and bitched about the military reductions, they were actually talking about a reduction in the amount it was expected to increase. Where did we save money?
  2. I will believe that money will be spent on infrastructure rather than bombs when I see it. And even then I probably won’t believe it.

But Obama wasn’t done being tough on the rich yet.

“It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. […] So if you’re a big bank or financial institution, you are no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits.”

I am so sure that they are positively shaking in their boots. This is along the lines of a Dad telling his son: Junior! That’s the last time you burn down our house and get away with it. Your mother and I will be much stricter with you from here on out. Now go out and play, you little rascal.

“And tonight, I am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis.”

This is Obama’s “moon base”.[3]

“Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes.”

And this is his “Mars mission”.[4]

“But no matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right now: Nothing will get done this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken. ”

That’s where the safe money is, Mr. President. I don’t think you’re going to find anyone to take the long side of that bet. All of your financial industry friends shorted your administration long ago.

“Send me a bill that bans insider trading by Members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow. Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact.”

That’s there the bar is now: a big promise—really sticking your neck out—in Washington these days is to get Congress to stop feathering their nests by means that would land anyone else in jail for a good long stretch.

And he probably won’t even get that.

Forget it. If that’s where we are, then I say we take a mulligan.

Hey! Guess what? We haven’t talked about the military in a while. With Iraq wrapped up, let’s talk about our next target:

“Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one”

Obama thinks crippling sanctions are “diplomacy”. He thinks strong-arming the Hague into a disastrous corner is “diplomacy”. The final parts of this speech are pretty much copied word-for-word from Hillary’s recent article in Foreign Policy magazine.

Oh, and Hillary and Obama are totally convinced that Iran’s going after nukes—not just nuclear capabilities, as they have repeatedly stated, as all IAEA inspectors have confirmed, as dozens of CIA and other agencies have reported again and again and as even neocon hawk and current Secretary of Defense Leon Pannetta let slip recently. On top of that, Mossad and other Israeli government agencies have declared that Iran isn’t pursuing a weapon.[5]

But hell, that’s Israel and Obama’s shout-out wasn’t meant for them, it was meant for AIPAC and others, who won’t believe that Iran doesn’t have a weapon until 9 years after a U.S. invasion of it. Better to play it safe, right?

[1] Or in today’s lingo, a tl;dr
[2] Fracking. The word is fracking. Strange that he didn’t use the term.
[3] Don’t you remember when Bush announced a plan to build a moon base in his 2004 SOTU? That was pretty much the only time we ever heard about it.
[4] Bush wanted to go to Mars in 2003, I think. Jon Stewart famously quipped that it was a “sign that [Bush]’d given up on Earth”. For more information, see Bush Still Working On Manned Mission To Mars Quietly In Spare Time (The Onion)
[5] Despite the overwhelming pressure to do so: they are surrounded not only by U.S. bases, but also by huge nuclear powers, with Russia, China, Pakistan and India within range.