Barack Obama's 2013 State of the Union speech
by Robert Randle 2/16/2013 / Politics
On Tuesday, February 12, 2013 President Obama was again fulfilling his obligation under the U.S. Constitution according to Article 2, Section 3 (a): "He [the president] shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. . ." The president's address before the chamber of Congress had a little bit of something borrowed and something new. To begin with, president Obama borrowed a speech by John F. Kennedy: "51 years ago John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber: 'The Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress. It is my task to report on the State of the Union, to improve it, is the task of us all.'" While not wanting to deconstruct the entire speech there are a few things that need further scrutiny. Who are those members in Congress that have proposed sparing defense costs due to "sequestration" (the fiscal cliff) and instead support cutting education and job training, Medicare, and Social Security benefits? When president Obama said that the biggest cost of our rising deficit is associated with long-term care of an aging population- the need for "modest" reform in Medicare, otherwise our retirement program will crowd out what we need for our children when they are about to retire, the chamber got a lot quieter all of a sudden. Medicare and Social Security is the 'holy grail' of federally-funded Entitlements and the mere suggestion of tweaking a system where the recipients are the majority voting bloc is quite risky. Next, there was talk about the Affordable Health Care Act slowing down healthcare costs but they are still spiraling upward. It was interesting to hear about reducing taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies because those same industries were some of president Obama's biggest corporate campaign donors and influential White House lobbyists.
Then there was the chiding of Congress because they only passed parts of The American Jobs Act, which according to the president, economists predict would create 1.5M jobs. Of course, there was no mention of what was in the bill, and who are these economists who can substantiate these job figures? President Obama mentioned that he wants to lay out a plan tonight that is "fully paid for" and consistent with budget framework that both parties agreed to 18 months ago, and that won't increase the deficit by a single dime, but the details were not forthcoming. The statement about developing new technologies and alternative forms of energy generated by the large wind turbines that dot the landscape in some areas, but have become an eyesore to environmental groups, not the mention the birds that are caught in the blades of these large fans, which animal rights advocates are upset about; despite the thousands of jobs that have been created. President Obama went on to talk about establishing a new goal for America: cut in half the energy wasted in our homes and businesses and to encourage this type of energy upgrade and retrofitting, tax incentives and credits are given for energy-efficient homes and buildings. This is certainly not a new idea for homeowners who have been using these deductions for years, and some businesses who plant gardens of their rooftops to lower their utility bills. The thing is, though, what about the federal government; how many government vehicles are hybrids or electric, or how many offices use energy-efficient light bulbs and how many buildings is energy compliant within the guidelines expected for everyone else?
And then there was housing and mortgages: To put a bill before Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 yearly by refinancing at today's lower rates [assuming they are not already underwater or delinquent in their mortgage payments]. This is not a new idea because people used to do the very same thing in the 1970's during the housing boom and the ARM'S (Adjustable Rate Mortgages). Also back then, the IRS tax code allowed for the profit from the sale of a house to not be taxed as ordinary income but rather at the lower rate for capital gains [if it was even taxed at all]. The biggest problem with refinancing today is the unwillingness of banks to renegotiate with homeowners and you have to jump through too many hoops to get it done. President Obama's "Fix-it-First Program" sounds more like he's channeling FDR's "NEW DEAL" by having programs to deal with our aging infrastructure (deteriorating bridges, roads, sewer systems, etc.) through putting people to work on our most urgent repair programs (70,000 bridges across the country). He should have promised "A chicken in every pot and a car [hybrid] in every garage, too." Continuing with populist themes like the fact that fewer than 3 out of 10 four year olds are enrolled in a high quality pre-K program. President Obama wants a proposal to make high quality pre-school education available to every child [at the states' expense or 91% of it because the federal government only funds around 10% for public education pre-K through12]. NOTE: Whatever happened to the Head Start program?? Besides, this is not new either.
He further adds: "Every $1 invested now will save $7 later on by boosting graduation rates [from H.S. but what about college??], reducing teenage pregnancy [and drug abuse, gangs, prison incarceration etc.], and violent crime. Funny though, there was no mention of alternatives to improve student learning outcomes such as Charter schools, Academies, private boarding schools, Magnet and Montessori schools. Speaking of the dollar costs, that makes a lot of sense because what the public is dubious woefully in denial of is the "pay me now or pay me later" principle- The prison population in America is around 2M and the incarceration cost of a bed and meals per inmate is, say, $25,000 a year (2,000,000 x 25,000=$50,000,000,000 annually); that is $50B and this doesn't even include the costs of operating all the prisons in America, which when you consider all of that, it might be closer to $200B. A study of the inmate population at the Pennsylvania State Penitentiary showed that 68% of prisoners did not have a high school diploma. Besides, all this talk about placing such an emphasis on redesigning high schools to emphasize Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), has some educators concerned that this would be at the risk of jeopardizing the liberal arts, which might get defunded or felt less important and thus receive little attention.
If you want placate the concerns from supporters of the fastest-growing minority group in America who caused you to be reelected, and then you have to tell Hispanics what they want to hear, thus, President Obama, not missing a political opportunity, says, "I recommend Congress to pass 'comprehensive' Immigration reform legislation. Along with the proposal he wants to:
-Reinforce stronger border security south of the U.S. border. He mentioned that illegal crossings are at a forty year low (what about border agents killing illegal immigrants??)
-Provide a responsible pathway to earn citizenship (criminal background check, paying taxes and penalties, learning English [many students already enrolled in ESL classes, anyway], and go to the back of the line behind those who applied for legal citizenship.
-Fix the legal immigration system (reduce long waiting periods) and attract highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow the economy. NOTE: Isn't president Obama talking about the Dream Act or Amnesty and some countries just might not want to allow their most skilled and educated citizens to immigrate to America.
And what about the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1 (a)? "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. Some who interpret the Constitution as "strict constructionists" say that this provision applies to African-Americans [slaves and their descendants] because this was part of the post-Civil War/Reconstruction Amendments of the late 1860's -1870 (Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth) and anyone else would be subject to provisions of the 1790 Naturalization Law, superseded by the 1920 Immigration Origin Act, superseded by the 1952 Immigration Law, or superseded by the latest Immigration and Naturalization Law of 1965.
There was the curious mention of: "I want to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrence for low income couples and encourage fatherhood (how??)." "What makes you a man is not the ability to conceive a child but having the courage to raise one" NOTE: This quote was essentially taken from the movie, "BOYZ N THE HOOD" and the words were spoken by actor Lawrence Fishburne, but he said it in more of the street vernacular. When President Obama said, "We will strengthen our own Missile Defense Systems"this brought back memories of Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars Initiative" about erecting a missile defense shield around America and allied countries in Western Europe. Then there was the comments about The United States will partner with our allies to reduce extreme poverty in undeveloped countries within the next two decade by connecting people to the global economy; including empowering women [how??].Saving the world's impoverished children from preventable deaths (AIDS-free generation). NOTE: Wasn't the United States largest foreign aid package ever to Africa for the prevention and treatment of AIDS promoted by President George W. Bush?
Near the conclusion of the speech president Obama made the case for a need to counter "Cyber-attacks" to prevent sabotage to our power grid, financial institutions, and air traffic control systems.
He would be issuing a new Executive Order to strengthen cyber defenses by increasing information-sharing and developing standards to protect our national security, jobs, and privacy. Congress must pass legislation to give the federal government [Is this to give more authority to the Justice Department, Homeland Security, NSA, CIA, or to the Executive branch to invade our 'privacy'??] to secure our computer networks and deter cyber-attacks. He talked about wanting to support military families, just like First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, but exactly what have they been doing? Having a photo taken with a few military families at select times of the year is not the same as meeting with families of veterans, listening to their concerns, and being advocates in behalf of them before Congress and the VA, as well as asking their husbands to use their influence to help soldiers and their families struggling with a range of issues [mental, physical, and financial]; and somehow it seems that such activities have not been reported in the media, and if this is even an ongoing concern for these two women is anybody's guess.
Then came the part regarding one of the most fundamental rights in a democracy, that is "the right to vote" and being denied that right because you can't wait 5, 6, or 7 hours to cast a ballot is unacceptable. . .
President Obama wants the establishment of a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience, to be headed by the top attorneys for the Obama and Romney campaigns [what about states' rights because such activity is under their sovereign jurisdiction unless some electoral practices violates the U.S. Constitution??]. Saving the "best for last" was invoking the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre as well as Hadiya Pendleton being shot to death in a Chicago Park, but her parents were invited guests in the Congressional Chamber, and there was the mention of former Arizona Congressman Gabrielle Giffords, along with other such incidents and their families to pressure members of Congress to just cast a vote, one way or the other, regarding legislation on changing existing laws on access to handguns, assault weapons, and the type of ammunition. A beginning remark might have been better saved for the last: "We must put the nation's interest before that of either political party."