Wednesday, January 26, 2011
State of the Union: Not so Bad
He used plenty of sweeping platitudes, to be sure, but they were warm in tone and affirmed basic values, just as expected, and the expected was reassuring.
He even said some things that were downright conservative--like consolidating government offices, and simplifying the tax code. And our not-so-jocular President even made a joke, decrying separate agencies "handling" salmon depending on whether the fish were in fresh or salt water: "I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked," he quipped, offering an added chuckle given his own smoking issue.
Of course, he had to defend his signature project, the health care bill, framing it as consumer protection. "That's why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients," he intoned, before insisting "I'm not willing to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition." But he didn't address how these dastardly insurance companies, the mean exploiters, were to absorb the costs of these conditions.
Also amusing was how he later tied his health care bill to lowering the deficit, saying "Repeal of the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit." But everyone knew he'd protect his "baby."
More surprising was his proposal to lower corporate taxes, though he did rib "the wealthiest 2%" of individual taxpayers, who he said should "give up their tax break." Why? "It's not a matter of punishing their success," Obama spun, "It's about promoting America's success." In other words, individuals with money cannot be trusted to spend it on goods and services (that fuel the economy directly); better they should send their money to the government, a wiser source of national "success."
And he packaged it all in language that was occasionally downright noble. And Presidential, even. He mentioned the Tucson shooting and Gabby Gifford at the top, in just the right measure, and concluded with optimism and the classic plea for God's blessing. Not so bad; he rose to the occasion. He proposed unity and transparency; now I just hope he follows through.