Rebuttal to The State of The Union

Tuesday night’s State of The Union address by President Obama will likely go down in history as one of the least inspiring – mostly a themeless chronicling of the woes we face, followed by a brief attempt at cheerleading an agenda for a brighter tomorrow, seemingly led by one who hadn’t listened to the first part of his own speech. 

It began in the usual fashion:

Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union – to improve it is the task of us all.”

Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.

Good.  That’s a relief.  OK, what else have you got? 

After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs.

Uhhh, wait a minute, that’s just a little disingenuous.  Yes, the economy has added six million new jobs, but we’ve also added that many workers to the labor force, thanks to growing the population by twelve million.  In other words, no progress has been made in putting the unemployed back to work, and our labor force participation rate is left incrementally lower than it was four years ago.  That’s not really good news, Mr. President.  Got anything else?

We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in twenty.

In other words, sales of American cars hasn’t grown in five years, while our population has grown by 15 million people, so our per capita consumption of American cars has actually declined even further.  And our consumption of foreign oil has declined because people can no longer afford bigger cars.  Yeesh.  I’m still looking for some evidence of “progress” here.  Anything else?

Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.

The stock market is rebounding, thanks mostly to the Fed’s quantitative easing programs to buy up treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, effectively crowding other investors out of those markets into the only market left – the stock market.  It has little to do with economic recovery.  And are you sure about that housing market part?  A rise of a few percent from a 50% decline is scant evidence of a recovery, and just yesterday morning the Mortgage Bankers’ Association announced that mortgage applications fell 10% last week, erasing much of the previous gains. 

Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.

Stronger than it was at the depths of the Great Recession, that’s for sure, but weaker than it was before the onset of the recession and, one could argue (especially based upon what’s happened to our national debt), that it’s weaker than it’s been in decades. 

And that was it.  That was the extent of the “much progress to report.”  One paragraph, the first paragraph, in a speech approximately 80 paragraphs long.  Most of the remainder of the speech dealt with slowing the growth of our national debt, raising revenue and cutting spending, sharing the burden and trying to breathe life back into the middle class.  In other words, the minutae involved in managing our decline. 

The key to reinvigorating out economy is bringing manufacturing jobs back home, and that fact isn’t lost on the president:

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.

After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

Remember the six million jobs the president boasted of adding during his first term?  Half a million – or 8.3% – were in manufacturing.  Sounds good until you realize that the manufacturing sector accounts for 12% of our economy.  So, in other words, while we’ve grown the economy by stoking it with population growth, manufacturing’s share of the economy has actually declined.  And for every example of companies bringing manufacturing jobs back home that the president cited, I could give you two examples of companies outsourcing more jobs.  For every step forward there have been two steps backward that the president doesn’t mention. 

There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America.

Mr. President, there’s no mystery about how to revive manufacturing.  Stop importing everything we consume and leave something for us to manufacture.  Government-funded showpieces that will vanish as soon as the funding dries up (and it will dry up) isn’t the way to do it. 

The president then launched into a long laundry list of ideas for putting Americans back to work – supporting research, achieving energy independence, infrastructure modernization, support for homeowners, pre-school education, upgrading high school curriculums and making college more affordable.  All of it followed by this:

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

After rattling on for half an hour about the challenges of putting Americans back to work, the president then slaps all American workers in the face by intimating that Americans are too stupid to do the job and we need to import people who are better-equipped.  He’s falling back on economists’ age-old macroeconomic crutch:  we need more people.  In other words, what business  needs is more customers.  So much for the preceding issues of unemployment, over-dependence on foreign oil and global warming.  To hell with all of that!  Business wants more total sales volume, so we’ll give it to ‘em regardless of the fact that it will exacerbates all of the overpopulation-driven problems he just spent 45 minutes addressing. 

And speaking of exacerbating our problems, then comes this:

To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union – because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.

Mr. President, has it escaped your attention during your four years in office that, thanks to the drive toward free trade, we now have a trade deficit with the EU of $116 billion (the final tally for 2012) – a figure that’s seven times worse than it was just 15 years ago?  And you want to make it worse?  Are you nuts?

The second terms of the last two presidents both ended the same way – in recession.  Clinton left office with the stock market in a state of collapse.  Bush left office with the stock market and the global economy and financial system in a state of collapse.  Both made the mistake of attempting to cut the federal deficit without addressing the root cause of deficit spending – the trade deficit.  Now, under intense pressure to unwind the deficit spending necessary to stave off the near-depression he inherited, President Obama is headed down the exact same path.  How much worse will things be next February after he’s sucked more taxes out of the economy and put less of that money back into it, while turning us into more of a trade patsy and exploding our population with more immigrants?  How bad will things get before he finally, mericfully leaves office?

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