I listened to the President’s seventh State of the Union message last night with half an ear. I couldn’t muster a great deal of interest in it. If you’re looking for the full text, it’s here.
The most notable aspects of the address were the President’s energetic defense of the present Iraq policy and the situation there and his remarks on earmarks. Otherwise, it seemed to me like the same tired wish list we hear in nearly every SOTU. I doubt that the Congress will be able to focus its collective attention on anything other than reelection for the next year. Controversial items will be avoided, regardless of urgency. Controversial items include immigration reform and entitlements reform. Non-controversial items, obviously, include tax rebates for a broad swath of the American public. That borrowing an extra $160 billion to make these rebates possible is not controversial is a scandal and an outrage.
What is the state of the union today? I actually think it’s pretty strong but lots of Americans are apprehensive about the future. Some of this apprehension is a realistic appraisal of the news of the day. That we’re making fewer and fewer things that people want to buy is, I think, a legitimate concern about the economy. That we’re borrowing so much money, particularly from other countries, is a legitimate concern. That we’ve got more troops stationed overseas than we have in decades is a legitimate concern. That the interventionist foreign policies articulated by all of the first-tier presidential candidates will ensure that continues is a legitimate concern.
That nuclear weapons will spread beyond the countries that currently have them is all but certain, even to non-state actors. That we should be concerned about the effects of the increasing price of oil on our lifestyle is reasonable. I’m not concerned that we might cease to be the sole superpower. Concerns about the future obligations we’ve undertaken as a nation and how we’ll pay for them are reasonable. Concerns about the implications of reneging on those promises are reasonable.
Some of the concerns that people have are exaggerated by journalists, politicians, and busybodies like me, none of whom would have a great deal to say without exaggerating things. For example, I think that the concern that we’ll become a fascist theocracy are highly exaggerated. While I think that concern about climate change and determination to alter our way of living to control our consumption of energy and production of greenhouse gasses is reasonable, I think that the concern about sudden catastrophic climate change are irrational. I think that concerns about the threat posed to us by China are exaggerated.
As I sit here in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, the United States of America in late January, 2008, I think the state of our government (distinct from the state of the union) is lousy. We insist on perpetuating aristocracy regardless of the manifest evidence against it e.g. the governor of our state. A year from now there’s a strong possibility that the wife of a former president will herself be elected president. I consider that an affront to the Republic. I said precisely the same thing about GWB in 2000 so, please, don’t be tedious and complain about some sort of hypocrisy on the subject on my part.
We refuse to tax ourselves today for what our government is spending today. We refuse to deal with the problems of today today. Politicians hold their offices for decades and bequeath them on their deaths to their children, spouses, and other relatives. The only path on which we can be confident of future income is via rent-seeking.
Those are matters for reasonable concern.
I doubt that the Congress will be able to focus its collective attention on anything other than reelection for the next year. Controversial items will be avoided, regardless of urgency. Controversial items include immigration reform and entitlements reform.
Oh, Dave, you’re being optomistic again. We’re not going to get entitlements reform until the wolf has busted down the door and started to eat the pigs. Only then will Congress take action.
(Please note that this is a bipartisan complaint: Republicans did nothing on this front when they had the power, the Democrats aren’t now, and even if either party holds both Houses of Congress and the Presidency in coming years, nothing will be done.)
Dave, this is an impressive post. Even as an outline this is better than almost all SotUs that I’ve had the misfortune to listen to.
I would like a clarification of one sentence, if you will. The following:
I’m not concerned that we might cease to be the sole superpower.
Do you mean that you don’t believe that another superpower will arise anytime soon, or do you mean that if one were to appear that it wouldn’t per se worry you?
I’m betting the wolf gets at least 2 of the 3 pigs.
What if we actually begin to change our approach to opposing opinions and
begin to actually work through issues and work out the best solutions in the interest of our nation, our country, our people. What if we actually sit down and have a real look at the problems our country is facing and begin to resolve them…is this not possible? Surely we could do this…of course could if we wanted to.
We do this all the time now, in our relationships, with family, in our neighborhoods, in our work places…we solve problems all the time…why can’t we do this as a nation..Perhaps we are just now beginning to realize that the paths we’ve traveling down have been leading us astay…pulling us apart…I think it’s possible to change..we’ll just have to re-evaluate our
priorities…join forces, work together…and actually solve some real problems that we all face no matter what our ideologies
I don’t see anybody in the position to assume world power status and even if one were to appear I’m not too concerned about our position in such a world.
One might also add the concern that big business has far too much influence on major decisions. I sell vitamin and other supplements for a living – there is an enormous amount of evidence that much of unconventional medicine works. I keep hearing about extremely dubious decisions about whether a drug will be allowed on sale, made by the FDA (and the corresponding agencies in other countries) under extreme pressure by pharmaceutical companies with very deep wallets. I am also absolutely sure that other decisions (about energy policy for example) are subject to similar undue pressures.
The USA is slowly sliding into the status of a corporate state, as are many other countries. It’s already a plutocracy; how many US Presidents have been elected in the last fifty years without spending colossal amounts of money, either their own or someone else’s? And if it’s someone else’s, they will expect, and get, something for what they have spent. If it’s their own, they will be protecting their own interests.
Democracy is fragile. It’s an interesting question whether America is one any more, and one last thing; working democracy depends on a voting population able to judge the issues, which requires education. Is the appalling state of US (and British) education really either an accident or caused by incompetence? Or is there something else happening?
I sell vitamin and other supplements for a living – there is an enormous amount of evidence that much of unconventional medicine works.
Ah, this explains so very, very much about you.
Evidence of course being “unsubstantiated claims and anecdote.”
I don’t see anybody in the position to assume “world power” status and even if one were to appear I’m not too concerned about our position in such a world.
Thanks for the clarification. Based on other posts I thought this was probably the case. I doubt there are many Americans that agree with your second point. (I agree with both of your viewpoint, FWIW.)
Lounsbury, hundreds of double-blind, controlled studies (published in minor journals such as Nature and the BMJ) on various aspects of herbal and nutritional medicine aren’t enough? OK, whatever.
Of course, the fact that there is no obligation on pharmaceutical companies to publish studies showing no effect for their new shiny drugs is irrelevant, isn’t it? After all, we can trust Pfizer to tell us about the 19 studies that showed just that as well as the one that showed an effect, can’t we? After all, there is typically only three or four billion dollars in sales at stake. What responsible company would sell useless drugs with dangerous side effects for the sake of a measly $3,000,000,000?
Of course, we can also trust the pharma industry to tell us about newly-discovered lethal side effects and not brush them under the carpet.
(By the way, the 19 out of 20 was a deliberately chosen example. Most tests are conducted at 95% confidence interval; which means that 1 time out of 20 a substance with no effect at all will come out as having one.)
What pharmacy medications are making you stop feeling these symptoms but it doesn’t even mean the person is fully cured. They still have something wrong in them and the drugstore pharmacy medications didn’t cure it, their own bodies will take care of it, and pharmacy medications just give the person some time to think they are ok. Also, drugstore medications are harmful because of the side effects they have.