State of the Union Immediate Reaction

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The president has just wrapped up his speech. Some quick thoughts:

  • I think it was better to not have everyone sit according to party.
  • I know we had this emphasis on a “new kind” of SOTU. I’m not buying it. To be sure, it had a theme which was good. But in the end, just “we can do it! Remember after Sputnik!” isn’t much of a theme, leaving us left with what the SOTU always is: a bunch of presidential policy proposals, or as Chief Justice Roberts put it, a political pep rally.
  • Very glad he addressed the BP oil spill. Oh wait…
  • He talked about the old world where hard work kept your job but that that world is gone. Could we at least give a thought to figuring out if we can restore that world before we forsake it? Or are we doomed to Wal-Marts?
  • I want to know how he’s going to simplify the tax code and the federal government. Good ideas, but the devil is in the details.
  • Not subsidizing oil companies is probably a long over-due reform, but good luck getting it through, especially since Obama has been so unreasonable with the drilling moratorium
  • Everyone should have the opportunity to go to school, but does giving everyone a degree mean automatic economic success? Shouldn’t we be looking instead to figuring out how to make four-year institutions more effective and less costly?
  • On illegal immigration, I had hoped to hear more than just how illegals who get an education ought to be allowed a path for citizenship. I suppose with the climate no more can be said, which is very sad in itself.
  • Why didn’t we spend all this money on the infrastructure 2 years ago when we needed immediate jobs? Now we have debt and no infrastructure; we’ve missed our opportunity and with the deficit I’m suspicious of too many infrastructure building programs.
  • I don’t think Obama has a clue how to rein in the deficit. He gave some good ideas, but not nearly enough to convince me he can get it done.
  • If someone could ban the cheap shots to random Americans stuck in the Chamber for those brief snap-shots, I would vote for them regardless of what they do.

Those are my thoughts at the moment. What do you think?

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  1. “Investment” sounds great, but of course, it’s a (not so secret) codeword for federal spending, and the federal government doesn’t exactly have “extra” money to spend.

    A speech devoted to the need for fiscal discipline with tons of specifics would’ve been nice. And he could’ve used Ryan’s Roadmap for political cover… *that* would’ve been working together in a substantive manner.

  2. I’ve realized that in this era of the 24-hour news cycle and high-quality wonky blogging, the State of the Union doesn’t tell us much anymore.

    And you’d think that after all these years the opposition would settle on a proven format for the rebuttal. Way too close to the camera this time. Can’t they just put him behind a desk like a news anchor or pundit?

  3. Bachmann’s presentation was much better but at least on CNN she didn’t look into the camera. It was far too accusatory. She blamed Obama for the spike in unemployment.

  4. “but does giving everyone a degree mean automatic economic success?”

    Obviously no. Also your choice of words is correct. Academic standards are so debased, and grade inflation so widespread, it is astonishing to me how many undergraduates still manage to flunk out. What is going on in most undergraduate programs at most colleges and universities may be called many things, but education is rarely among them.

  5. Lets’ go (like Will Rogers would say) to the record.

    What has he done?

    What is with this man, and his adamant attachment to failure?

    That’s why 24/7 they need to libel and slander Sarah and Glenn Beck.

    Mac, You’re right. “College” is a four-year party. What used to be the “gentleman’s C” is now B. As long as they pay the tuition . . .

    It’s again snowing in NYC. I blame Bush for not supporting global warming.

  6. Remember this Far Side cartoon – ?

    I felt a little like that last night, only with less understood. I think that is one of the first times (being 34) I have heard the SoTU address and the majority of it consisted of dollar signs flying out of the President’s mouth in the form of all the wonderful things government can do.

    It was a stunning combination of sounding centrist and placating while at the same time taking its cues from the most progressive themes available. “Let’s expand government, and let’s do it together, so we can all have power and money.”

  7. Watched the speech on and off last night. Obama’s speech was boring. It consisted of the “same old, same old” rhetoric. Obama’s words and actions haven’t matched up the past two years so I am positive that his actions and words aren’t going to match up in the future either.

  8. I didn’t watch the speech, but Donald is right on the money about education. What we need to do is restore the quality and reputation of a high-school education. It used to be that a diploma was proof that you could read, write, calculate, and think well enough to be a productive worker and citizen. Today, you need a college degree to prove it, and we’re headed toward needing a Master’s degree for it. Making higher education more affordable isn’t much of a solution; making public secondary education more complete is.

  9. Starbucks already has enough people with BA degrees working there.

    Allow the business environment to be conducive to growth, jobs will come, and incentives will be there to become educated as appropriate.

    Reduce the “cost of doing business”, e.g., go to loser pay product liability law suits, reform worker’s comp, put common sense into the EPA and OSHA, allow aggressive write-offs for new capital equipment, do not tax repatriated earnings, reduce the cost of providing insurance by pushing for a greater use of PA’s and nurse practitioners and reduce need for “defensive” medicine, and get the point across that free trade can only exist when there is freedom for all participants in the value chain–i.e., if the workers are not free to associate or to organize it is not free trade and should be heavily tariffed. Problem is, this is more about what government does not do, not about what it does, so don’t expect it to happen for another couple of years.

  10. Actually, the largest costs in business that the government can impact are compliance with various regulatory schemes, from taxation to environmental to health code/labor regs, etc.

  11. This was even more of a waste of time than usual. Unsurprising. Is there anyone left who thinks Barack Obama is likely to have an original thought about anything? A few quick things:

    He already promised to simplify government and cut waste and corruption in his campaign. He doesn’t have any more idea how to do that now than he did in his first year. (To be fair, neither does anyone else in D.C.) Nor does he have any clue how to lower the deficit, because that requires making government less involved in people’s lives, which isn’t in his vocabulary. So those are especially empty platitudes. It’s a wonder he can say them with a straight face.

    There are already numerous paths to American citizenship. They just have to be followed legally. Saying that we have to provide a path for illegal aliens is like saying if I go steal a case of beer from the liquor store, the government should provide a path for me to become the beer’s rightful owner.

    Apparently we’re just not going to have manufacturing jobs anymore. We’re all supposed to follow his lead by getting high-falutin’ degrees and then work in government or quasi-governmental fields like health care.

    Which is why he (like Bush) thinks everyone needs a four-year degree (at least). Most people should probably get a two-year degree or one-year certficate at a trade school or community college, which would prepare them for perfectly good middle class careers as things like plumbers and electricians. In fact, if the grade schools and high schools did anything useful, most people could apprentice at the age of 16 and be useful members of society by 18, like my grandparents were. But we can’t have anyone getting his hands dirty. We’re all white-collar now.

    We did spend a pile of money on infrastructure already; I remember all the signs saying, “This highway project is funded by the American Renewal Act,” or whatever fancy name they gave the stimulus bill. Problem is, when government “creates” jobs by spending money, the jobs stop when the spending stops. They aren’t like private sector jobs that can sustain themselves. So if that’s the only way we know how to create jobs and build things, it’s going to require endless stimulus spending.

  12. State of the Union: Stuck on Stupid.

    I do not need to see his birth certificate.

    I do not want to look over his college transcripts.

    I do not care to peruse his medical records.

    What I truly must know is “When did Michelle stop beating him?”

  13. Mr. Morgan,

    You wrote:

    “Reduce the “cost of doing business”, e.g., go to loser pay product liability law suits, reform worker’s comp, put common sense into the EPA and OSHA, allow aggressive write-offs for new capital equipment, do not tax repatriated earnings, reduce the cost of providing insurance by pushing for a greater use of PA’s and nurse practitioners and reduce need for “defensive” medicine, and get the point across that free trade can only exist when there is freedom for all participants in the value chain–i.e., if the workers are not free to associate or to organize it is not free trade and should be heavily tariffed.”

    I entirely agree with the analysis but think you left out the “elephant” in that the inability to hire, fire, promote, and retire under current discrimination law is making business in America very unproductive indeed. All large organizations suffer under draconian regulatory and absurd liability regimes that make it virtually impossible to hire those who demonstrate competence, seek out and promote the stars in an organization, and terminate the employment of the unproductive before they are able to demoralize and destroy.

    Connecting this thought to American competitiveness as the President did last night, it strikes me that stifling the creativity and ambition of our best and brightest under the guise of providing for “fairness” in the labor market makes it virtually impossible for even mid-sized organizations to compete with competing companies overseas. I conclude that America’s successful war against discrimination has utterly outlived its usefullness and serves now only to empower our competitors.

  14. G-Veg – I see that problem as being closely tied to grade inflation and poor academic standards. Every employer has to be able to support his hiring and firing decisions in court if/when called upon to do so. You can’t hire by gut feeling or based on a good interview any more, because those aren’t quantifiable in front of a jury. So businesses try to filter out the low end of applicants by using unnecessarily high academic criteria.

    That means everyone needs a college degree. That means college standards have to drop. That means high schools can get away with turning out students with even less learning, as long as their grades are high. It’s a vicious circle.

  15. Pinky,

    I do not disagree with your analysis insomuch as it seems to be an important facet to the problem. However, I think we let the law off the hook on this one. To cite an example,

    We had a woman working for us who came on board when she was a Junior in high school. She worked part-time through her Junior and Senior years. When she started college, she began to work full-time for us as a clerk.

    She made it clear that she wanted a career-track job with us and she knew everything about the organization. Indeed, she was one of our brightest and most ambitious employees. Unfortunately, we could offer her absolutely nothing because everthing had to go through Human Resources, meaning that she had to apply on the national job announcement, take a test to show her eligibility, then be selected for an interview by a remote pannel that received only a score of eligibility rather than a copy of her resume.

    She took a job with another organization.

    We lost a great employee because we couldn’t manage HR.

    My sister is a mid-level manager in an entirely different organization and tells similar tales. My brother is a hospital administrator and has even worse tales to tell because he has three unions representing his employees.

    Undoubtably, this is a “vicious circle,” but I see it as one of regulation and civil suits driving HR to employ more and more “blind” regimes for managing employees, which then drives the legal environment even further afield from experience and reason. Where does it end? When no work is performed here.

  16. G-Veg – Believe me, I didn’t mean to leave the law (or the lawyers) off the hook. The whole thing is too big to fathom. We’ve built an entire industry of non-productive behavior. In fact, there’s more revenue to be made in obstructing output than in producing, which means the best minds are going to be rewarded most by becoming plaintiffs. I just don’t think that people have considered how the legal / HR /insurance problems relate to the academic problems.

  17. A few people have mentioned the HR nightmare of hiring people, and they are right. A few years ago a local business closed and a lot of people were out of work. I suggested an idea for a business (one that would have a pretty good captive market) to a local man of means and he replied that to get into that line of work he’d have to automate as much as possible, last thing he wanted to do was to hire a bunch of people–each hire is a potential time bomb.

    Last place I worked people would claim an injury (back hurts, mainly), and it would go to trial. The company Dr said no disability, the workers’ comp lawyer would say 20% disability and the judge would split the difference and the worker would walk out with $50,000 and go right back to his old job. Workers’ comp was supposed to be no-fault insurance to cover future lost wages, fine. But these guys were not losing wages. Just keep saying your back hurts and eventually someone will hand you a check for $50,000–it is a wonder everyone does not do it. Plant ultimately moved to a different state with a different set of laws.

    Worked at a place before that where people would beg for jobs, and then when fired for lack of attendance and poor job performance they’d swear that they’d have us shut down. Some of them, you just knew that they were sizing the place up, looking for a way to have a suit filed. There were high school graduates and even people with a year of college who could not add or subtract simple fractions or read a tape measure. My grandfather only finished the 8th grade and had a career as a sheet metal layout man–using geometry to do things like make square to round offset transitions out of plate steel for gigantic duct work for ore refineries. He died last month at 91 years old, and he was still (last fall) working off and on because no one else in a fifty mile radius could figure out how to solve the hard problems. A company he retired from in the 1980’s sent flowers to the funeral. How did an 8th grade education in the 1930’s come to beat out contemporary high school and even college? He did not just know fractions, he knew geometry and trigonometry and esoteric ways of applying them to solve complex three dimensional problems. Of course, his math teachers back then were not interested in self esteem or excitement, they were interested in imparting essential skills.

    Certainly government is part of the problem, but ultimately it is a problem of morality. Laziness, fraud, and trying to get something for nothing: the new American way.

    Is it any wonder executives just want to sub it all out to China at a fixed price rather than wait for what comes out of the HR freak show tent next?

  18. “An inevitable consequence of capitalist enterprise is the creation of bourgeois youth demanding university education and employment in a bureaucracy”.

    There are, I think, four bureaucracies: government, academe, the Church, business.

  19. US News and World Report

    Was President Obama’s State of the Union speech a success?

    1. 24.96% Yes
    2. 75.04% No

    There is yet hope. Three of four of us know this nobody is with an adamant attachment to failure.

  20. I don’t think Obama has a clue how to rein in the deficit. He gave some good ideas, but not nearly enough to convince me he can get it done.

    That’s always been the question about this fella. Does he know anything except how to run his mouth?

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