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Warm Fuzzy Speech Ignores Cold Hard Facts

The State of the Union speech actually wasn’t bad.  President Obama said a few things with which I agree, and he didn’t say anything that made me want to throw something at my television.  I do think however that many things he did say, can’t go without at least being challenged.  It was a long speech, so here is my attempt to address some of the more glaring, shall we say “misrepresentations”.

“Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, American’s paychecks are a little bigger today…  And these steps… will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.”

Newsflash, that wasn’t a tax cut; it was a continuation of the prevailing tax rates enacted by President Bush.  In fact there was actually an increase in the form of a reinstated death tax.  Bigger paychecks are the result of a temporary decrease in Social Security deductions.  It is also hard to get excited about a million jobs created when that total is offset by the 7 to 8 million we lost since Obama became President.

“Just recently, China became the home to the world’s largest private solar research facility…”

Yes, owned by a California company that can’t afford to do their business in the United States .  So much for American “green energy” jobs

“With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.”

Biofuels are a long way from becoming a viable petroleum substitute , and can you imagine the effect of plugging a million vehicles into the power grid each night to recharge?  Can you say “brown out”?  Additionally with a price tag around $40,000 electric vehicles won’t be gaining broad acceptance soon, unless of course this administration decides to subsidize purchases for those who can’t really afford them.  What next, will we pay their electricity bills too?

“I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies…  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own.”

Up to 90% of all oil drilling done in the United States is carried out by small independent companies .  So called “Big Oil” only accounts for the remaining 10%.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Mr. President, but Big Oil is doing just fine drilling in other countries, (where they pay leases and royalties… Oh, and hire employees).  Increasing taxes and cutting subsidies on oil production in the United States will mostly effect, guess who?  Small businesses.

“I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.”

A lot can happen in 25 years and new technologies will evolve, particularly if they can provide a profit.  It is difficult however to put much faith in solar, wind or nuclear to pave the way to energy independence.  Coal and natural gas provide almost 70% of the electricity generated in America.  Hydropower and nuclear most of the rest.  With solar and wind coming in at a whopping 3%, even if you could quadruple that, it wouldn’t amount to much as our needs increase (remember the electric cars?).  Add to that the administration’s environmental restraints both current and future for all of these sources, and there is no realistic end in sight for our energy dependence on other countries.  We are going to be using oil for years to come.  It would be better if it is domestic.

“…instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all 50 states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”"

What we got for $4.35 billion is a promise to do better by 11 states and the District of Columbia No quantitative improvement in student performance, test scores or graduation rates.  In some states like Washington, it is debatable whether the teacher’s union would allow the funds to be distributed without their control anyway.  More money spent without direct results.

The most recent data shows the United States third only to Switzerland and Austria in per student spending for secondary education.  Further, that same data shows a lack of correlation in these countries between money spent and economic growth and competitiveness .  The United States clearly gets more bang for the buck in educational dollars spent than the two countries spending more.  So it begs the question:  is this a real problem, or just an excuse to direct more money toward under-achieving schools that should be cleaned up, consolidated or closed?

“…we will reach the goal that I set two years ago: By the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

We lost that lead in just one generation.  Here is a novel thought:  Perhaps it has little to do with how much we spend on students.  Perhaps it is because we send too many kids to college who simply do not belong there.  In education as with most other things, our government insists on assuring not only equal opportunity, but equal results and this is proof that it can’t be done.

“…when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D…  Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.  For some trips, it will be faster than flying –- without the pat-down.”

These two points are related in an uncomfortable way.  Japan has high speed rail.  They are meticulous about maintenance and repair.  Their safety record is excellent.  In the United States, passenger rail systems are not profitable and virtually always subsidized by the Government.  Our current roadbeds are barely adequate for hauling freight, and would require a total replacement to switch to high speed.  Considering the
“D” given to our infrastructure, you have to ask how many people will trust a 200 mph train with our established lack of upkeep?  And, I have to add, “Why not the pat-down?  Wouldn’t a bomb in a high speed train traveling through urban areas be as devastating as a plane crash?

“But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.”

My day job is associated with the building trades.  I haven’t talked to anybody who believes that the worst is over.  In fact most are scrambling day to day to keep their employees working and their businesses open.  Virtually none are expanding, and many have given up.  Daily they see the wasteful government spending and deal with needless and costly regulations.  Nobody believes the President on this point.

“So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.  Now, this would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade…”

Freezing spending now is closing the gate after the cattle are in the corn.  It should have been done two years ago before we added 5 trillion to the national debt.  $400 billion over 10 years is laughable.  At $40 billion a year, it is about what we spend right now on weight loss products in the United States.  Mr. President, if you are going to talk about reducing the deficit, please talk about real money.

“This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we’ve frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years.”

You mean, after they got their cost of living raises?

“I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs.”

Like ACORN?

“The health insurance law we passed last year will slow these rising costs, which is part of the reason that nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit.”

Considering what Obamacare will actually cost America, I’ll accept the quarter trillion to repeal.  If that figure is accurate, it would be money well spent.  However the word “cost” itself has dubious meaning in this debate.  Are we talking about the cost to Americans for their insurance, or are we talking about the actual cost to provide health care?  Obamacare doesn’t address in any meaningful way the actual costs of hospitals, procedures or drugs.  Mandating health insurance for everyone is not affordable healthcare, it is the road to another monumental entitlement program and we need to recognize it for what it is.

“In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government…”

It is hard to believe this considering the fact that Obamacare adds 100+ offices, agencies and departments alone.

“Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you’ll be able to go to a website and get that information…  I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done — put that information online.”

If it is as accurate as the White House website, you may as well spend you time at TheOnion.com

“If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it. I will veto it.”

I’ll believe it when I see it.  When I see it.

The very first thing President Obama spoke, before he got a chance to fabricate and embellish was perhaps the most important thing he said all night.  It is the very point that I and other Conservatives have been trying to make all along.  It is what we need to keep as our guiding light and compass in the years ahead, and thankfully an increasing number of Americans have recognized and support it:

“At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else.  It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.”

If we think of these words every time we step into the polling booth, everything’s going to be OK.

Originally posted on 01/30/2011at ConservativeCompass.com

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