How About we Disinvest?
By: Craig Chamberlain
The State of the Union address is an odd thing in a republic. It’s a bit of imperial pomp and pageantry, in a government that’s supposed to be by the people, of the people, and for the people. For most of American history the Presidents merely submitted their reports to Congress, and had a clerk read it to them. It wasn’t that big of a deal. Then came President Wilson. He ended over a century of tradition by speaking to Congress himself. While he wasn’t the first President to do so(Washington and Adams had done so as well, though both hated it) he was the first to turn it into a media circus. Instead of having the President give a state of the Union as it is, we have Caesar addressing the Senate. I suppose that it’s fantasy to hope that one day we’ll return the the old method where Presidents didn’t go beneath their dignity by speaking directly to Congress like he was leading a pep rally.
And that’s what the State of the Union address is. It’s a pep rally for what he has accomplished, a sales pitch for what he wants to accomplish still. This isn’t a problem for just President Obama. Every President uses the format in such a way. I haven’t actually watched one of these addresses in years. It’s just too much for even a political junkie like me to suffer through. I find a good hockey game and watch that instead. I can tell you I enjoyed the Penguins vs. the Islanders more than I would have enjoyed President Obama’s speech.
Still there are some things that can be learned by what the President said last night. (Hey, while I don’t watch the speech I do read it the next morning). The first thing that we can take away is that any move to the center is just rhetorical and not practical. President Obama is still a man of the left, and very much committed to statist policies, and the belief that the federal government can- and should- take a leading role in economic matters. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been all that talk about investment. Give it any euphemism you want, but it’s still government spending. What have we been doing for the last two years? Nothing if not throwing money at the problem. Well, actually it’s more like the last 80 years, but there’s no need to go back that far. But still, we’ve been investing in America now, under Obama, since day one and what do we have to show for it?
The unemployment rate is near 10% of the population, it’s even higher if we count discouraged workers, or the underemployed. Our federal government has a three trillion dollar budget, a ballooning deficit, and a 14 trillion dollar debt. If that’s investment then we’re not getting much on return. If we want economic growth the best thing that the government can do is just get out of the way and let the market handle things for itself. It’s the uncertainty that government activity produces that creates the stress on the market, and puts us into recession. American businesses don’t need the government to give them money to make them innovative. We don’t need more subsidies, there’s already too much corporate welfare. American businesses are innovative because they know that in a competitive global market failure to make necessary changes means a quick one way trip to bankruptcy court.
There is envy on the left, and fear on the right, of the way the Chinese are doing things. The left points out with disappointment that we can’t run our economy the way they do(just read a Thomas Friedman article) while the right is prone to slip into hysterics over the oncoming Chinese juggernaut(look at Glenn Beck) President Obama calls it our “sputnik moment” where America, outclassed by a totalitarian society hits the gas on government spending to catch up and stay alive. It’s an overused, and overblown, argument. Sputnik was more or less the high water mark of the Soviet Space program, and the Chinese are not in any position to take over the world no matter what politicians or pundits think. China is, in the words of Mark Steyn “going to get old before it gets rich” their one child policy has put them in a demographic stranglehold and with the Chinese people delaying childbirth until later there is a larger generational gap.
Right now there is a fear that they’re going to overtake us in everything. So the President wants to spend billions, I mean invest, in renewable energy because the Chinese are about to rule that market. He wants to throw more money at the teachers unions because, according to the narrative, Chinese children come out of the womb able to recite Homers Iliad, in Greek, and have the periodical table of elements memorized, while our children have trouble with see spot run. If our children are ignorant who do we think made them that way? Government schools are more interested in teaching politically correct doctrine than they are science, math, history, or english. So if our children test behind the children of Zimbabwe it’s not because we don’t spend enough it’s because the government schools have done what they wanted to do, turned a nation of educated free men and women into a nation of ignorant dependents. Mission accomplished.
In education, like economics, President Obama is going in the wrong direction. What we need is less government not more. We’ve spent more billions than we should want to admit to on improving education in this country, yet we find that the only ones who benefit from the increased spending are the teachers and their unions. In fact there is a direct correlation between low scores and the amount of time a child spends in government schools. The longer he is educated by Uncle Sam, the more ignorant he becomes. It’s time for government to get out of the education business, bust up the cartel, and allow the American people to decide what school is best for their children.
If President Obama had wanted real change he would have called for more than just the cosmetic spending cuts and freezes that he did, and came to the realization that government can’t be all things to all people. Until we get government out of the way our country will continue to be held back. That’s the message that he should have delivered to Congress.