Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Speech reaction

I didn't watch so I am just going by what I have read in the transcript. I have to say I liked some of his initial remarks:
But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and our universities, in our fields and our factories, in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.

Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.
In the first paragraph Obama finally departed from his fear mongering and said that the economy will recover, rather than hinting that we are in the midst of a long-term downward spiral that only government can arrest. Of course, given that his stimulus package has now passed, so too has the need for talk of fear and crisis evaporated.

Obama then noted that the answer to this crisis will be found among the American people and the private sector. These, he noted, are the secret to this country's progress and prosperity.

I also liked a few of his specific proposals, such as going line by line to eliminate $2 trillion in "wasteful and ineffective programs," his vow to "end education programs that don't work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them" and a promise to reform the defense budget.

He spoke of the need to reform Social Security and Medicare and promised to fully account for the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq in the budget. These are good things.

Now for what I didn't like.

He said that the government will "invest" $15 billion on developing wind and solar power. But if the answer lies with the nation's laboratories, universities and entrepreneurs why not let them figure out our energy problems? How do we even know that wind and solar power are the best sources of energy?

As I have written before, this is arrogant. This is the fatal conceit. The notion that these mandarins high upon their perch in the nation's capital better know the energy future of this country than the people who work in this sector is absolutely laughable.

And then there were his remarks on taxes:
We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

Now, let me be clear. Let me be absolutely clear, because I know you'll end up hearing some of the same claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people. If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, a quarter million dollars a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.
Translation: Don't worry about all of my spending -- I'm going to make someone else pay for it. I'm going to take from others and give to you. Why? Because I want it and they've got it. Hey, from those according to their ability to those according to their need.

How on earth does he reconcile this with restoring "a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code"? How is that fair? This plays very well into Democratic strategy, because we are headed towards an ever more lopsided tax code that is extremely titled against those at the top. Then, next time Republicans go to cut taxes Democrats will kick and scream about how only the rich are benefiting -- and they will be right, since the rich will be the ones paying the overwhelming majority of the taxes.

And what's with this tired rhetoric about ending tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas? Is there really a tax deduction the government gives companies that close plants and set up shop in Mexico? I have my doubts.

Other things:
History reminds us that, at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas.

In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry.

From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age.

In the wake of war and depression, the G.I. Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history.

And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn't supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.
Why is it that everytime that liberals want to justify massive government intervention that they hearken back to railroads, highways and education? I suppose it sounds a lot better than talking about public housing projects and welfare initiatives that promoted the destruction of the family and work ethic among the poor. And is federal intervention in education really a talking point the Democrats really want to use as an example of the virtues of government?

Obama also spoke about health care reform and education. Both are in need of reform so I will wait until more specifics come out before really addressing this. However, the fact that Obama is proposing that the government insure 11 million children and hailed funding for 7 million college students doesn't bode well. I have long believed that children are the Trojan Horse of the liberal agenda, and you can bet that government health care for kids is merely the opening act for government-run health care for everyone.

On education, meanwhile, rather than actual reform it seems that Obama is most interested in simply handing out checks to more students, which is the absolute wrong approach. Education is over-subsidized and results in too many people going to college and serves to drive up tuition (more on that topic here).

Two other observations: Obama once again said that the stimulus bill will "over the next two years...will save or create 3.5 million jobs." Weasel words. Create or save? How does one know whether a job was saved? Really, you can't. Which means that the stimulus package can't be held to account. Even if you take him at his word it still means that the cost of each job saved or created comes out to $224,857. Yeesh.

Finally there's this:
As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by Presidents Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets, not because I believe in bigger government -- I don't -- not because I'm not mindful of the massive debt we've inherited -- I am.
This is deeply amusing. If Obama doesn't believe in bigger government then why does literally every solution he propose promote bigger government? From the stimulus to energy to health care to education he promises bigger government. Am I really suppose to believe that this is one big coincidence?

Update: The Cato Institute notes that Obama is factually incorrect about the automobile industry as well as the construction of the transcontinental railroad, which occurred after the Civil War -- and led to a huge scandal.

Lots more stuff here.

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