Thursday, January 28, 2010

SOTU reaction

I didn't watch, I simply read the transcript and haven't read nor watched any post-speech spin. I won't address his remarks in their entirety -- the speech was far too long for that -- rather I'll just offer up some observations:
  • I think I counted a total of ten times where the President referenced clean energy. Sold as a means of creating the jobs of tomorrow, it is highly ideological nonsense. The President has no special ability to know what the jobs of tomorrow are. He cited Germany's clean energy initiatives, without pointing out they haven't worked there or anywhere else. Clean energy jobs are only viable through government-provided subsidies, which in turn mean sucking away resources from other sectors of the economy.
  • He said that he cut taxes as part of the stimulus package. To borrow a phrase, let's be clear, there was not one single tax rate the legislation reduced. The tax cuts were simply tax credits, most notably a $500 credit per worker. This is similar to the Bush Administration's failed $600 per worker stimulus doled out in 2008 -- change?
  • The $30 billion for community banks reeks of central economic planning. Furthermore, it strikes me as ripe for abuse. Which banks will get the money? How much will each get? Why $30 billion? And most of all, is this even Constitutional?
  • The capital gains tax cut is a good idea. But is this permanent? And why only small businesses?
  • I wish someone would point out to the President that an airplane is faster than high-speed rail. They're also far, far more flexible. Try rerouting a train to a different station.
  • Why is Obama scared of India and China? These are developing countries. His dark warning about foreign influence also seemed a little weird.
  • Obama seemed to endorse -- without explicitly stating it -- ratification of trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. Combined with Rep. Steny Hoyer expressing similar sentiment this week that's welcome news.
  • Obama called for expanded federal intervention in education, apparently not dissuaded by the fact that it's been an absolute debacle since its inception.
  • No new ground broken on health care.
  • The President noted that many families are engaged in belt-tightening these days. He proposes the federal government freeze some of its spending for three years. It's such a sad commentary that in an era of massive deficits this is what counts as bold action -- where are the cuts?
  • Obama and other liberals seem to desire a big government where lobbyists exert minimal influence. They either do not understand or simply deny that the two go hand-in-hand. The only real lobbying reform is cutting government.
As for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, his response was much shorter, thankfully. Some thoughts there:
  • I really liked this line: "Without reform, the excessive growth of government threatens our very liberty and prosperity."
  • I don't get the Republicans' weird obsession with energy independence. This requires significant government interventions, which they're supposed to be skeptical of.
  • This was also encouraging: "Over-regulating employers won’t create more employment; overtaxing investors won’t foster more investment. Top-down one-size fits all decision making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market, nor undermine the proper role of state and local governments in our system of federalism."
Overall a lot of nice words but not a lot of firm ideas, which is unsurprising given the Republicans' inability to pass anything. But at least they're getting some of the rhetoric right.

Update: Thoughts from John Stossel, Scott Lincicome points out hints of mercantilism, a fact-check from the Associated Press and fond memories of Jimmy Carter.

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