Although Barack Obama is designated the star quarterback for this particular political game, this year's edition will feature not one, but three, defensive stars from the Red Team. And let's not forget the star punditry analyzing every applause line, facial expression, and couture choice in the pre and post shows.
There is, of course, no halftime show. The SOTU is the halftime show.
This year's theme had been rumored to be Inequality. And New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who announced he has also been hired by CNN to provide some play-by-play commentary, is waving the pompoms at the pep rally as he writes in his latest column that "everybody should be cheering him (Obama) on":
They won’t, of course. Instead, he will face two kinds of sniping. The usual suspects on the right will, as always when questions of income distribution comes up, shriek “Class warfare!” But there will also be seemingly more sober voices arguing that he has picked the wrong target, that jobs, not inequality, should be at the top of his agenda.Wow. He totally neglected the rest of the "folks", who will be either doing something else, or booing, or just laughing hysterically.
The audience, Krugman writes, is more likely to "connect" with the president on the issue of inequality, and therefore Obama should stick with the populism schtick and try not to mention "deficit reduction" to balance himself out. And so, that most liberal, erudite, and well-respected New York Times columnist as much as admits that the whole purpose of Obama's rhetoric will be mere political point-scoring and Democratic Party-boosting. Sardonicky contributor Pearl Volkov called him out on it in her "TimesPick" comment:
"But if we mainly hear about inequality and social justice, that’s O.K."
Dr. Krugman: even if the president mentions inequality and social justice in his speech it means nothing. His words arranged by a speechwriter remain the same since Day One and comparing all his speeches throughout the years will show this.
How long will the American people believe anything he says and how long will you recognize that any delicate comments you make hinting about what you think he should do in the years ahead fall on deaf ears.
I am surprised that you do not catch on to the reasons for his odd behavior and inability to apparently understand what the problems are.
He is a product of the system, and a great article in the paper today by a former worker on Wall Street titled "For the Love of Money" and what it represents describes his agenda. Only in that story the author recognizes where he is heading and changes course.
No, the presidency represents too much power, prestige and great future prospects to allow its use for the good of the people by an unscrupulous occupant. He made his choices long ago.
And here was my two cents:
If the president simultaneously talks about inequality and pushes for fast-track Congressional authority to shove the secretive, job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership down our throats, he'll effectively be cancelling himself out.
But still, I'll be willing to give him a cheer if he uses his executive authority to raise the pay of low-wage federal contractors, some of whom walked off their Pentagon jobs in protest this week. Obama has the power to instantly lift millions of these hard-working people out of the slough of poverty.
Politely asking Congress to raise the minimum non-living wage to a paltry $10 doesn't cut it. His five years of getting away with speeches substituting for actions have run their course. His approval rating is at the same low level as Bush's at the same point in his second term. A new poll (AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs) reveals that fully 70% of us now lack confidence in government in general.
Wall Street continues to get backdoor bailouts and prosecution deferrals for its crimes against humanity, while food assistance for nearly 50 million people has been slashed. The millionaires of Congress don't have the money help the one in four children living in poverty, but billions to feed the paranoia of the war machine and the security state. We, the citizens, have been declared the enemy. We no longer live in a functioning democracy.
It really is asking a bit much that we applaud even one more empty hour of jingoism and platitudes.In anticipation of Bullshit 2014 edition, I thought it would be fun (okay, so fun is a bit extreme) to go down Memory Lane and revisit some of the game highlights of SOTUs past.
The theme of his debut effort in 2010, after one year in office, was "Let's Get Serious." It was hard to select the memorable quotes that should have given his hordes of adoring fans their first clue that Obama is not so much a liberal as he is a free-market neoliberal. But here goes. I have inserted some helpful explanatory links into some of them. The others simply speak for themselves.
And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime. (Applause.)
Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America's businesses. (Applause.) But government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers.
While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment. (Applause.)
Look, I am not interested in punishing banks. I'm interested in protecting our economy. A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes.
It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. (Applause.)
Third, we need to export more of our goods. (Applause.) Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America. (Applause.) .... If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. (Applause.)
Now, this year, we've broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. And the idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform -- reform that raises student achievement; inspires students to excel in math and science; and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city. In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. (Applause.)
Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses. And according to the Congressional Budget Office -– the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress –- our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades. (Applause.)
But families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. (Applause.) So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the trillion dollars that it took to rescue the economy last year.
Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years.
That's why I've called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. (Applause.) This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline.
Now, yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I'll issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans. (Applause.) And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason for why we had record surpluses in the 1990s. Applause.)
(Karen here: Mind you, Obama was pushing for Austerity when he still had a Super Majority in the Senate and a Majority in the House. Also, mind you that the clappers and guffawers in the room were likely laughing all the way to the bank. Half of Congress are now millionaires. So give two cheers and one cheer more to the well-dressed captain of The Pinafore, yo!)
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections. (Applause.) I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. (Applause.) They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.
To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills. (Applause.)(Um. They ran for the hills (Beverly) and the valleys (Silicon.) And they danced in the street. (Wall.)
And now on to the 2011 speech, a/k/a "Win the Future," which could very easily have been delivered by Reagan, Bush, or Cheney. It is breathtaking in its bellicosity and cruelty. It was a full-on assault on the American people coated with a "Happy Days Are Here Again" veneer. Obama celebrated the Republican "shellacking" of the midterms and pretended that normal, struggling Americans were all for bipartisan grand bargains to make their lives even more miserable. The austerity contributing to the worst income inequality would go on under his watch. Read the speech and you have proof from the words of the One himself that the current state of affairs he now pretends so smarmily to want to reverse, is a Lie for the Age. Highlights (or more accurately, low points):
We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.(no mention of stagnating wages.)
We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of new investments that they make this year. And these steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.(Austerity as an economy-booster was soon exposed as a massive fraud, of course.)
Now, the final critical step in winning the future is to make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt.
We are living with a legacy of deficit spending that began almost a decade ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets.
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.(*Huh?)
(** Obama here sets the stage for the slew of phony fiscal crises and debt limit negotiations and government shutdowns.)
So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. (Applause.) Now, this would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.
This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we’ve frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years. I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs. The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without. (Applause.).....
To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. (Applause.) We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market. (Applause.)
He then went on from hating current seniors and the currently disabled to trumpeting American exceptionalism and superiority at a truly Cheneyesque level. Here's a snippet I found simultaneously chilling and hilarious in light of the recent revelations of his administration's secrecy fetish, his war on whistleblowers, his legalization of indefinite detention and assassinations, his suppression of journalism and human rights abuses:
We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our schools, changing the way we use energy, reducing our deficit –- none of this will be easy. All of it will take time. And it will be harder because we will argue about everything. The costs. The details. The letter of every law.
Of course, some countries don’t have this problem. If the central government wants a railroad, they build a railroad, no matter how many homes get bulldozed. If they don’t want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn’t get written.
And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth. (Applause.)
We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.No matter who or where you are, The Shadow Knows.
Had enough yet? Me too. However, if you're even more of a glutton for punishment than I am, you can find the more recent SOTUs here and here. But speaking just for myself, if I needed any more examples of doubletalk and Newspeak, I do have the complete editions of Kafka and Orwell at my fingertips, right here in my library. They are among the many antidotes available to help keep us sane, giving us the eyes to see and the ears to hear and the voices to protest.
Or if you prefer your flavor bland, there's always Paul Krugman and Obama's Google hangouts.
Update: After posting this, I checked my in-box, and there was a note addressed to "Hey" from White House factotum Dan Pfeiffer giving me, Hey, a preview of the speech. And yeah, they're openly referring to it as a sporting event. And no, inequality is not being mentioned. It's been neoliberalized into 0pportunity.
Every year it's the same
old same old: In the days leading up to the State of the Union, the phone rings off the hook with inside-the-Beltway hackseveryone trying to figure out what will be in the President's address.
We're now just four days out -- and the President wanted
Heyyou to get the first preview of what this speech is all about. As always, he'll be working on it right up until game time, but three words sum up the President's message on Tuesday night: opportunity, action, and optimism. (0A0, pronounced Owwwww!)
The core idea is as
corporatistAmerican as they come: If you are a compliant little citizen who works for low wages till you dropwork hard and play by the rules, you mightshould have the opportunity to survivesucceed. Your ability to breatheget ahead should be based on your can-do, pull-yourself-up- by-your-bootstraps Horatio Alger spirithard work and lust for wealthambition and who you want to be, not just the raw circumstance of who you are when you're born to loser single moms.
On Tuesday night, the President will lay out a set of real,
wetconcrete, market-basedpractical proposals to grow the financial services industryeconomy, strengthen the uppermiddle class, and hypnotizeempower all who hope against hopeto join it.
In this year of action, the President will seek out as many
market-basedopportunities as possible to work with the Ayn Rand cult inCongress in a bipartisan way. But when American jobs and CEO livelihoods depend on getting something done, he will not wait for Congress.
President Obama has a pen and he has a phone, and he will use them to
fund-raise for Democratstake executive action and enlist every American -- oligarchs and their trusty serfsbusiness owners and workers, mayors named Rahm Emanueland state legislators, young people, veterans, and folks in communities from across the country -- in posing as human backdrops for his speechesthe project to immortalize the myth of trickle-down economicsto restore equalityopportunity for all.
It will be
a rah-rahan optimistic speech. Thanks to his ability to fool you into thinking he's sympatheticthe grit and determination of citizens like Heyyou, America has a hard-earned right to that optimism but not a hard-earned right to representation by politicians.Five years after the President is presiding overinherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, our businesses have created more than eight million new low-payingjobs in the past 46 months, and they're primed to create more misery for you and wealth for themselves.
minimalsome action on the PTB'sall our parts, we can pretend tohelp more jobseekers find work, and more working Americans find the economic security they deserve. That's why, in the week following the speech, President Obama will continue campaign-style bullshittingtravel to communities across the country -- including Prince George’s County Maryland, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Nashville, before returning to the White House to head-fake onoutline new efforts to placatehelp the long-term unemployed as a wedge issue to elect more Democrats.