Obama gave his State of the Union address almost a week ago, and there’s been time to identify the real lowlights. It is tough to rank them, but these three stood out:
1. Obama almost completely ignored the most important threat to the state of the Union: its parlous fiscal situation. He mentioned the issue almost in passing, and then primarily to flog his idiotic tax proposal (more on this below). He completely ignored any discussion of entitlements, and entitlement reform. This should be the overriding priority: addressing this issue, or not, will largely determine the future state of the Union. It borders on the criminal for a president allegedly giving the country an honest appraisal of the state of the nation to give such short shrift to the most crucial political and economic issue of the day. Alfred E. Newman couldn’t have done any worse.
2. He flogged his fairness and justice theme. Get ready for a hugely divisive campaign based on these issues. I was hoping there would have been a camera on Valerie Jarrett during these parts of the speech, just to see whether her lips moved when he gave it.
This was yet another paean to the European welfare state model, though of course he didn’t frame it that way. But his was the “social model” rhetoric that is standard in Germany, for instance.
Which is truly staggering, given that the European model is on the brink of extinction. They may stagger on for awhile, but that model cannot be sustained.
That’s too bad for the Europeans, but who can be so clueless, at this time, to act as if it isn’t happening? Hell, Scrooge was smart enough to pay heed to the Ghost of Christmas Future. Not our ‘Bam.
The centerpiece of the class warfare rhetoric was the Buffett Plan, as misguided a policy as could possibly be imagined. This plan would effectively raise, and raise substantially, taxes on capital. This is a horrible idea, because capital taxation is a bad idea. It is a bad idea not because it hurts plutocratic capitalists, but because it hurts the hoi polloi by reducing investment, thereby reducing productivity–and thus reducing wages. Capital taxation in the US is already too high. It is also dishonest beyond belief for Obama to suggest that this will make the slightest dent in the debt or deficit.
3. In a chilling ending, Mr. Anti-War appealed to martial virtues, and touted the military as a model for civil society to emulate. He praised the unity and teamwork of the military, the virtue of working together to a common goal.
Many commentators (e.g., Jonah Goldberg and George Will) jumped on this quickly as fundamentally creepy and un-American. Their takes are correct. They were particularly correct to point out that this is a standard progressive theme.
What hasn’t been pointed out is how the class warfare and military-as-a-model-for-civil-society themes are going to work together–as they almost certainly will as a part of the Obama strategy. The class warfare theme is inherently divisive, and will result in heated rhetoric during the campaign. Mr. Uniter will decry this rhetoric, and wrap himself in the military, claiming that opposition is contrary to the military ideal of obedience, loyalty, and followership that we should all strive to emulate. I expect Obama to use the military as a prop during his campaign (though not at official campaign events), continuing to sing its praises as a model for civil society, thereby insinuating that political criticism disrespects the military. It would be utterly Orwellian, but mark my words.