Streetwise Professor

January 30, 2012

The Orwellian SOTU Address

Filed under: Economics,Politics — The Professor @ 4:33 pm

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.

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  1. As Assange argues in the most recent edition of The New Statesmen, the elite’s contempt for opposition voices and authoritarian obsession with hiding and classifying away all incriminating evidence.

    Assange and Co. (and Ron Paul, Occupy, etc) are the polar opposites of the Obamunist collectivism described in this post, which is precisely the reason that so many elites and elite lackeys despise then.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 30, 2012 @ 9:10 pm

  2. The Breathtaking Hypocrisy of Julian Assange, Kremlin Pawn

    As Assange argues in the most recent edition of The New Statesmen, the elite’s contempt for opposition voices and authoritarian obsession with hiding and classifying away all incriminating evidence.

    Assange and Co. (and Ron Paul, Occupy, etc) are not the polar opposites of the Zyuganov- Putin – Zhirinovsky- Dugin collectivism described by Sublim Berkley boy , which is precisely the reason that so many of Sublim Berkley boy’s friends and lackeys are so universally despise .

    Actually, though, maybe it makes sense. After all, Assange has said “it’s an international disgrace that so few western journalists have been killed in the course of duty, or have been arrested in the course of duty.” Russian journalists certainly aren’t disgracing themselves in that regard: They’ve been dying by the dozens, and their murders are seldom solved: Only three of the 33 murders of journalists committed in Russia since 1993 have been solved, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    In November 2010, in response to reports that Wikileaks was on the verge of releasing documents that would incriminate powerful Russian politicians and companies, Assange told my colleague Andy Greenberg that “we have material on many business and governments, including in Russia.” As is frequently the case with Assange, no such documents have ever emerged. Anyone want to bet on the chances that’ll ever happen now?

    Assange finally comes out as a communist stooge and we’re surprised…? Karma oftentimes has a way of causing mysterious “accidents”…

    Comment by Anders — January 31, 2012 @ 3:58 am

  3. We do not need more leakes from Russia . The Emperor Has No Clothes .

    Political analyst Vladimir Pribylovsky says the apartment bombings enabled a virtually unknown bureaucrat to sweep into the presidency months later.

    [The bombings] changed the situation by favoring a prime minister nobody knew, with a dubious, dark biography.
    “They changed the situation by favoring a prime minister nobody knew, with a dubious, dark biography,” Pribylovsky says. “Two things brought about Putin’s victory: the bombings and the phrase about wiping out terrorists in the outhouse.”

    Today, after 13 years as president, Putin is prime minister again, and still firmly in charge of a country he remade into an authoritarian state.

    Six Muslims from southern Russia have been sentenced in connection to the 1999 bombings, but the case remains unsolved. A small handful of critics say that’s because the explosions were staged by the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

    That line of reasoning has proved highly dangerous. Two of its leading proponents have been killed. Another was sent to a Siberian prison on what he says were false charges to stop him from investigating the bombings.

    Comment by Putin — January 31, 2012 @ 4:16 am

  4. Personally I would not want to waste any money on supporting Wikileaks without knowing if it is funded by the FSB. And Julian Assange does not seem a trust worthy person. Maybe if Wikileaks had some reforms and Assange withdrew it could have some hope but for now it seems just an interesting experiment that has come to its sunset.-

    Comment by Putin — January 31, 2012 @ 4:32 am

  5. Newspeak Published 14 April 2011
    The Sublim morons words is deliberately constructed to convey more complicated ideas. The words in his group are compound words with political implications, and aim to impose the mental attitude of the Party upon the speaker. For example, the Newspeak word “goodthink” roughly means “orthodoxy”.
    Julian Assange Published 14 April 2011 -As Assange argues in the most recent edition of The New Statesmen Whatabout WikiLeaks? Whatabout WikiLeaks? Whatabout WikiLeaks?

    The alarming spread of fascism in Putin’s Russia
    In the most recent edition of The New Statesmen, the elite’s contempt for opposition voices and authoritarian obsession with hiding and classifying away all incriminating evidence.

    Sergei Yushenkov presented the film at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 2002, decrying lack of civilian control over the Russian armed forces including the secret services.[4] A staffer in Senate Foreign Relations Committee said, “We just cannot go out and say that the president of Russia is a mass murderer. But it is important that we know it.”

    Assassination of Russia [en]

    Comment by Anders — January 31, 2012 @ 7:03 am

  6. Folks

    re Assange versus Obama: a key concept to consider is that of what the rejection of norms can mean. For example, once a member of a tribe turns against the tribe’s totems, he or she is NOT a free thinker or believer in liberty, but an anti totemist. One goal in life is not to fall in this Manichean trap – in other words give the law of the excluded middle a rest, and look to the granularity of the arguments presented. In both camps the assumptions underlying their styles and conclusions bear examining in light of Yannopoulos’ four laws:

    1. Ones own stubbed toe hurts more than another’s decapitation.
    2. The real reason for doing something often has nothing to do with the real reason.
    3. At a profound level, self interest and the individual’s definition of justice are the same.
    4. The person we most often lie to is our self.

    Looking at both Assange and Obama, both are Manichean types, and operate very much in light of the above. Both take the position that what they want is justice which has been curiously profitable for both of them (laws 2 &3). In the case of Assange he has received notoriety, funds and attention, Obama even more, along with a lot of money and bribes(see Rezko, tellingly classified by Obama as a “mistake”, not an ethical lapse)(law 3). To say that they are hypocrites oversimplifies the situation: both Assange and Obama believe (law 4), and this belief allows one to do appalling things: rape, promote conflict, etc (law 2). It is also profoundly satisfying – who doesn’t like to see themselves have an effect? For the Manichean, narcissistic personality types conflict is good, particularly if it has paid off in some way. If in order to get their goals some people or the process will be hurt, what of it? Justice can be said to demand it, besides remember law 1. It is great to do good, and do well!

    If all of us follow these laws, what makes O and A particularly noxious? Remember the difference between normality and pathology as outlined by Freud: all people have neurotic mechanisms, indeed they help define us as being human, but are not necessarily pathological. A pathology exists when these mechanisms disrupt and prevent the normal living of life. Both O and A are fundamentally destructive in nature – willing to sacrifice the stability and safety of the Republic to satisfy their own ends, masked as Justice or Truth or some other higher cause that rid one of following the niceties of life: true charity and self knowledge.

    Obama is particularly dangerous – his grandiosity (his belief that he is already one of the best Presidents of all time, etc.) seems to have no check – not by self doubt or reason (Lincoln) nor even that imposed by temperment (FDR). Indeed he has been one of the most inept governors and legislative manager of all time, but his self belief is unshakable, and probably unexamined (Law 4). Both of these men are pathological to us a a society if not also to themselves. The quicker we move them to the margin, a la Jimmy Carter, the better.

    Comment by sotos — January 31, 2012 @ 9:43 am

  7. “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
    ― Winston S. Churchill

    “We can’t wait!” exclaims Obama, who makes recess appointments when the Senate is not in recess, multiplies “czars” to further nullify the Senate’s constitutional prerogative to advise and consent, and creates agencies (e.g., Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board and Dodd-Frank’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) untethered from legislative accountability.

    Like other progressive presidents fond of military metaphors, he rejects the patience of politics required by the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.

    (Write to George Will at [email protected] .)

    (c) Washington Post

    I don’t blame the president for being exhausted with the mess and bother of democracy and politics, since he has proved so inadequate at coping with the demands of both. Nor do I think he truly seeks to impose martial virtues on America. But he does desperately want his opponents to shut up and march in place. And he seems to think this bilge will convince them to do so.

    What I can’t forgive, however, is the way he tries to pass off his ideal of an America where everyone marches as one as a better America. It wouldn’t be America at all.

    Email at [email protected] , or via Twitter @JonahNRO.

    Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel,0,6737226.story

    Comment by Anders — January 31, 2012 @ 10:24 am

  8. You hit the nail, Sotos. It is Obama’s narcissism that makes him dangerous. Assange is an extreme narcissist too, but he doesn’t have the power Obama does.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 31, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

  9. I think you have traced some important themes in the SOTU — the martial boosterism *was* creepy and the “social model” wasn’t exactly articulated as such but was glimpsed in the rhetoric.

    I agree that the Buffett thing sounds propagandistic, and doesn’t really capture Buffett’s real wealth, which is why he could offer it. But I don’t see how that affects the hoi polloi who don’t have money to invest anyway. What do you mean by that? It’s a populistic gambit and wouldn’t really solve the fiscal crisis in the end anyway. It’s a stunt.

    I think the president used the SOTU as a campaign speech, so that he couldn’t really address something like “the parlous fiscal situation” because that would be too downbeat.

    While these are troubling themes, I wouldn’t use the word “Orwellian” about this. It’s just warmed-over, bread-crumb-extended DSA politics (Democratic Socialists of America) — how it looks out of the oven 25 years after Obama’s first enthusiasms about this. (The book “Radical-in-Chief” is good on this subject).

    I’m mindful of wanting to save “Orwellian” for the real Orwellian stuff. I was critical of Bill Moyers using the phrase:

    Comment by Catherine Fitzpatrick — January 31, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

  10. […] a good thing that George Orwell and Ayn Rand aren’t around to see […]

    Pingback by Wednesday Breakfast Links | Points and Figures — February 1, 2012 @ 5:19 am

  11. The shame!

    Comment by So? — February 1, 2012 @ 5:31 am


    Well SWP you may think I’m wearing the tin foil hat but…the CINC’s sudden enthusiasm for martial values may have something to do with both the NDAA which gives him the ability to designate any American an enemy combatant subject to indefinite detention, and other plans his people are hatching. Would you want to cross a unionized military picket line armed with M-16s?

    Comment by Mr. X — February 1, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

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