The Relative Comment

soothing waves of relativity

Following up on the SOTU

with 3 comments

Relative to: President Obama’s State of the Union address last night.

Much more detail on this speech can be found elsewhere. Actually everywhere. But there were a few things that TRC wanted to take a moment and comment on regarding the SOTU. The first is that the praise/complaint about Democrats and Republicans sitting together is boring. It’s mildly interesting that the chamber was a mixed-party affair. But only mildly. That it seemed to cut down on the abundance of applause makes it worth it. If you’re behavior at the SOTU is different while sitting next to Rep. Steve King than it is sitting next to Sen. Franken, well that’s probably behavior best left home.

Second, Energy. This was both a conciliatory speech and one meant to draw clear party distinctions, and in walking that line, I thought the President did fairly well. For example, I wanted to hear about Climate Change legislation. Some kind of plan or acknowledgement from our Democratic President that we absolutely must have taxes on carbon. That did not happen. Rather, Obama spoke at length about investments in clean energy, and the need for competitiveness in this arena, and proposed that our country receive %80 of our electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.  These are related topics, one left out, I presume, as divisive; one seen as a bipartisan opportunity. Mentioning Climate Change would just turn the nose of Speaker Boehner, who mostly remained straight-nosed. I understand that.
–Two last thoughts on the energy section:  1) Why the stern faces on the GOP at the mention of taking back $4 Billion in tax breaks from oil companies? Honestly, who cares about the oil companies? Can we not get past this love and realize that we need clean energy now? 2) President Obama, stop mentioning clean coal. You’ve been talking about clean coal since your days in the Illinois Senate, and it is not real.

Third, Budget, Taxes and Spending Cuts. I’m no budget expert, but I don’t know what’s going on here. President Obama attempted to be bipartisan while drawing a line in the sand. Is there any potential of working together to cut the deficit? No. Because there are fundamental factual disputes that will keep this from happening. Either Healthcare will increase the deficit or repealing Healthcare will increase the deficit. Either spending is largely to blame and budget cuts can largely  solve our deficit problem or it cannot. If we won’t increase taxes on the wealthiest of the wealthy, (literally the uber-rich) but will cut education, well, we’re not going to balance our budget. Or if we do, what cost will it come at?  This may be the biggest party divide on the issue, but the President is right, taxes are not punishment.  “We simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break. It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.”

As for a 5-year discretionary budget freeze, will that help?

Most of the rest of speech was surprisingly conciliatory in tone and content: America is the best country there ever was, is, or will be. Education reform is necessary, rewrite the tax code, medical malpractice reform, allowing recruiters into all colleges and universities, shrink and streamline the federal government (perhaps the most surprising part of the speech–salmon regulation is incredibly convoluted). None of this will be particularly pleasing to the “liberal base” but much of this is why, according to Politics Daily, Obama’s speech was so well liked by Americans.  The notion that Obama and the GOP could come together and agree on much, and solve problems by negotiating is a very positive idea, and one that hopefully can be realized.

That might be a little too hopeful, but for today, one can hope.


Written by Christopher ZF

January 26, 2011 at 11:55

Posted in Congress, Obama, Politics

3 Responses

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  1. 1. If pushing clean coal let’s Obama get some other major energy initiatives past, then I don’t mind. However, there is always the chance that it becomes the last thing on the table and Nuclear and clean coal become the only things Republicans allow.
    2. I like that like about not punishing, but promoting. Good way to change to discourse.
    3. Who cares about oil companies? now that companies can donate directly to campaigns, well, I think everyone cares about the oil companies. Bastard supreme court.


    January 26, 2011 at 12:28

  2. Philosophical question? or maybe a practical political question, or maybe just a science of persuasion question. Can a person talk about solutions without naming the problem? I think that the words “Climate Change” were left out because the only people who are left to convince are people who can’t get past the buzzword. However they can get behind investments in innovation and economy boosting measures. Most of the new companies that we are talking about are solar, wind, wave, biofuel, natural gas (debatably unclean), biofuels (also debatably unclean), and yes, clean coal (not debatable, but still cleaner than just plain coal). Not to mention tech companies and electric and hybrid car innovations. All of these are moving toward a cleaner, more environmentally friendly world, without calling it Climate Change and they have the added benefit of creating jobs and improving the economy. Climate Change is also an issue that simply overwhelms people because they think, “If it is true then there is nothing that we can do.” I think alot of people see climate change as something that they can’t do anything about. But that isn’t true. We can make enormous progress.

    John Z.

    January 26, 2011 at 15:04

  3. John, I think you’re right, and you’re wrong.

    I do think we can tackle a lot of the problems regarding energy by avoiding the phrase climate change, and simply talking about clean energy.

    but that’s only a stopgap measure, because there is no real complete solution to climate change without a tax on carbon and the weaning off of coal over the next century or so. Sooner or later, serious climate change legislation that reduces the emitting of carbon must come, and I don’t know how you can have a serious conversation about a problem if we can’t even call it by its right name.

    (think of the obvious parallel. VOLDEMORT=Climate Change, doy.)


    January 27, 2011 at 11:23

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