I was impressed. Our president read a fine State of the Union speech. The writers had been working on it for many weeks, and he’d had ample time to rehearse it for nuance and dramatic impact. There was a fine line to walk, several disparate voting groups to appease and appeal to. Conservatives and large tea-party numbers on one hand, who had just dealt him and his agenda a real setback, and a sizable contingent of liberals who felt Mr. Obama hadn’t done enough to socialize America in his first two years.
Tough assignment, very daunting. But the writers did a great job, and of course the president has totally mastered the teleprompter, seeming comfortable and authoritative and even sometimes spontaneous. It was a more mature version of the speech he delivered at the Democratic National Convention just a handful of years ago that so impressed his party and vaulted him into his own candidacy.
Back then, he had almost no experience in politics except as a fledgling Illinois state senator, but he came on like a polished, intelligent college debater who had honed his speech as if he were going for an Academy Award. He electrified the convention, and later jumped nimbly from the U.S. Senate to the White House – still with no governing or much administrative experience at all. Truly astounding.
Now, after two short years as president, he strode to the podium before both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court justices, military leaders – and on national television – to give an account for what he and the administration had accomplished, or failed to accomplish, in the first half of his term. And he read his speech with much the same aplomb and astonishing confidence that belied his still-scant experience in the gigantic issues that confront the mightiest nation on earth.
The speech was a long pastiche of good-sounding phrases and ringing challenges to the ever hopeful American public. There were promises to attack the insurmountable deficit with some unspecified taxes on oil companies – juxtaposed with resounding pledges of massive new “investments” in research, education, “green enterprises” and cross-country transportation. He painted an oratorical vision of a nation on the rebound, regaining its industry and leadership and economic health, and he indicated we’re half there already … an amazing performance.
For many, though, when he emphatically swore he would veto any earmark Congress tried to slip past him, there was the reminder of the same promise he’d made when he was campaigning for the presidency. And the more recent recollection that, as president, when the first huge appropriations bill hit his desk – with $80 million in all kinds of unconscionable earmarks – he promptly signed it through, without one veto.
Doug Kmiec, who as a highly respected constitutional expert and a pro-life Catholic came out early in support of candidate Obama, remembers his belief in the candidate’s promise to cut the number of abortions in half; but he also remembers his shock when the new president, in his first executive order, authorized $200 million to Planned Parenthood International, financing more abortions than ever, at taxpayer expense!
Doug Kmiec was rewarded for his support by being sent off to Malta as an ambassador, where he can ponder what happened, in virtual exile.
Neither of these and other actions on the part of the president build confidence in his glowing, masterful speech. Nor does the $3 trillion added to our deficit in these last two years; or this year’s $1.4 trillion budget deficit; or the $4 billion a day in interest on our loans, which will not be much diminished by some vague new taxes on oil companies.
With our nation already owing $14 trillion, with more debt coming, it’s hard to fathom how the president feels we can afford to “invest” in anything. To “invest” is to spend, and to spend means more money, lots of it, from somewhere … from somebody. And unless that money is just printed pieces of paper, it means you and me, the taxpaying American citizens. Are you willing to underwrite these shining but currently unaffordable promises? Or are there other options?
I propose another option: Peel the onion. The gargantuan, unimaginable, unprecedented debt hanging over us is like an multilayered onion, and it can be diminished, layer by layer.
Rep. Paul Ryan, an economist, has laid out a whole workable plan to do just that, and I have some further suggestions.
The first layer I’d peel off, slicing billions from the debt, would be the unfair salaries and benefits given to government employees. Half of them are redundant anyway, but the average government worker makes more than twice as much as a private-sector worker doing the same job – and almost 40 percent of the employed are on our payroll through taxes!
The next layer to go would be the 33 “czars,” highly paid commissars appointed by the president to extremely powerful positions, answerable only to him instead of Congress. These positions are unconstitutional, giving unwarranted power to the executive branch, circumventing the legislative.
Next layer, a biggie: Levy a “consumer tax” on non-essential, often luxury items, like alcohol, tobacco, expensive cars and boats and planes, the latest high-tech gadgets, big screen TVs and fancy restaurants. If people can afford a $65,000 Mercedes, they can afford a $5,000 temporary consumer tax, till we get control of the massive debt.
So many more layers. Free up insurance providers to offer their products across state lines – and watch the prices come down and affordability go up. That’s free enterprise instead of government regulation. Phase out bloated and redundant government agencies and programs, by the hundreds … and by the billions of dollars. Stop doling out billions and billions to nations that vote against us in the U.N., and greatly reduce our funding of the U.N. itself.
Social Security? If it weren’t government-imposed, and temporary, I and a few million other Americans would forego our payments, voluntarily, to reduce the deficit. And since most of us vehemently don’t want taxpayer-funded abortions, but this administration does, I propose a 50 percent tax on all providers, to take out the profit motive from this heinous enterprise.
When you peel an onion, your eyes water and it smells bad. But you sure can relish the result, if the chef is competent.