State of the NOTU

State of the NOTU

State of the NOTU

A mostly political weblog.
Feb. 24 2009 10:09 PM

State of the NOTU

Obama's Not-A-State-Of-the-Union Speech : a) Solid; b) No Sully? (That was probably a good call--focusing on the schoolgirl who wrote "We are not quitters" was fresher and highly effective. And her plane didn't crash! That wasn't Sullenberger's fault, but it's not the best metaphor for economic recovery.) c) Worst problem came right at the beginning, where Obama tried to link the economic crisis with failure to address long term problems in energy, health care, and education:

Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.


How, exactly, did failure to find new sources of energy cause the recession? Obama could be right, but he didn't make the logical link clear. After listening, it sure still seems to me the problems begin when the housing market collapsed and the stock market sank! The people who helped produce the collapse--e.g. Jim Johnson, plus whoever had the bright idea of securitizing risky mortgages and insuring everything through AIG--are more to blame than governments that failed to invest in wind power. ... Not that Obama's three long term crises aren't really long-term crises. But they seemed unconnected to the short-term crisis--they're just things he'd (rightly) like to address.  d)  

I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was I.

'That's why I made one of the men most responsible for the last administration's plan responsible for my plan, as Treasury secretary;'   e) The flabby education section was saved by one sentence:

 And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

But if you are going to build effective support for charter schools, don't you have explain why they are important? Maybe a stealth strategy will work, as the number of charter school parents grows and they become an effective lobbying force. But it's more likely that making the "hard choices" requires some negativity about the resource-gobbling education establishment that would rather charter schools went away. ... f) Obama pitched his ambitious health plans as a way to "address the crushing cost of health care." Hmm. Weren't we told that the genius of Hillary Clinton's health care plan was that it deferred the cost-reduction issue and focused on providing coverage first?  I think we were ! That certainly seems like the easiest way to go (in part because, if you believe health care costs are driven by expensive and useful new technologies, universal coverage will never happen if you have to control costs first). That Obama wants to reverse Hillary's order--costs first, coverage later--becomes clearer when you parse the relevant section:

It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. [E.A.]

So "comprehensive health care reform" isn't universal coverage at all. It's a package of cost-cutting measures that precede (are a "down payment" on) a "principle" of universal coverage. Yikes. ... g)  In general, the speech had its usual effect on me, only amplified this year--which was to make me hate all the senators and representative gathered in the House to unctuously pretend on camera that they're supportive of the President. They're not the people who are going to help him succeed. They are the people who are going to conspire, probably successfully, to prevent him from succeeding.   That goes for Pelosi's Democratic troops--who'll oppose education and entitlement reforms, who'll oppose ending "programs that don't work," who've already polluted the stimulus with bureaucracy-building measures- as well as Boehner's troops who will just oppose. Triangulation can't come soon enough. ...   7:41 P.M.