State of the State of the Union

As per the directions of Article 2, Section 3, of the Constitution of the United States of America, tonight President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress with regard to the state of the union.   For a solid summary of what truths the President may have exaggerated, I refer you to ABC.

The points that resonate will be Obama’s desire for a more equitable tax policy and to spur domestic manufacturing by any means necessary (gas, cars, twinkies, whatever). The resonating tone was surprisingly conservative, especially on energy and foreign policy.

Here it is by numbers:

6,957 words in 104 paragraphs.

The biggest topic was manufacturing and jobs, which was mentioned in 21 of the 104 paragraphs.  Finishing just behind that was defense (15 paragraphs), taxes (14), and finance (13).  Rounding out the five most popular topics were education – with primary school policy and secondary school funding combining for mentions in 12 paragraphs – and energy (read: oil & gas), which was mentioned in 11 paragraphs.

The word “job” was used 41 times (not counting the proper noun reference to Steve Jobs), and “tax” and “taxes” combined for 36 uses.  The surprise up and comer of the night was “manufacture” and its various forms, which, despite its daunting four syllables, was used 15 times throughout the speech. In one of the biggest snubs of State of the Union history, the word “environment”, as in, “the environment is the combination of ecosystems and atmosphere that sustains all life on earth”, was used a stunning once.  If you’re counting, that’s roughly one tenth the times he used the words “oil” (10 times) and “gas” (9 times), and half the number of times he used the word “God”.

If you want to check my math, which you probably should, the speech’s full text can be found here or here.

Here are some of my favorite quotes, with my thoughts attached:

On following the example of our military:

“At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, [the armed forces] exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.

Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example…”

Yes, Barack, let’s imagine what working together in the mold of our military could look like…

Well, that was a little dramatic and disrespectful of me, but what I’m getting at is that America’s defense strategy of the previous decade is no framework for how to make this country better.  We have wasted tens of thousands of lives (several thousands of those lives being American) and trillions of dollars on our ventures throughout the Middle East, and it is irresponsible, dishonest, and disrespectful to the memories of those departed, to parade this disaster of foreign policy as anything but.  The men and women who have served in the military over the last decade (with the exception of these gentlemen above) may well have honored our country, but our country has betrayed them by placing them unnecessarily in harm’s way.

On the auto industry:

“On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse…Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.”

This is true and Obama is right to remind the American people of how well he managed the auto crisis.

On primary education:

“Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”

This is one of those great political statements, where, in one paragraph, the President says he’s not gonna bash teachers and then in the next paragraph he says he will.  Also, the paragraph on education is framed as a plan of action, but in reality, Obama is referring to legislation that already exists (which, as it happens, does nothing to avoid teaching to the test).

On immigration:

“I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That’s why my Administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.”

I am IMpressed that he brought this up at all (immigration is a risky topic in election years and a non-topic in non-election years), but I am DEpressed that he had to insert that line about boots on the ground and how many Mexican skulls he’s crushed.  I believe Obama’s heart is in the right place on this issue and many others, but I suppose this is more evidence that even he is not above politics.

On domestic oil production:

“…tonight, I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right – eight years. Not only that – last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.”

Oh, John McCain, I didn’t see you there!  Congratulations on boosting domestic oil production!

On the Buffett Rule:

“Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes.”

Well done.

On “our actions abroad”:

“…when we act together, there is nothing the United States of America can’t achieve.  That is the lesson we’ve learned from our actions abroad over the last few years.”

Really?  Because I’m pretty sure our actions abroad taught us how devastating and disastrous foreign campaigns can be.  But that’s just me; I guess from DC it looked more like an inspiring victory.

Then there’s some talk about our new military, more dominant and less expensive than ever, and some minor bragging about Bin Laden, and I feel shitty and disillusioned and I’m going to bed.


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