The State of the Union

28 January 2010

On January 27, 2010, President Barack Obama stood in front of Congress, the Supreme Court Justices and the American public and said, “One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted – immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.”

“It is because of this spirit – this great decency and great strength – that I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight. Despite our hardships, our union is strong.”

There was much applause.

What a load of horseshit!

Then again, every president; whoever held the office has said this. George W. Bush said it right after the attacks of 9/11 with the economy falling over a cliff. The first George H.W. Bush said it during the recession of 1991. Reagan said in 1982 as he was busy giving tax breaks to big companies hoping trickle-down economics would work on a stalled economy. Carter said it when America was held hostage and we had inflation and recession at the same time, an economic impossibility. Nixon said it while fighting Watergate corruption charges. FDR said it when banks were closing and half the country was walking the breadline. In 1887, Grover Cleveland said the same thing while at the same time decrying the high tariff rates devised to drive up consumer process.

President Obama explained how great things are but probably said “jobs’ about 54,256 different times. Thanks to a certain drinking game, I could not last through the whole thing. But jobs are important. When Obama took over the Unemployment rate was at 7.9%. As of today it’s at 10%. Figure another 5-8% are no longer looking and have dropped off the official ranks. That’s about 28 million people who don’t have a job, more than the population of Texas or 221 Alasakas, you bet’cha.

He stressed middle class job creation and that that Americans should strengthen their resolve and we will see it through together. Again, much applause.

Fox called it a lame duck speech by a lame duck president. MSNBC said it was the greatest speech since William Jennings Bryan’s “cross of gold” speech (I am still living of the √ ++ I got in 11th grade US History.)

What is the reality of America in the first year of the “Anointed One’s” watch? Two wars that don’t seem to have an ending. A recession that shows too few signs of recovery. Double-digit unemployment. Gas prices that are on the rise. Banks that refuse to give loans. AIG still handing out bonuses. No healthcare.

I have to admit I did not vote in the past election, I know, I’m a Chicago Democrat and I didn’t vote even once. Where I lived at that time was/is heavily republican, so much so that I was the only democrat in my precinct. Standing in line for three hours to vote for Obama would be pointless. He lost the district (66-35), county (54-44) and state (52-47). That is not to say I didn’t want him to win, even though he is a White Sox fan. When I was a cub reporter in Chicago, I knew Obama’s campaign manager, David Axelrod dating back to his days as spokesman for US. Senator Paul Simon.

I had high hopes for Obama. Like most of America, I wanted him to correct the horrible things done to our country by the previous administration. The eight years we had with W. were the worst since the Great Depression. At least during that time there weren’t any wars, not so under W.’s tenure.

In 2009, Obama was faced with a mountain of problems but he had a “super-majority” in the Senate and a 79 seat majority in the House. One would think that with those numbers he could get his plans going with little or no opposition, Except for one thing – Democrats are pussys! Even with the “super-majority,” they couldn’t get Health Care Reform passed. Then there was Senator Droopy Dog who threatened to start a filibuster and the Dems caved. When I was at Roycemore Juvenile Reformatory School I threatened to kick Steve Van Ryzin’s ass one day. The next day he affixed me to a tree with duct tape. The last filibuster in the Senate was in 1992, just when Windows 3.1 was released. It lasted 15 hours.

What has happened over the last year that shows that the union is indeed strong?

  • There was that $800 million TARP Bailout was supposed to create 4-5 million jobs. No figures are available for actual jobs created. Estimates are TARP created or saved about 670,000 jobs. There is a big difference between creating a job and saving a job.
  • The Making Homes Affordable Program was supposed to reduce mortgage payments for 50-75% of homeowners. So far the program has helped about 4.3%.
  • Credit Card Reform was passed stopping credit card companies from randomly increasing your interest rate. That is a win.
  • All this summer and into the fall, Health Care was the big thing. Remember the Tea Baggers? They were everywhere screaming at anyone with a camera that Obama Care would have Death Panels to kill us if we got sick. As shown above, one lone Senator with the charisma of a wet rag derailed Universal Health Care. These countries currently have some form of Universal Health Care: Norway, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Sweden, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Netherlands, Austria, United Arab Emirates, Finland, Slovenia, Denmark, Luxembourg, France, Australia, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, South Korea, Iceland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, and Israel. They also have one other thing in common; they can all beat us in soccer. As the Health Care Reform bills stand it will cover between 94-96% of the population. Though with the recent election in Massachusetts, the bill may die in the Senate, even with a majority of 59-41. As anyone who has taken Democrat math knows, 41 is always more powerful than 59.
  • We still have the two wars going on: Afghanistan and Iraq. The Prez said he wants the troops to come home as the wars are ending. To show how it is ending there was a suicide bombing in Iraq that killed 18 people the other day. At least he didn’t stand under a sign that read “Mission Accomplished.” In the next few months, both fronts will have about 100,000 troops on the ground, an increase in Afghanistan for 30,000.
  • Gitmo is still open, even though he said it was to be closed this week. But that was last year when he said it and he can’t be held responsible for things he said a year ago. I promised to keep this blog going a year ago and this is only the third piece I have done this year. Gitmo may actually close with the “detainees” being shipped to western Illinois. It is assumed they will die of boredom while there.

What is the overall grade at the 1st year? I give him a rising B- (or a √-). He has tried hard to do something. W. was great at doing nothing and letting the chips fall where they may. For proof I will posit the vacation days W. took in his first year and compare that with those Obama took: 69 vs. 26. Then again to be fair, Bill Clinton left the country in pretty good shape in 2001. It was running on auto-pilot, only a functionally illiterate, ex-cokehead could screw it up. And that my friends, is called irony.

Have we hit bottom? Is the worst of the storm passed? On February 24, 2009 Obama said the worst was over. He boldly predicted, “Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.  Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down.  That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.”

Funny how he is saying the same thing about a year later too. Maybe he can’t see that the worst hasn’t happened. Maybe the money people around him care more about their corporate overlords than the people in this country who are struggling.

As we begin the second lap of Obama’s 1600m he needs to be bold and daring. He needs to clean house the Treasury because these guys are the reason we got into trouble and they have no interest in getting things going for us. Their interests lie in the banks they came from. It reminds me of that scene in “The Untouchables” when Sean Connery pulls a kid out of the academy to be on the team because he hasn’t been corrupted yet. Obama needs to do that with the Treasury “cause ‘dat’s da Chicago way.”

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