Suppose you are president, you’ve stumbled, fumbled, slipped and crashed, it’s time to give a State of the Union speech and millions will be watching. What do you do – say you are sorry and will try harder or take credit for good things you did not do, blame the bad things you did do on others and propose solutions that sound good to the gullible even though they will make things worse?
President Obama chose the latter course, pumping up his presentation with bravado of a constitutionally abrasive kind that said he would get done what needed to get done whether Congress helped or not.
After all, he made clear, it was up to him as the great American hero to save the weak and helpless from economic evils and dastardly Republicans. He may be the president who gave us the still scary threat of Obamacare and the most emaciated, laggard economic recovery since World War II, but he is a razzle-dazzle showman.
Look, it’s true, too, that he occasionally came close to worthy ideas, as in telling us how he wanted to increase the earned income tax credit that is essentially welfare for low-wage working people. I applaud that because I think this approach is a way to rely less on welfare programs that too often discourage work and a much better means of helping low-income families than the fraud of hiking the federal minimum wage, which Obama urged Tuesday night.
The facts are that only about 3 percent of workers get the minimum wage, that high percentages of them are one of two or more workers in families with healthy incomes and that hiking the wage would provide minimal help for some while costing others working hours or jobs. More economists than not see hiking the wage as more harmful than helpful to workers, though any half-alert political scientist would know that promoting it is helpful to Democrats.
In this sleight-of-hand speech, Obama talked persuasively about the need to improve education, but he also wants floods of new immigrants coming into the country every year. Does he know how hard it has been for a great many schools to accommodate their children and still make some pretense of performing well?
There’s little question that immigrants with needed abilities can and do make a positive difference in America and that we can also absorb a smaller number of the unskilled and uneducated. But does Obama not see that we have to cut the numbers somewhere and that having fewer unskilled would also mean less poverty, less income inequality? Does he see no contradiction between wanting to prepare our young people with skills to flourish and still wanting to bring in scads of adults whose incapacities will keep them from flourishing?
Has it ever occurred to him that this tactic increases the number of unemployed and of people on welfare and that it is finally cruel to the immigrants themselves to bring them into such tough circumstances in a culture they barely know how to navigate? Some other points.
Obama talked about the energy boom as if he caused it when it is happening despite him. Remember the Keystone XL pipeline he did not want to build even though scientists had spent three years and filled eight volumes showing it was safe? He talked about cutting deficits while failing to mention that the potentially ruinous debt has grown under his watch by leaps, bounds and negligence.
But you’ve got to admire his performance. After his term is over, some TV network could make a billion with him.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune.