Quick Thought on the State of the Union
Listen, I know you all don’t read this blog to hear me opine about national issues. God knows how many people are better qualified and present better informed, more interesting perspectives on these issues, but we all know there are plenty. Still, for a moment, please indulge me.
I nearly threw up I was so disgusted during the portion of the State of the Union where President Obama spoke about how the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords showed people in Washington the value of bipartisanship. The reason this bugged me so much was that the speech itself was a testament to how this is not the case, which means instead of paying homage to this woman and talking about how we have all changed because of what happened to her, her tragedy was, once again, being blatantly exploited to score political points.
I know this might seem counterintuitive, considering how milquetoast the whole speech was, but the issue is much more what he wound up not saying than what he said.
The single biggest issue facing us right now is our unfunded pension liabilities. It’s just a matter of simple math. Social Security keeps 57% of seniors out of poverty, and it’s going to be out of money in 14 years. Right now unfunded liabilities (meaning the amount we’d need to have right now, invested and bearing returns) are about the same amount as all of the money in the world. Every day it goes unaddressed those liabilities increase by millions of dollars.
To his credit, President Obama seems to recognize this. He has on multiple occasions praised Paul Ryan for his work on the subject, and his deficit commission was surprisingly substantive. On January 16th, just over a week before the State of the Union, he was pledging to reform entitlements.
Then partisanship got to work. It started with a letter from 33 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus begging Obama not to touch entitlement reform. Why, you ask? Because Democrats want to be able to beat up Republicans for trying to work with Democrats to make Social Security sustainable. They value the issue more than keeping entitlements working.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the master political strategist for Senate Democrats, wants to turn Ryan into a bogeyman that voters think about whenever they hear about a Republican proposal to cut federal spending…
“This is an initial volley in a three-day effort — 72-hour window — to try to muddle Paul Ryan’s foray onto the national scene,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. “We want to make the House Republicans or Republicans at large own his roadmap and what it would entail for Social Security.”
The letter was sent on Monday. And guess what Dear Leader was going on Tuesday!
President Obama has decided not to endorse his deficit commission’s recommendation to raise the retirement age, and otherwise reduce Social Security benefits, in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, cheering liberals and drawing a stark line between the White House and key Republicans in Congress.
Over the weekend, the White House informed Democratic lawmakers and advocates for seniors that Obama will emphasize the need to reduce record deficits in the speech, but that he will not call for reducing spending on Social Security – the single largest federal program – as part of that effort…
So that’s how the worst kind of partisanship led to the creation of the speech you heard last night. And yet somehow the President was still able to bring himself to talk about how the shooting of Rep. Giffords showed them how they are part of something bigger than party.
I’m a pretty cynical guy, but last night was a new low.
- Obama Pledges to Strengthen Social Security (money.usnews.com)
- Obama won’t propose cuts to Social Security in State of the Union (americablog.com)
- State Of The Union Speech 2011: Republicans Respond By Urging Obama To Cut Spending (huffingtonpost.com)
- Social Security Backers on Alert (businessweek.com)
- SOTU: Obama Makes a Muscular Defense of Social Security, But Aligns with Wall St. on Exporting Our Jobs (alternet.org)
- Republicans urge Obama to join in cutting spending (sfgate.com)
- State of the Union response by GOP calls for spending cuts, deficit control (pennlive.com)
- House progressives press SOTU message: “Hands off Social Security!” (dailykos.com)