President Barack Obama did as expected in his State of the Union address — effectively and optimistically praising the country’s strengths — but there was an underlying theme in his speech that also exhibited an unyielding faith in government spending that is in stark contrast with his Republican opposition.
That contrast, including the question of whether to increase tax revenues, has been at the heart of partisan disputes in Washington, D.C., for the last three years, and may explain why many of Obama’s past State of the Union pledges have not materialized.
If we are being realistic, that result should be expected again in the coming year.
The president made no fewer than 15 references to manufacturing and the importance of private sector jobs. He talked about pushing more than 500 regulatory reforms to enhance the country’s business environment, and made other comments suggesting that the White House puts a priority on the private sector.
But in reality this administration has been all about spending and expanding the scope and reach of government to the tune of $9.4 trillion since 2009. Under President Obama’s watch, we have also added more than $4 trillion to a national debt that now exceeds $15 trillion, making the U.S. the brokest nation in world history.
While Obama said he’s taking measures to create “smarter, more effective government,” Republicans don’t agree with that rhetoric.
“The President’s grand experiment in trickle-down government has held back rather than speed economic recovery,” asserted Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels in his GOP response. “He seems to sincerely believe we can build a middle class out of government jobs paid for with borrowed money.”
As he has in the past, the president made multiple references to millionaires and billionaires and companies “paying their fair share,” only later to say that only those making less than $250,000 a year should not see their taxes go up.
That made it clear that Obama’s Democrats are still hell bent on raising taxes in a variety of ways, while Republicans stick with their position that spending is the problem in Washington, not revenue. Daniels, in one proposed solution, called for “a dramatically simpler tax system (with) fewer loopholes and lower rates.”
In addition to talking about regulatory reform, Obama also pledged that he will sign an executive order “clearing away the red tape that slows too many construction projects.” He referred to past grand accomplishments such as the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge and federal highway system, without acknowledging the reality that those types of projects would most likely be blocked by his environmental supporters in today’s world.
One need look no further than Obama’s recent decision to deny permitting for the Keystone XL pipeline project.
The president referred to Republican opposition to his agenda, promising to “fight obstruction with action,” but Daniels defended the Republican House.
“They and they alone have passed bills to reduce borrowing, reform entitlements and encourage new job creation, only to be shot down time and again by the president and his Democratic Senate allies,” said Daniels, correctly referring to House legislation that has been stymied by a Senate that has failed to even pass a budget for 1,000 days.
The State of the Union address and the GOP response illuminated the vastly differing views and governing philosophies of Obama’s Democratic Party and Republicans. For voters, this unprecedented clarity should be a valuable thing. Despite rhetoric that sometimes creates the impression that the two parties aren’t that different, there should be no confusion about how truly far apart they are.