Mark W. Hendrickson

On Tuesday evening, I had the honor of attending the State of the Union address as the guest of Congressman Mike Kelly (PA-03). Here are my impressions in abbreviated form:

The address seemed more like a rewrite of previous speeches than an original work. Sure, there were new anecdotes and fresh twists on old policy proposals, but the essential narrative remains: My predecessor messed up; none of your problems are my fault; I can make life fairer if Congress will approve my plans to increase federal spending and take more money from Peter to help Paul.

Even President Obama’s partisan allies seem to have wearied of the “same old, same old.” I was struck by how often the Democratic applause seemed tepid and tentative. (It sounded louder on the TV replay—amazing how electronics can create an illusion.) Statements that would have elicited enthusiastic cheers three years ago were met with uneasy silence. Yes, Democrats stood and clapped when the president mentioned one of their pet causes, but their efforts seemed forced, neither heartfelt nor genuine.

The president started and finished by paying tribute to our military and stating the truism that Americans can accomplish great things when we are united. Bravo. But in between those patriotic bookends was a dismal speech. Could the American people possibly be ignorant or gullible enough to accept all the fallacies and half-truths in this speech? Here is a sampling:

The president claimed that three million jobs have been created in the last 22 months. Perhaps. But how many jobs have ended during that same time period? Labor force participation is still trending down, and unemployment and underemployment remain so severe that 19 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 are living with their parents. These are not signs of a healthy job market.

President Obama promised no more bailouts, yet one of his pet causes is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that authorizes bailouts of “too big to fail” financial institutions. He promised no more handouts, yet in the same speech proposed handouts and subsidies to certain businesses, homeowners, etc.

He proposed increased government control over capital and banks. He wants to require banks to refinance mortgages on terms set by the government.

Mark W. Hendrickson

Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.