The disturbingly static nature of Obama's vision is apparent when one parses his comments on the bipartisan fiscal commission headed by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, and its stark description of how entitlements are on a path to consume the private economy.
"I don't agree with all their proposals," Obama began, on what one can hardly call a positive note. On health care, he persists in claiming that Obamacare "will slow these rising costs," though every informed person knows that the claimed budget savings are the result of Democrats gaming the Congressional Budget Office's scoring system.
To which Obama added, "I'm willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs" -- which sounds a lot like, "I sure can't think of many."
And then there is Social Security. Obama calls for a bipartisan solution "without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans' guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market."
That's an outright rejection of the Pozen plan, which could eliminate much of the future shortfall by indexing the benefits of future high-earner retirees by prices rather than by wages. The Pozen plan would leave low-earners' benefits untouched and so would actually make the system more progressive. But Obama rejects this mild proposal out of hand.
If you put together Obama's resistance to just about any serious changes in entitlement spending with his antique vision of technological progress, what you see is an America where the public sector permanently consumes a larger part of the economy than in the past and squanders the proceeds on white elephants like faux high-speed rail lines and political payoffs to the teacher and other public-sector unions. Private-sector innovation gets squeezed out by regulations like the Obama FCC's net neutrality rules. It's a plan for a static rather than dynamic economy.
Obama's State of the Union did contain some inspiring acknowledgements of America's strengths. But the substantive policies he advanced seem likely to undermine them.