I didn’t watch the SOTU tonight. I fell asleep (a medication thing). I caught the last 5 minutes when he was doing the “Introducing Heroes” Segment and then signing autographs (!!! WTF?). It was inspiring that there are still people, some of them Congressmen, who want his signature on a piece of paper that isn’t his resignation.
But fortunately – or not, depending on your viewpoint – his speech is already in text form all over the internet, so even though I won’t be able to offer any feedback on his affect (he seemed pretty up when he was signing his name), I will be able to comment on the substance of his speech.
Here is that substance:
How’d you like it?
The BAD NEWS is that every item in his 7-point “domestic agenda” is either:
- a) undoable
- b) irrelevant or
- c) actively destructive
But not to worry. The GOOD NEWS is:
IT WAS ALL A PACK OF LIES.
“Energy independence”? He’s been saying the same thing for 5 years and as soon as the speech is over, it’s like it never happened. The possibility that he will EVER do something that would hurt his friends in the oil industry is, as Bret Easton Ellis (or Ellis Easton, I can never remember) would say, “Less Than Zero”. It was A LIE.
“Cutting the deficit and balancing the budget”? Only if you don’t count the $$$hundred of BILLIONS$$$ being spent on the Second Gulf War, and if you don’t that makes it A LIE.
“Naming judges”? A sop to his shaky conservative base and a plug for Newt’s newest ego trip. Another LIE.
“Using tax policy to pay for health care”? A shell game, and a deadly destructive piece of his Ownership Society Scam if it was ever passed. Here’s the relevant portion, verbatim:
Tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Families with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills.
Let’s say you’re a family of 4. You wouldn’t have to pay taxes on $15,000 of your income. At a rate of, say, 25%, that would put an extra $4500 or so a year in your pocket. Divided by 12, that’s less than $400/month to pay for a private plan. Even a modest family health plan will cost you 2 to 3 times that much. Not a lot of help. Anyway, I thought conservatives were against using tax policy to subsidize social policy?
But the truly insidious element is in the unspoken subtext: what this proposal basically does is offer cover to the corporatocracy so it can decide to stop offering health care to its employees. Why should it?
“Now employees can buy a private plan and pay for it themselves, right? Well, they’re paying $400/mon for our corporate-subsidized plan anyway and the govt will let them keep another $400, so there’s your $800/mon for a modest plan, and what do they need us for? They don’t. End of problem. Alright, so a modest plan probably won’t cover shit like surgery and extended hospital stays, and certainly won’t cover drugs or pre-existing conditions (and everything’s a pre-existing condition to an insurance company, just ask them), but what’s that to us? We can quit paying all that money to insurance companies and put it in our own pockets.”
This is potentially a major boost in the Great Risk Shift, taking a tremendous burden off corporations and dumping it straight onto the backs of its workers under the guise of “helping” them, while at the same time ensuring that greedy, inefficient but profitable insurance companies will stay in control of our health care system. It’s not just insidious. It’s evil.
But none of this matters, really, because HE ISN’T GOING TO LIFT A FINGER TO DO ANY OF IT.
I haven’t heard anybody but me say this, but has everybody forgotten that presidents used to, you know, work on their agendas? That they used to call people on the phone and lobby them? Call them up to the Oval Office and pressure them? Horse trade, twist arms, all that shit? Aside from taking the Pub leaders to Camp David once and having a meeting in the White house with Pub leaders when he was trying to sell his tax cuts (singing to what you might call The Choir considering the conspicuous absence of the opposition), this president has acted like a president only once in his term-and-a-half. He’s not going to start breaking a sweat now. Not for any of this domestic crapola.
In short, he doesn’t mean it and he isn’t going to do any of it but we will dutifully spend the next few days – or weeks – talking about it as if he were, wasting time when more important things need to be done.
Like on Iraq.
D’yah remember Iraq?
In the 6th year since our Nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers have ended. They have not. And so it remains the policy of this Government to use every lawful and proper tool of intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, and military action to do our duty, to find these enemies, and to protect the American people.
Translation: “We don’t care if you don’t like illegal wiretaps, illegal searches and seizures, illegal detentions, illegal renditions, or illegal torture because we say anything I do as Emperor is automatically ‘lawful’ and that means we can go right on doing them. Stuff it.”
A little later, after some more guff about “victory”, comes this little gem:
Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next 5 years. A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. And it would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time.
A hundred thousand new soldiers and a “volunteer” Civilian Reserve Corps? What the hell is that? Barbara O’Brien, live-blogging the speech, explains it neatly:
Volunteer civilian reserve corps? Let me guess — it’ll save Halliburton from having to pay people.
Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?
The end is horseshit: he wants to help the people of Darfur but he isn’t going to intervene; he wants to fight AIDS in Africa but he hasn’t coughed up the money he’s already promised, and anyway it will all go to abstinence-only programs and they don’t work; he wants to fight malaria but not with money. Candy and cake, maybe.
All-in-all, an unsurprising laundry list of feel-good promises, unrealistic expectations, DOA proposals, and one really nasty, dangerous pro-corporate attack on the middle class that’s the only thing he may be serious about.
IOW, The Usual.
Cut. Print. Move to the next photo-op.