State of The Union 2011
I watched the State of The Union last night, and there were a lot of good things said by The President. While it didn’t delve into details, I felt that the direction he wants to move is a positive one, and I hope the changes that need to be made can be accomplished. I completely agree that as a nation, we are at a turning point, a “Sputnik” moment as The President mentioned. This is our chance to make meaningful change and put our feet on solid ground and get ready for the future.
Some of what I thought were highlights and my thoughts on them are…
1) Elimination of the Oil subsidies – When I heard this, I was both shocked and amazed. Congress has been subsidizing the oil industry for years. Those oil companies haven’t needed the tax dollars for years. Last time I heard, the oil companies were doing just fine. In fact, several of them had their best year ever in 2010 with billions of dollars in profits…not revenue, but real profits. With that much money, they no longer need any government subsidies. Mr. President, that is the best idea I have heard from any politician from either side in years.
2) Education – It’s no secret that we have very poor schools around the country, along with high drop out rates and abysmal test scores. We need to make schools and teachers more accountable for the students they teach. We need to encourage teachers to teach better and get rid of those teachers who don’t, even if it means angering the teachers unions. Only by doing so can we achieve better graduates and be better prepared for the challenges of the future.
3) Infrastructure – The President was spot on that our infrastructure is in serious need of repair and renovation. The President’s proposal to repair the infrastructure is a great idea. This will not only help the hard hit construction industry, but help get the nation on a sound base for future growth. The use of high speed rail in this country could not only more people around the country, but goods as well. This is something that will benefit us all and I see it as something we should work toward in the near future, not decades away.
4) Corporate Tax code – This is a huge step forward, if it can be done. If the tax code can be rewritten and loopholes eliminated, then the tax can be lowered because more tax income will be received instead of it being hidden offshore or sent through other countries. Once the corporate tax rates are lowered, that will hopefully free up more investment and expansion capital that will encourage job growth.
5) Review of Government Regulations – As much as people may not want to hear this, I feel that there are a lot of good and sound regulations. There are also tons of wasteful and overreaching ones as well. A top to bottom review to see what is needed and what is not makes sense and will save money in the long term. It will also help to encourage a more common sense approach to lawmaking that can spur growth and innovation without the government getting in the way. If we want to move forward, this makes a lot of sense and I hope this gets done in a hurry.
The President also stated that in the coming months he will submit a proposal to reorganize the government in a much more efficient way. When he mentioned this proposal, I saw what looked like a pleased look cross Speaker Boehner’s face. I think this is something that he supports as well and I don’t want to see this getting drowned in bi-partisan bickering. If this is coupled with the changes in the tax code for both citizens and corporations, along with the review of regulations, I can see an America that is out of our current depression, back on a very solid financial footing, and with our infrastructure repaired we are a nation that is ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century.
6) Health Care Reform – He advocated what I have already stated before, that the Affordable Health Care Act is a good start but it is not perfect. Instead of repealing it completely lawmakers should sit down and fix what doesn’t work, starting with the unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses mentioned by President Obama. I also do not want to see this nation go back to the days where insurance companies were the real “death panels” – denying care and coverage because of preexisting conditions or treatments deemed too expensive. We all deserve better care and the Affordable Health Care Act does that. There is no need to repeal it when it can be fixed.
He also mentioned real medical malpractice reform as a way to reign in rising health care costs. If tort reform can actually be accomplished, this will help reduce health care costs across the board. I honestly have my doubts about the success of real tort reform since most of the lawmakers are lawyers, a lot of whom benefit from the way things are now.
7) Deficit – The President rightfully stated our more serious issue, the mounting deficit and the need to correct the simple fact that the government spends more than it takes in. One of his ideas is to freeze domestic spending for the next five years, including military spending. I see some problems with this right out of the gate, as he did not want this to cause an undo burden on the poor. One of the largest portions of domestic spending is on entitlement programs. If the cuts that need to be made to keep spending at these levels is too deep, then you burden the poor too much. He also mentioned that domestic spending is a very small portion of our budget and if we are serious about cutting the deficit, we need to not only make smart and meaningful cuts, but to also end unneeded tax cuts and other tax loopholes.
Social Security is another large portion of the budget that needs a serious looking at, and The President said he wanted to do so but not at the cost of those currently receiving benefits. There are varying reports about the solvency of Social Security, and I agree that this is a program that should not be handed over to the whims of the stock market and the financial sector. We need to protect this important program, and the promise that it is to not only those hard working Americans that are currently receiving benefits, but to those who are currently working and for those who will be working in the decades to come.
8 ) Tax cuts for the wealthy – This was wrong ten years ago and it is wrong now. If there is anything that needs to be repealed immediately, it is the waste of money that is the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy. I agree that if someone earns a lot of money, that they are entitled to it, but in this time where we all need to tighten our belts and make sacrifices for our fellow Americans, the wealthy have seen their fortunes rise far faster than anyone could of ever imagined. The government give away that is the Bush Era Tax Cut has done absolutely nothing to either reduce the deficit or produce jobs. During the past decade, this country has seen the slowest job growth that has ever been recorded, and it did so with the largest tax cut in history to the wealthy. There is no reason those tax cuts need to continue and by repealing them back to Clinton era levels (which by the way is a paltry 3 – 5% increase) it will bring needed tax dollars to the federal government and help reduce the deficit.
Overall his speech was definitely made to the center-left rather than to either side and done so with a definite lack of any bi-partisanship. It was a more CEO type of speech, which was designed to build unity and morale. There were statements and ideas made that both sides can like but the real test of the new-found unity will be how much both sides will put away the venom and rhetoric and actually work on the real problems that face us as a nation.
I’ll be talking about the Republican and the “Tea Party” responses in another post, but until then let me know what you thought about the President’s speech.