Checking Obama’s State of the Union Speech

This will be a two-stage examination of President Obama’s State of the Union speech, starting with: Calvin Woodward, “Fact Check: Overreaching in State of the Union speech,” Associated Press, February 13, 2013.

1) When Obama said he has created 6 million jobs, he starts the count when job losses were the highest. He ignores the 5 million jobs lost on his watch. Private sector jobs have grown by 6.1 million since February 2010 but since he became president, the gain has been 1.9 million. Adding in public sector employment, the overall jobs gain has been 1.2 million.

2) “We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas.” The corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon — twice the average 27 miles per gallon today — won’t kick in until 2025. Changes won’t start to be made until model year 2017.

3) The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was claimed to be helping to reduce the growth of health care costs. The ACA has not fully kicked in and any reduction in costs may be due to the sluggish economy.

4) When Obama said pre-school education saves $7 later on for every $1 invested now, a Department of Health and Human Services study shows the efforts of pre-kindergarten programs have faded away by the third grade.

5) Obama couldn’t get climate change legislation enacted when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Regulation alone won’t achieve needed reductions.

Leaving aside specific fact checking and going into a somewhat more subjective critique of the SotU speech, one thing that really stands out is Obama’s changing and imbalanced views on the sequester. He once vowed that he would hold the GOP to the sequester terms but in his SotU speech he warned of sudden, sharp, harsh cuts and how the sequester hurts our military readiness. Obama was also apparently referring to the sequester when he said that the new programs he was advocating would not add “a dime” to the deficit, because of the agreement that had been reached. Any new programs will add to the deficit.

President Obama reiterated that the U.S. must have the best military the world has ever known and this position means that a bloated Pentagon will continue throughout the Obama years. He also pledged to strengthen missile defense, meaning that Obama will continue the Ronald Reagan Star Wars fantasy, which has cost over $150 billion during the last three decades.

In regard to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Obama said he is ready to cut Medicare benefits, specifically asking for more sacrifice from the wealthiest seniors; also, he said he is ready for more reforms in the three signature programs. Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) is leading aa effort among Democratic lawmakers to reject any benefit cuts.

In response to the rising tide of criticism about drone strikes, “kill lists” and indefinite detention, Obama spoke only about a durable legal framework to guide anti-terrorism efforts. Yet most critics of such excesses are much more concerned about violations of the Constitution and abandonment of enshrined principles of legal jurisprudence. If, as Obama said that al Qaeda is “a shadow of its former self,” shouldn’t we either end the War on Terrorism or scale it back to a sliver of our current actions?

In the next blog I will take up such topics as tax reform, gun control, housing and the right to vote.

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