It’s the time of the year where the president lays out a grand new vision for the country, an innovative set of policy goals, and an inspiring message for a bright future.
Or at least, that’s what was supposed to happen. But Tuesday night’s State of the Union address fell flat with political commentators and the general public.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t a unique phenomenon. The State of the Union usually has little effect on public opinion. That being said, it is still interesting to note how an Obama administration promising changed politics has ended up perpetuating the same old pitfalls as before.
For example, the president claimed he would “act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects.” But where was such a commitment when he blocked the Keystone XL Pipeline? It would have created thousands of jobs.
On raising the minimum wage, Obama commented that it was beneficial to “not involve any new bureaucratic program.” Yet, on every other issue, the president has shown a deep skepticism for any policy initiatives that are not undertaken by the federal government. He wishes to push for universal pre-K education, jobs training, high-tech manufacturing, and family policies – all through government summits, committees, initiatives, and executive orders.
Instead of trying to change the country on his own, perhaps the president could pursue policies that made life easier for entrepreneurs blocked by excessive regulations, business owners oppressed by unfair taxation, and average families stuck in a cycle of poverty.
After all, he said it was “you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.” And yet, the president’s actions reflect a mindset that change can only happen in the way he envisions – through his presidential power of the “pen and the phone.”
One friend commented that “without regard to the policies and politics that are involved,” Obama had “awesome ideals to strive for.”
However, this comment misses an important point. Though nice-sounding goals are important, they sometimes forget the reality of a country with problems. Assuming away the disastrous consequences of well-intentioned government programs doesn’t automatically make them successful. When is the last time you described a politician as “a person who keeps promises?”
Political talking points usually don’t match up with the reality. We live in a real country with real consequences, and government action almost never measures up to the ideals.
If the president would focus on policies that let Americans flourish rather than singlehandedly undertaking summits and presidential commissions to advance his purposes, we could truly see the state of our union become much greater.
Danny Huizinga | Baylor University | @HuizingaDanna