I was more interested than usual this year in the State of the Union Address, principally because I wanted to see how Obama was going to try to promote the economy and pledge to pare down the debt, but also increase government spending. The speech, in my opinion, was short in the way of economic specifics, although Obama called for a freeze on spending and certain targeted budget cuts, like defense, and ending earmarks, closing tax loopholes and subsidies to everyone's favorite demon, the big oil companies. '
I liked many of the things Obama said about increasing our international competitiveness, increasing focus on education and job creation, and especially innovation. But I sure wish this was the agenda that Obama came into office with, and had spent the last two years working towards, instead of doinking around with healthcare takeovers, global warming treaties, Asian carp czars, and tyring to be president of the world instead of the U.S. Let's not forget that for all his platitudes tonight, in my opinion Obama has spent the better part of the last two years tending to deny American exceptionalism, and killing programs that are exactly what he's now touting, like NASA's plan to return men to the moon. (h/t Drudge Report) So much for the "Sputnik moment" he mentioned. In the end, his track record is, shall we say, lacking at best.
Congressman Paul Ryan gave the Republican response, and I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed, at least on his delivery. He focused heavily on deficit reduction and reminded the nation that the huge deficits that we now face are in part due to the enormous spending increases under the Obama administration:
Our debt is the product of acts by many presidents and many Congresses over many years. No one person or party is responsible for it.
There is no doubt the president came into office facing a severe fiscal and economic situation.
Unfortunately, instead of restoring the fundamentals of economic growth, he engaged in a stimulus spending spree that not only failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs but also plunged us even deeper into debt.
The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25 percent for domestic government agencies — an 84 percent increase when you include the failed stimulus.
All of this new government spending was sold as "investment." Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9 percent and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt.
Then the president and his party made matters even worse, by creating a new open-ended health care entitlement.
Ryan continued from there, very calmly, matter-of-factly. Not a lot of fire and brimstone. But maybe given that Obama seemed to be lacking his usual spark as well, maybe it was just an overall understated evening, in part due to the recent tragic shooting in Tucson, which was mentioned by both Obama and Ryan, and an ever-present shadow over the speeches cast by an empty chair left in the congressional seating area (for Congresswoman Giffords who is still recovering) and many lapel pins honoring her present in the crowd.
I should also mention that Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann also gave a response to the SOTU on behalf of the Tea Party, but I just finished watching an interview with her on NBC, in which she complimented Paul Ryan's GOP response, and denied that her speech was in any way meant to be in 'competition' with the official Republican response.
UPDATED 1/26/11 6:4 am: Fox News does the math and Obama's spending ambitions aren't balanced by the opportunities to cut that he identified in his SOTU speech. Big shocker. We could pretty much tell that just by listening to it and doing the calculations in your head.
UPDATED x2 12:15 pm: I found this a most thoughtful recap and analysis of the SOTU.