Assorted Notes About State of the Union

"The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress."

Who else noticed that some of the progress that the president pointed out was not really all that impressive when you look at it closely. Yes, the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 5 years, but the labor force percentage is the lowest it has been in over 35 years.

Then there is the oil boom of the last few years. This is not a result of administration policies, but in spite of them. New technologies have given us (well, not you and me "us," unless you happen to be a engineer for Exxon or BP, but "us" as in the country) the ability to drill oil from wells that were inaccessible just a few years ago.

Even the line about our deficits being cut by half is not really all that impressive when you look at it. First off, what year is he using as a baseline? Weren't 2008 and 2009 really incredibly bad years for deficits because of TARP and the stimulus (Didn't Tarp and the Stimulus open for Fall Out Boy at Ravinia in '03?) Cutting in half a redwood still leaves a lot of lumber to deal with.

"Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home."

I agree that corporate tax rates do need to be cut. Ours are among the highest in the world right now and could easily be cut in half. In fact, I would even be happy to see a tax amnesty for companies bringing money that they have money earned overseas here to be invested in the U.S.

I must admit that I sense a bit of disingenuousness in the president on this one. I really don't think he is all that interested in cutting business taxes or making it easier for them to re-locate to the U.S. And when he says ending loopholes, what he really means is seeing companies pay more for their foreign investments. This tactic is much more stick than carrot. Besides, when you have a National Labor Relations Board that vetoes Boeing opening up a plant in North Carolina, you can hardly be said to have a real interest in attracting investors or creating jobs. If you are going to treat domestic businesses that shabbily, why would foreign investors want to come here?

"Moreover, we can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs..."

Here President Obama is still speaking about the tax reform to close the loopholes that encourage companies to move operations overseas. He wants to use that money to help build better infrastructure.  I just want to point out that tax reform does not save the government any money, and it is contemptible to even suggest so. There is only one way to save money, and that is to not spend it. Either you forgo certain goods or services so you can keep the money, or you find those goods and services for a cheaper price. What the president really means here is that we can use money from increased tax revenues for other purposes.  Please note that this is the same paragraph that the president promises to cut back on bureaucracy to streamline projects getting approved. I honestly think that bureaucracy is on President Obama's list of "My Five Favorite Things in the World."

"Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do."

 Once again the President is speaking like all money that you or a company does not pay in taxes is a gift from the government. If you think that oil, coal and natural gas companies aren't paying their fair share of taxes, say so, but don't say the tax code is giving them money.  It is particularly galling in this instance, since more of the money you pay for a gallon of gas goes to the government than to oil company profits. Are there actual direct subsidies to fossil fuel companies? Yes, but they don't amount to $4 billion, and they would not be ended by "a smarter tax policy."

There is also the matter that subsidizing any industry has its problems. The price of corn is artificially high because of subsidies for ethanol, (companies developing ethanol pay more for the corn, meaning all corn prices go up.) even though, as energy sources go, ethanol is terrible. Not just bad, but terrible. I mean the type of terrible that needs to be said in Charles Barkley's voice. This actually effects the price of all food, as farmers see the profitability of corn and switch from other crops, like wheat, to grow corn. Now there is less wheat available so the cost goes up. Also, as far as subsidies go, wind and solar power get far more in subsidies per kilowatt hour produced than any fossil fuel.

"Today, women make up about half our workforce.  But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work."

First of all, female advisors in the White House earn less than the males. Remove the beam from your own eye before trying to get the speck out of your brother's eye. That 77% is a bit misleading. Outside of he White House, males and females with the same job experience and same degree of responsibility tend to get paid about even.

"In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty."

So he is going to sign an executive order that affects absolutely nobody. Government contractor jobs aren't generally the type that pay minimum wage, even to the people who wash dishes in military dining facilities. For the private sector, there is always the possibility that an increase in the minimum wage means fewer jobs. In a business that has ten minimum wage employees, the cost for the business in wages will be about $80.00 an hour. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will raise those costs to about $110.00 an hour.  To keep costs about the same, the company would have to fire three employees, or they could raise prices to try to cover the difference, or a combination of the two.What happens if raising prices causes business to slack off? Would the loss of revenue result in even more lost jobs?

"Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote." 

Then you should support Voter ID laws.
This is not because identification makes it more difficult to vote, but because it helps prevent fraud and gives people the assurance of a fairly run election.

Personally, I think we are trying to make it too easy to cast a ballot these days. While I can find a way to grudgingly tolerate "early voting," (even though it does put the local precincts in a jam to get volunteers, or even paid personnel, to man the polls,) I do not like the idea of computer voting. That is just a situation begging for fraud.

My ideal situation is for all states to periodically clear out the voting registration records and require everybody to register every few years. Citizens would be required to actually show up at the town hall or courthouse to register. No motor voter, no ACORN voter registration drives that are carnivals of fraud.

To go with this, I would like to see states waive fees for vital records. There is already a requirement for states to issue free identification cards if they require ID at the polls to vote, but they need to go further than that. Sometimes vital records are hard to acquire, so replacement birth certificates should also be free.

I support better methods for ensuring military members and people traveling away from home get the chance to vote by absentee ballot, but there needs to be safeguards to ensure that these ballots are not abused.

"When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, all our troops are out of Iraq."

And now al Qaeda has control of Fallujah.

Besides Fallujah, the president also seemed to neglect the fact that there have been two separate accidents recently that involved trains carrying oil. It sure would be nice if that Keystone XL pipeline were build to avoid that type of thing. No mention of the numerous people who had health insurance a month ago who no longer do. Nothing about the NSA (yes, he gave a speech on the subject last week, but this is the SOTU, it deserved mention.) No mention of the IRS targeting conservative groups. Surprisingly, when he was speaking about his hopes to do an end around the 2nd Amendment, he didn't say anything about stand your ground laws, and he didn't try to twerk, so it could have been worse.

The only part of the speech that was really worth paying attention to was the end when he was speaking about SFC Cory Remsburg. Obama actually did a pretty good job at speaking out about SFC Remsburg, his service and his struggles and courage during recovery. It was a very nice tribute to a the man, and a wonderful way to end a long, droning, not overly well delivered speech.

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