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Lariat Letters: Response to State of the Union

Jan. 29, 2010

Response to State of the Union

First off, I would like to say that Barack Obama said some very good things last night. However, despite a few bits of promising rhetoric and some serious accomplishments, there are serious flaws in Obama's plan for this country.

On the positive side of things, Obama admitted that those who run corporations are, indeed, not evil. They are honest folks like you or me. In all seriousness, this is a big rhetorical step for a president whose first year in office has been mired by anti-business, anti-corporate sentiments both explicit and implicit.

It is clear that Obama has come to the understanding that without businesses, big and small, job creation is simply impossible. Perhaps he finally read that statistic that 77 percent of investors view him as an anti-business politician, but this is merely speculation.

My point is that Obama has heard or at least seems to have heard part of what conservatives have been saying all along. Businesses are a partner in civil society, not an enemy.

Obama did, however, go a step further with concern to business; he is now supporting and proposing a sweeping round of tax credits and cuts for small businesses, including some that are particularly aimed at promoting small business investment.

On whole, I fervently support tax cuts, particularly those aimed at business and the middle class (mind you, my ultimate goal is across-the-board tax reduction, but these segments of society are a good place to start), so this, too, struck me as a remarkable step in the right direction.

However, a thought soon began to ruminate in the back of my mind (especially as Obama's tax cut spree started to make him sound like Bush or Reagan) -- Where is this money going to come from?

The only thing worse than not lowering taxes is lowering taxes without cutting an equal or higher amount of the budget. Just as soon as these thoughts began to go through me into a deficit-inspired depression, Obama once more offered a solution. He is going to institute a three-year spending freeze beginning in 2011. "Wow" was about all I could come up with in that moment. Mind you, there are some practical problems concerning Obama's debt-reduction program, (and it is coming next year as opposed to this year) but all in all this represents yet another positive step.

Finally, I should mention that Obama's comments on foreign relations were only marred by implying that he ended the Iraq war. Although Obama has presided over the implementation of the troop withdrawal, the document authorizing it has George W. Bush's name -- not Obama's -- on it.

Now, on to the negative. My biggest single problem with the speech was a series of rhetorical sleights-of-hand meant to attack conservatives and businesses without actually attacking them. Despite the steps I mentioned above, it was somewhat clear throughout the speech that Obama favors government over private enterprise.

He continued to blame banks almost entirely for the current crisis. Blame for the situation should be spread across banks, government and normal people who took out remarkably unsafe loans. By continuing to obscure the complexity of the situation by directing populist anger against banks and businesses in general, Obama does the American people a grave disservice.

He proposed a debt forgiveness program that favored government workers over their private brethren. Obama also continued to focus anger at the rich in general, building off Biden's belief that they aren't doing their share tax wise. Obama announced that there would be no extension on wealthy tax cuts, stating that they can afford to pay to end the deficit. Finally, Obama stirred some anger against conservatives in Congress. He remarked brightly about the optimism and positivity of the Democratic Party. He talked about a coming together. He announced that just saying no is not leadership. He spoke about the courage to propose something.

The implicit meaning of all of these statements is that Republicans are cowardly obstructionists who oppose his policies just to oppose them. I have no doubt that in the back of his mind he blames Republicans (rather than his own missteps) for the disaster that was his 2009 political docket. The anger and frustration stemming from this blame above all else makes itself apparent in his speech. It is in the rhetoric that I find the most to be angry about.

Obama should recognize the difficulty in a true conservative position. It is easy to propose a project that claims to help millions of Americans at a lower cost than the current system. It is difficult to tell those same Americans that such a plan offends the liberty of others and, as such, cannot be. It is easy to follow the progressive path that claims to lead to a land of peace, equality and happiness. It is difficult to follow the traditions of the past hoping they will bring the long-term goals they always have. In short, it is easy to follow the lead. It is difficult to stand up and say "No, You Can't."

Jeffrey Vitarius
Economics '11