State of the Union addresses, no matter who delivers them, have a peculiar “Oz” quality to them. The laundry lists of initiatives lie “somewhere, over the rainbow” — never to be reached.
With Barack Obama, this seems particularly true, perhaps for a reason unique to him. As The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger implied in his “Wonderland” column Thursday, the inevitable laundry list was window dressing — and not merely because there’s no money to pay for any of these costly legislative baubles, but because Mr. Obama wants it that way.
“Whether any of these laws and spending ideas — Fix-It-First, an Energy Security Trust, Paycheck Fairness — come to life, much less work, doesn’t matter,” Mr. Henninger writes.
“That’s not their first purpose. For Mr. Obama, the main thing is to join one or two real achievements, such as ObamaCare, to a laundry list of grandiose intentions and hope future historians conclude that what little he did and all that he dreamed made him a great man.”
With this in mind, let’s look at some of the initiatives the president rolled out Tuesday.
Gun control — Mr. Obama said that his cavalcade of victims “deserved” not a law (or two), but rather “a vote.” Thus, he understands the plethora of liberty-sucking sanctions are a legislative bridge too far, or little more than a visceral, emotion-laden rush to judgment, post-tragedy, that not only violates first principles but also ignores the complex animus for such ghastly events as Newtown. Passing a mess of new laws will do little, if anything, to stem gun violence.
Improving the “voting experience” — While some Americans — witness the 102-year-old Florida woman saluted by Mr. Obama at the State of the Union — stood in line hours to cast their ballots, the average waiting time nationally, so a recent study shows, was 14 minutes.
The war on terror — Al Qaeda reduced to a “shadow”? “Direct action taken” against terrorists posing the “greatest threat”? Perhaps Mr. Obama should have eliminated this portion of the speech mere days after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey all but said he vacated his role as commander in chief during the Benghazi crisis.
Education — The “race” to national standards? In the interests of traditional local control of the classroom, why not give states greater flexibility to implement reforms rather than saddle them with standards some have described as “mediocre”?
Afghanistan — A timetable for withdrawal, reiterated yet again. Instead, why not assess whether objectives have been met before pulling out? A war doesn’t end because someone says it should.
Infrastructure “investment” — Is there any reason to believe a “stimulus” will work now when it failed in 2009?
Climate change — No less an Obama apologist than Democratic strategist Kirsten Powers labeled the president’s prescriptive approach — the promise of Damoclean executive action — “despotic.” What’s more, such a regulatory power grab, not to mention the possible introduction of a carbon tax, stands in marked contrast to the president’s professed desire to improve the economy.
And finally, about our ecomomy ...
Minimum wage increase — Despite ample evidence to the contrary — i.e., as of 2011, a scant 0.66 percent of American workers made the minimum wage, with more than half of that number 25 years of age and below — the president would have us believe that families are struggling to earn their daily bread on $7.25 an hour. Not true. And it’s axiomatic that raising the minimum wage eliminates jobs — for the very people (young adults, particularly minorities) who need every opportunity to take that first step up the economic ladder. Raise the minimum wage, raise the unemployment rate. Is that what we want — with the jobless rate still hovering close to 8 percent?