A CBS snap poll from last night showed 76 percent of viewers had a favorable view of the President’s annual State of the Union address. In an increasingly polarized and tribal America, the fact that three-quarters of viewers agreed on something—much less came away with a positive view of what a politician said—is conclusive proof that miracles indeed still occur if one knows where to look.
The President talked a lot about immigration and border security, foreign affairs, policies enacted over the past two years he believes were successful (tax cuts, the regulatory rollback, criminal justice reform, etc.), and highlighted the contours of future initiatives which seem more than a little dubious. Minus the focus on immigration, it was all fairly boilerplate for a State of the Union address.
Which is what made it such a jarring change of pace for a President known for his, uh, unique style.
That stated, there were at least five critical things that Americans needed to hear from the President that went unaddressed.
The Economy Is Roaring (But It’s Living on Borrowed Time)
The latest jobs report posted last week brought phenomenal news. Despite the longest government “shutdown” in history, Americans created 304,000 new jobs to begin the year. With this news comes a slew of positives. There’s record low unemployment in minority communities. There are more women being hired than ever before. And for recent college graduates, the past few years have been as robust as any in recent memory for finding a job.
However, the ongoing trade wars are beginning to take a toll on growth, closing down export markets overseas, increasing the costs of goods and services, and inflicting significant economic pain on key U.S. industries like agriculture and construction.
The Government “Shutdown” Did Not Slow Economic Growth
As mentioned, despite the hyperbole and acrimony from pundits, the media, and a slew of politicians, the partial government “shutdown” failed to slow economic growth. This is important for Americans to understand. And for a media that craves drama, it’s obviously a point they want to obfuscate.
The New York Times said the economy “shrugged off” the shutdown. Well, of course it did. That’s because the federal government still doesn’t create jobs despite how vast and intertwined it’s become in our daily lives.
The regulatory rollbacks enacted by Congress and the White House back in 2017—combined with a lower corporate tax rate due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—has helped jump start what was an anemic recovery for most of the Obama years.
When government is pulled back, people prosper. When government is slowed down, people prosper too.
Washington Needs to Matter Less
The President took a direct shot at the fad du jour of socialism in his speech. He rightly pointed out that America was founded (and its success largely predicated) on liberty and independence and not government coercion.
When mandates and regulations are enacted from Washington, freedom naturally contracts. Whether that’s being told what your health insurance has to look like as Obamacare has done, coercing states and schools into adopting one-size-fits-all curricula as Common Core was designed to do, or government bureaucrats dictating what kind of light bulbs we have to use in our own homes, more power for Washington means less power for the rest of us.
Thus, it was stunning to hear the President decry socialism yet press for a new federal child care program that would put D.C. in the middle of something as personal and critical as how families care for our children while we work.
Humans have been figuring out how to care for their children and work since the dawn of time without government assistance. In the 21st Century, with a market and economy as strong as the one we have now and technological innovation happening at a clip that few can keep up with, such an idea is not only at odds with the President’s stated agenda, but completely unnecessary.
Hard pass, Mr. President.
The Debt Bomb Is Ticking
The national debt sits at $22 trillion. This figure does not include unfunded liabilities from programs like Social Security and Medicare. Therefore, the real number is far closer to $100 trillion.
The President failed to address this last night. As former Secretary of Defense Mattis stated—and potential presidential candidate and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz pointed out last week—the national debt is the number one domestic threat that America faces.
The debt bomb is ticking. When the burden from Washington politicians spending money we don’t have from people who’ve yet to be born reaches a critical mass, with interest on the debt soon-to-be exceeding defense spending, the economy will crumble.
If spending isn’t cut. If budgets aren’t balanced. If programs aren’t phased out or put in the hands of states to administer, the economic boom will screech to a halt.
And that’s a best-case scenario.
It’s Time to End the State of the Union Theatrics
The State of the Union address is an opportunity for the President to speak to the American people about his or her vision, the challenges we face, and the state of our country. It is also outdated and largely theatrical.
Politicians perform for the cameras and the audiences behind them.
The Constitution only requires that the President, “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
In 2019, the President could send an e-mail and have completed his constitutional obligation.
We’d save money from the security cost such an event requires. And we’d spare ourselves from the nauseating reminder that as both parties cheer, boo, or make faces, we’re largely governed by toddlers.