Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Open Thread On the SOTU Address, So Lets Mix It Up!...

Rational Nation USA
Purveyor of Truth

Tonight is open thread comment night here at Rational Nation USA with respect to the SOTU address. On the heels of the President's SOTU address last night, one in which the President laid out his progressive agenda for the remainder of his presidency, there is much for the advocates and the naysayers to "crow" about or "bitch" about. In this writer's view the speech was superbly delivered with some interesting ideas yet substance with respect to just how the nation is to pay for his aggressive progressive agenda was in short supply. In fairness to the President such is almost always the case.

The video, a highly truncated "sound bite" of the full SOTU address, along with the quoted text from VOX should provide sufficient impetus to get the juices and comments flowing.

1) The most striking sentence in President Obama's 2015 State of the Union came near the start: "Tonight, we turn the page."

2) It is the seventh year of Obama's presidency. But it's the first in which the economy is no longer in crisis. And so it's the first in which Obama's State of the Union proposals no longer reeked of crisis.

3) Obama's first address to a Joint Session of Congress — which was, basically, a stand-in State of the Union — came in February 2009; the unemployment rate was 8.3 percent. During the next State of the Union, it was 9.8 percent, then 9.2 percent, then 8.3 percent, then 8 percent, and then 6.6 percent.

4) We don't yet have unemployment data for January 2015. But according to the early numbers for December, the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent. And it's not just unemployment: the economy grew last quarter at a 5 percent annualized rate, and a gallon of gas is less than $2 in much of the country. The deficit is down, too.

5) Imagine if Mitt Romney was giving the State of the Union address amidst these economic numbers. The cheering wouldn't stop long enough to let him speak.

6) The "turn the page" line wasn't just rhetoric. It was policy, too. In every State of the Union since Obama took office, he has offered policy built for an emergency. It's been huge plans to rescue the financial sector or pump stimulus into a failing economy or deal with an unemployment crisis or beat back a rising tide of red ink.

7) But not this time. The tax increases Obama proposed in Tuesday's speech are simply there to pay for tax cuts for the middle class. It's a plan, and an agenda, that would have fit neatly into Bill Clinton's presidency — which is to say, it's the kind of plan Democrats offer when the economy is doing well rather than when it's doing poorly.

8) If there is a deeper crisis that the Obama administration is responding to, it's the crisis of labor-force participation. One reason unemployment is down to 5.6 percent is that millions of people have dropped out of the labor force — they've stopped looking for work, at least so far as the government can tell. That may be because they can't find it, or it may be because the work they can find simply doesn't pay enough.

9) The particular tax cuts Obama's proposing make work pay more. The government is basically subsidizing low-wage jobs. He's also trying to raise the minimum wage. Obama is also proposing to make college — particularly community college — cheaper, which is to say, he's trying to get more people to upgrade their skills so they can get better-paying jobs.

10) What's notable, too, is what wasn't in the speech: there was little about Obamacare. The omission was particularly notable given that open enrollment for Obamacare is ongoing, and the State of the Union offers President Obama the largest audience he's likely to have for a while. He could have directed people to the (smoothly functioning) marketplaces and bragged about how many have already enrolled. The absence of any serious discussion of Obamacare was clearly intentional — and fit a speech in which Obama seemed intent on looking forward to new problems and policies rather than backwards to older ones.

11) Even on foreign policy, Obama seemed freed from the shackles of past emergencies. While America still has some troops overseas, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are largely over. Russia's currency has collapsed, allowing Obama to declare a kind of victory against Vladimir Putin's various provocations in 2014, and Ebola has been beaten back from America's shores. There's even a thaw with Cuba.

12) There was one place, though, where Obama couldn't turn the page, and he knew it — American politics. Towards the end of his address, he revisited the promises of his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention, where he dismissed America's political divisions, and his 2008 campaign, where he promised to heal them.

13) "Our politics seems more divided than ever," he admitted on Tuesday. "It's held up as proof not just of my own flaws — of which there are many — but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it. I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong."

14) But unlike in the economy, where Obama could point to the falling unemployment rate, and unlike in foreign policy, where he could point to Putin's economic troubles or the new relationship with Cuba, here Obama couldn't turn the page. He could only hope that the page would, someday, be turned.

All relevant and thoughtful comments are welcome and encouraged, Regardless of which "side" they originate from. So, have at it folks, there is much room for discussion.

Via: Memeorandum


  1. The minimum wage comment he says" if this congress thinks they can support a family on 15,000 let them try"
    What an irrevelant statement and the millionaires in the audience actually cheered for that?

    1. How precisely is the statement irrelevant Lisa?

      Have you been living on $15,000 a year of late?

      By the way, the minimum wage, whether or not one agrees there should be a minimum wage has failed to keep up with inflation by a large margin.

      What do you suppose businesses would do if the minimum wage was repealed? I can easily imagine companies lower wages on entry level and unskilled labor.

      Obama was simply driving home a reasonably valid point. Not that the millionaire teapot republicans will think about it.

    2. It'irrelevant because he was saying it sarcastically like republicans really believe 15,000 is enough. So whatvis he saying that people who work at MacDonald's should be making 50,000 so they can support a family?
      If he is concerned he should just use his pen and his phone like he did on immigration
      Who said minimum wage should be repealed?
      Do you just like to make stuff up as you go along?

    3. And he acts like he has nothing to do with what is going on. Most companies pay more than minimum wage anyway . Minimum wage jobs are held by unskilled,uneducated workers. Maybe we should stop the influx of immigrant workers competing for American jobs .Of course that is politically incorrect for both sides.

    4. Lisa, Lisa, Lisa. President Obama is not saying workers at McDonalds should be making $50,000 per annum. That is a ridiculous question and you know it. You can run the numbers on what an unskilled entry level position would pay per anum if Obama's suggested MW increase becomes law.

      Where in my comment did I say anybody specifically said the MW should be repealed. I posed a hypothetical question and followed it with my opinion on what would happen if it were repealed.

      FYI, many hardcore libertarians believe the minimum wage should be scraped and the "free market" should determine the value of labor. You can find the info on the Libertarian Party web site. I believe the Koch brothers advocate for elimination if a forced MW standard.

      So, let me understand, you are saying if he is concerned he should use his presidential authority and sign an executive order raising the minimum wage? If so WOW!

      And no Lisa I do not like making stuff up as I go along. That is why I don't. I may make an error and when it is pointed out to me (with verifiable information from a reputable source) I acknowledge the error and am pleased to have learned something.

    5. Perhaps, Lisa should read this.

      "The share of low-wage workers with less than a high school degree fell by half, from roughly 40 percent in 1979 to roughly 20 percent in 2011. At the same time, the share of low-wage workers with a high school degree increased, from 35.4 to 37.0 percent, and the share with some college education (but not a four-year degree) rose dramatically, from about one-in-five (19.5 percent) in 1979 to one-in-three (33.3 percent) in 2011. By 2011, almost one-tenth (9.9 percent) of low-wage workers had a four-year college degree or more, up from 5.7 percent in 1979."

    6. I don't know Jerry. I mean Lisa would likely view it as inconvenient data and circular file it.

    7. Because they can't find a job related to their degree. I have seen managers have to take take jobs as cashiers.A four year degree isn't going to matter
      if you apply for a cashier position.
      So tell me RN who makes 15,000 a year and what should that worker be making to be able to support a family. I was using MacDonald's as an examle because that is the typ of work that pays 15,000 or a part time worker. So the 15,000 that Obama spouts is not the normal pay unless it is a fast food or chasier type of job

      you also not seem to realize that many of those workers are out of the workforce altogether.

  2. 'The address fulfills rules in Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, requiring the President to periodically give Congress information on the "state of the union" and recommend any measures that he believes are necessary and expedient.' As usual, I didn't watch or listen. But Obama is a good speaker and having no more political office he probably felt free to present his views about our problems and solutions, knowing well that they would be torpedoed, but laying groundwork for others
    to campaign on. IMO, our main problem is the ongoing disintegration of the middle class, which if it continues will relegate us to third world status. A two generations of well-meaning tax cuts failed to affect the problem (exacerbated it IMO) although that hymn continues to be sung widely. Our infrastructure is a disgrace, but we don't want to pay for it, even though it is necessary and would provide many good jobs. So, I suspect that whatever his speech, I would have liked it...and unless
    someone gets new and fresh ideas and does something, our next economic downturn will make the
    Great Depression look like fun times. Sorry, RN, I better quit before I get pessimistic.

    1. BB Idaho: I share your concern with the erosion of America's middle class. If the erosion continues, and there is reason to believe it will, American global strength and influence will be gone just as its properity will eventually disappear.

      It is difficult at times not to be pessimistic BB, but we must try to be optimistic. As a fiscal conservative I fail to understand how the Teapot folks don't see the flaws in their reason ing. If me and the misses ran our lives the way the republicans ran the country during the Bush years we'd be bankrupt and living on the streets.

      I worry for my children and grandchildren if the Teapot agenda ever becomes a full blown reality. In more ways than one.

  3. I agree with BB-Idaho. about the disintegration of the middle class. What my father accomplished as an Italian immigrant who came to this country with nothing was possible only because of the existence of the middle class. He worked hard and eventually owned his own business, built his own home, and sent his kids to college. He was a barber, and my mother a stay-at-home mom. Could a barber achieve the same today? I doubt it.

    I was able to stay at home and raise my children, and went back to work when they entered college (two salaries to get them through those years.)

    As BB-Idaho said, without the middle class, we will turn into a third world country. Why the GOP chose to not tackle infrastructure as part of our recovery is a mystery. Or maybe not. IMO, the GOP hates Obama more than they love this country.

    1. It is puzzling Shaw. It seems as though the ability to exercise reason is no longer present within the Teapot GOP.

  4. Had a bit of spare time, went by Lisa's blog. She posted on the same topic. An impressive 163 comments. By an unimpressive collection of grade school dropouts. Before I return there, I'll need
    a concealed carry permit (or at least a varmint license)

    1. Lisa's blog certainly has an inordinate amount of challenged (mentally and emotionally) individuals. Wait, on second thought it is more accurate to say challenged collectivists. Those folks fall all over themselves rushing to pat each other on the back over their collective group think.

      And the irony escapes them.

  5. I turned off the cable box and threw on "Touch of Evil" instead. I figured that, if I already knew the plot and ending, I should at the very minimum be entertained (so tired of Obama).

  6. Here is the impact of non-Federal taxes (defined as state and local taxes as a percentage of total income) by quintile:

    The poorest quintile (bottom fifth) pays on average 10.6%;

    The middle quintile pays on average 9.4%;

    The top 1% pays on average 5.4%.

    Most state and local governments rely on regressive taxes — particularly sales and excise levies. Poor and middle-class income earners pay more simply because they are forced to spend virtually all of their money just to cover basic survival costs such as food, healthcare, and housing, etc. (source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy).

    To burst another bubble, one would think property taxes would be more progressive – assuming luxury estates are taxed higher than other properties. In fact, the study finds that - here too - the wealthy pay the lowest in property taxes as a percentage of total income.

    It means regressive tax policies of state and local governments are actually exacerbating the problem of income equality.

    Regarding Federal taxes, need I list the many write-offs, unearned income tax credits, off-shore tax shelters, and other perks available to the highest income earners – Warren Buffet pays 17.5% on income estimated to be 200 times greater than his secretary, Debbie Bosanek, who pays a Federal income tax rate of 35.5% (discussion here).

    These data refute clichéd sound bites promoted by the GOP at the behest of their wealthy patrons. So-called “moochers and takers” pay the most in regressive taxes; tax concessions to the wealthy actually remove money from circulation and stifle economic growth; the poor and middle classes are forced to carry an increasingly unfair burden of government; and the so-called flat tax will only make matter worse.

    Meanwhile, the GOP obfuscates the issue with sound bites of “income redistribution” and “class warfare” to counter the evidence. Yet, there is an element of class warfare taking place in America - in the opposite direction: The wealthy are preying on everyone else.

  7. The poorest quintile (bottom fifth) pays on average 10.6%;

    The middle quintile pays on average 9.4%;

    The top 1% pays on average 5.4%.

    It would seem the top and bottom should flip.

    Although there is significantly more folks in the lower bracket that in the upper and it might create a loss of revenue.

    Simplify the tax code, eliminate deductions, plug the loopholes for the wealthy, and establish reasonable marginal rates that reasonable people find reasonable.

    Personally I've grown tired of the "screw the little guy" and the "soak the rich" mentalities. We should be able to figure this out and get it right.

    1. what is right then . Are we really one tax increase away from prosperity?

    2. I'll say it one more time, the American tax code is one screwed up document. It needs major simplification, closing of loopholes, and reasonable tax rates established. Frankly this discussion is growing stale because the people we elect to congress talk sh*t and have no real interest in tackling the issue/problem.

      We are out of control and heading towards an abyss. Just because I have issue with the Teapot Wing and Establishment Wing of the GOP and their hogwash does not mean I agree with the progressive economic agenda. I just happen to think there is a point somewhere in reality that you, folks at your site, and much of the conservatives of today need to get to. You might want to to start thinking outside of the box Lisa.

      I don't know Lisa, are we? What is right is creating solid, not built on sand prosperity. What rankles me is that the GOP refuses to accept any responsibility for economic disaster that started during the Bush years. But it is time to stop pointing fingers and get the job done. Frankly, I have little to zero belief it will happen. You see it every single day if you look.

    3. ""the concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution. In this view, all economic history is the slow heartbeat of the social organism, a vast systole and diastole of concentrating wealth and compulsive redistribution." -Will Durant
      "..and there is no new thing under the sun" -Ecclesiastes 1:9

  8. This study from Princeton University, The United States is No Longer an Actual Democracy, has some bearing on this discussion:

    Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the [researchers] conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.

    In short, economically wealthy and politically well-connected groups have far more substantial influence on government policy than average citizens, who have very little or no impact.

    Let’s look at this statement: “Strong economic growth raises all boats.” Economic data of the past 30 years demonstrates the opposite. Middle class wages have remained stagnant; real income adjusted for inflation has dropped; wage earners have lost political power and leverage; CEO compensation has climbed precipitously.

    The Citizens United decision exacerbates the problem. Papers entities are now considered legal persons, and money has become free speech. The result is a power imbalance away from the middle class that will be next to impossible to reverse. Hence, the findings of the Princeton Study: OLIGARCHY.

    1. Too bad they don't reference the actual study. I'd like to read more details.

  9. A strong economy SHOULD benefit all, especially the middle class who has been the real source of American strength.

    As it turns out CU is a plum for the special interests and uber wealthy.

    Oligarchy? Absolutely.

    It may be too late to save our democratic republic.

  10. RN: What do you propose? A simple reversal of that decision, the idea of "Move to Amend", or something entirely different?

  11. ''As it turns out CU is a plum for the special interests and uber wealthy". It certainly eases their agenda. It amazes that voters continue to believe that if the 1% do well, so will they, but that is the
    line, and it seems to sell well. We have seen an incredible transfer of wealth (the 'redistribution' so
    hated by the far RW) from the lower and middle income people to the 'uber wealthy), easily apparent
    in any graph or data set out there, and at best it bodes for some sort of neofeudalism of the 'let them eat cake' variety. IMO, we peaked back in the 50s-60s when the top marginal rates were much
    higher and he had a productive contented population and the rich still got rich. we eradicated polio
    and began the exploration of space. Now many believe Big Biz, but don't trust their own government;
    a harbinger sign of how muddled the thinking and gullible the folk who should be this country's bedrock. T.P. = Toilet Paper. CU = Corrupt Undoing.

  12. I believe your points pretty much nailed it BB Idaho.

    Capitalism is largly responsible for the birth of the great middle class and I find it ironic that it may very well be the middle classes undoing.

    It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how to save capitalism from sekf destructing and save the middle class at the same time.

  13. The way I see it, capitalism - as I recall from childhood – no longer exists. I recall a time when the middle class drove capitalism – in the form of small family-owned businesses such the neighborhood pharmacy, or the neighborhood grocery store, or the local luncheonette. The local grocery store (with real pickles in wooden barrels) is now a chain supermarket operated by Walmart ; the local pharmacy is CVS; the local coffee shop is Starbucks; and Darden operates the local restaurants.

    Small family-owned businesses are a vanishing species – having been replaced by mega retail chains. Big fish swallowed the little fish - or drove them out of business – and the universe of opportunity for the middle class shrunk or disappeared altogether – turning small owners/operators into wage earners.

    It is all too easy to look for scapegoats and ignore long-term changes in the marketplace that have long since passed from memory. Baby-boomers recall those days of small family-owned businesses; younger generations simply do not. There is a tendency to scapegoat government as perennially hostile to small business with burdensome paperwork, burdensome regulations, and burdensome taxes. These claims make opportunistic headlines for opportunistic politicians, but these sound bites ignore historical shifts within the private sector.

    Shall we discuss how concentrations of economic power have changed the political landscape? Tens of thousands of small business owners do not have the clout to influence public policy. But a handful of mega-corporations do; and the result is more economic privilege for the most privileged few who can afford to buy a politician. I think this explains the loss of middle class economic power in the post-war years – more than anything else.

  14. Legs,

    Small, family owned businesses are still around but to make it you almost have to be a specialty small business. When Walmart comes to town, small retail stores close because they can't get the local support. Government can't be blamed for that because it is what the consumer wants.

    Government regulations and banking rules are very costly to a small business and that can be blamed on the politicians because they are the ones who write them and approve them. Dodd/Frank bill has made it very difficult for small business to borrow.

    When possible I support locally owned businesses because I am one myself. Unfortunately most people don't and before long what we don't get from Walmart we will get from Amazon.

    1. Scud-the-Deadbeat,

      You have no call criticizing the government or Dodd/Frank or me just because your small business loan application can’t pass muster. Instead of wasting time here posting irrelevant comments, maybe your time would be better spent paying attention to your business and working on your credit-worthiness.

      In case you never noticed, credit markets crashed - causing the Great Recession of 2007-2008 – and the purpose of Dodd-Frank is to keep business loan welfare cowboys like you from trashing the economy again – at the expense of American taxpayers like me.

  15. Elisabeth Warren, who has an ax to grind, although a small and mostly unheard one, notes-
    “Between the 1930s and the late 1970s, 90% of all workers shared 70% of all income growth.
    Between 1980 and 2012, guess how much that 90% got? Zero” ...I'd lay it right at the feet of
    trickle-down economics. We've tried that experiment for 35 years and it hasn't worked.”

    Rana Foroohar
    in considering re-establishment of meaningful economic growth for middle income Americans observes- “Real change would mean grappling with a deep multi-decade shift from a
    society in which the state, the private sector and the individual all shared responsibility for economic risks to one in which individuals are now increasingly left on their own to pay for the trappings of
    middle-class life – health care, education and retirement- while corporations capture a record share
    of the country's economic prosperity with out necessarily reinvesting in the common good.”

    We note a slight glimmer of hope from some who recognize their bounty-
    “Dear Mr. President, Hon. Harry Reid and Hon. John Boehner,
    We are writing to urge you to put your country ahead of politics. For the fiscal health of our nation
    and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you increase taxes on incomes over $1,000,000.
    We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past have earned and income of $1.000.000
    per year or more. Our country faces a choice – we can pay our debts and build for the future, or we can shrink our financial responsibilities and cripple our nations' potential. Our country has been good to us.
    It provided a foundation through which we could succeed. Now, we want to do our part to keep that foundation strong so that others can succeed as we have. Please do the right thing for our country.
    Raise our taxes. Thank You- Patriotic MIllionaires "
    ---it goes without saying that all the folks above remain under attack and smear by, well, you know who.


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