SOTU – In Retrospect

I have not yet read through my notes taken during the President’s State of the Union address last night. They are somewhere in state between chaotic and unprintable, so this is nothing more than an overview and a bit of editorial.

I am concerned about several things in the President’s SOTU address last night. First and foremost is his intransigence on the health care bill, recently repealed by vote of the people’s representatives in the House. More of “just wait… you’ll love it.” And the bashing of insurance companies. “I will not allow insurance companies to go back to declining coverage for pre-existing conditions…” Belief does not an expert make. Yet, the President appears to believe that just by wishing to have every person covered for whatever reason should make it so. Obviously, no concern for costs, increased coverage premiums for those that pay. He seems to believe that by wishing those costs to not exist, they will simply disappear.

His emphasis on green jobs is scary. Like many more trillions of dollars scary: 80% of our energy from clean sources by 2035? That means coercion through regulation and fines and forcing higher priced energy on the American public. More shared sacrifice. It is also another case of government attempting to pick winners and losers and set the rules of the game to benefit a few at the expense of the American public.

He wants to take the “billions of dollars we give to the oil companies” and give them to researchers for work in developing better, more efficient means of producing these clean energy sources. This idea raises several questions to my mind. First of all, where did he arrive at that number of billions? Is that from tax breaks provided to oil companies? If so, that does not constitute money we have available to, in effect, transfer from one account to another. Removing those tax breaks will inevitably result in higher prices for those energy sources. The American consumer will foot the bill for those higher prices while at the same time fund those additional billions of dollars for new research and technologies.

The tax breaks are the same type of tax breaks offered to other businesses and include depreciation and other costs of doing business.

We should allow the free market to encourage those companies and other innovators to do their own research into alternatives and find ways to bring those products to the court of public opinion to potentially live or die on their own merits, and not with government endorsement and backing and rigging the game.

The trouble with “potentially” is just that: meaning possible. It also incorporates the possibility of not reaching its full potential, giving it a landing place anywhere on the scale between imminent and impossible. We can only hope that that landing spot is closer to the former and not the latter, but that is impossible to predict without the aid of billions of dollars in tax payer money.

I thought it was very clever—as in sly clever, bordering on willful deception—to repeatedly use the term “invest” as opposed to “spend”. Government investment of any kind is spending. Government has no money to invest that it did not first confiscate from someone else. Usually, that’s you and me, and the companies we choose to do business with. So, rather than spending any more, which in today’s political climate is anathema even to all but the densest Keynesians, we’re going to invest. That’s just a feel good word if I’ve ever heard one, and a word used intentionally to hide the true meaning behind his statements.

So, in effect, what we got was more “hope and change”, a vision of a brighter future, regardless of the costs, a new term for government spending and business as usual from a President that acknowledged a shellacking in the midterm elections. Election season for 2012 has begun.