SOTU Left Mixed Feelings

Watching President Obama deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday evening was both an uplifting and depressing experience. I watched the speech only because it’s what political writers should do.

Many Americans were no doubt engaged in other pursuits. I would have preferred to spend the time watching one of those old, feel-good movies I recorded.

The great things the president said about this country lifted my spirits. However, the reality that the Democrats and Republicans aren’t going to work together to restore our prominence in the world was a real downer.

How long have we been fed the line that bipartisanship is the only way to get things done? It’s a joke, because it isn’t going to happen.

Obama was right about one thing when he said, “We will move forward together or not at all.”

Republicans and Democrats sat together as a show of unity following the attempted assassination of one of their own. But that’s about as far as working together is going to go.

Applause said it all

Those who watched the proceedings saw Democrats stand and applaud when the president talked about his health care reform effort. They also liked what he said about ending tax cuts for the rich.

The Associated Press reported that the Republicans sitting next to their Democratic colleagues “sat mute,” which signals how much they want to kill the health care act and keep those tax cuts for the wealthy.

Many who heard the speech had trouble deciding how the federal government was going to spend money on education, research, technology and transportation while drastically cutting the budget at the same time.

Republicans have been talking about cutting the budget for a long time now. However, they have trouble among themselves deciding how to get it done.

A former Republican budget aide said it’s easy to talk about cutting waste, fraud and abuse, but no one wants to take on the programs that eat up a large chunk of the federal budget — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Obama talked about vetoing any bills that contain congressional earmarks, those expenditures for projects back home. Even Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., didn’t agree with his party leader on that one.

Reid called it “a lot of pretty talk” and insisted the president has “enough power already.”

Republicans profess to be opposed to those earmarks, but they aren’t likely to give them up either.

Members of Congress aren’t going to cut programs that enhance their standing with local voters. The Times-Picayune explained why in a recent story out of Washington.

The newspaper said, “A group of conservative House Republicans proposed a package of steep budget cuts in non-defense spending Wednesday that would eliminate a host of programs ranging from community development block grants to federal sugar imports, and cost Louisiana up to $200 million in Medicaid financing for the first six months of 2011.”

We want cuts, but our federal handouts, too.

Some political analysts were critical of Obama for failing to mention global climate change and gun control. He didn’t talk about those issues because the American people have made it abundantly clear they don’t want to do anything about either one.

Obama praised businessmen in the House chamber who were invited guests. He talked about the innovative things they had done to succeed. What the president neglected to mention was that private businesses do a better job when left to their own initiative without government interference.

Talk of reducing the size of the federal government is another hoax being perpetrated on the American people. Don’t hold your breath on that one, either.

Look what happened after the massive BP oil spill. The answer to that was creation of another federal bureaucracy to monitor drilling safety.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to cut $78 billion out of military spending, but he can’t get it done. No one in Congress is willing to give up any defense installation or program in his or her district, even though its usefulness may be questionable.

Balance the budget

Nothing is going to change in Congress until federal law requires a balanced budget, and that’s wishful thinking.

Obama was applauded when he said something has to be done about curbing the flow of illegal immigration. But how long have we been talking about that issue?

It is easy to see why many citizens are discouraged and frustrated and have such a low opinion of Congress. Its members can’t get anything done because their biggest concern is raising money to improve their reelection chances.

I happen to agree with U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the GOP study committee coming up with ways to cut the federal budget.

Jordan said, “In my time in public life, I have never seen the American people more receptive, more ready for the tough love measures that need to be taken to help fix the country. The American people get it.”

Yes, we do. And that is why many of us were inspired by President Obama’s remarks about restoring this country to its greatness. I hope I’m wrong, but at this point it appears the president and Congress aren’t ready to make the hard choices to get us there.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake  Charles American Press (where this piece originally appeared), has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or



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