Opinion

Obama forgets his first two years in State of the Union address

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If you came away from President Obama's State of the Union address thinking nothing worth mentioning happened during his first two years in office, then you got precisely the message he intended. He opened with a flourish, declaring that the Iraq war had been won and Osama bin Laden had been killed. These are extraordinarily important foreign policy accomplishments, and Obama deserves much of the credit for bringing them about. Both occurred in 2011.

But what about domestic policy and the events of 2009 and 2010, the first two years of Obama's tenure in the Oval Office? Those years got short shrift in Tuesday evening's address. Why no mention of Obama's signature economic legislation, the $814 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka the stimulus bill? His biggest domestic accomplishment, the $1.2 trillion Obamacare plan was noted, but only twice and almost in passing.

There is a good reason why Obama said virtually nothing about his two biggest domestic policy accomplishments -- they're both failures. Instead of keeping unemployment below 8 percent, as he promised, unemployment rose above 10 percent shortly after his economic stimulus became law and has since come down a little here and a little there, always at an agonizingly slow pace. At 8.5 percent this month, it is still a point higher than when Obama was inaugurated, and there are 1.1 million more unemployed Americans.

There are also 46 million Americans on food stamps today, up 6.4 million from three years ago. There are 6.4 million more Americans in poverty today than when Obama took office. And despite Obamacare, national health spending is up 13 percent, while the average worker's health insurance costs are up 23 percent. Obama had promised both those numbers would go down if the Democrats running Congress approved his agenda, which they did. These "achievements" added $4.6 trillion more in federal debt.

And when Obama wasn't obscuring his record by omission, he was doing it by outright deception. On energy production, for example, Obama rightly pointed out that domestic oil production is at its highest point in eight years. But that's because of private sector growth that occurred despite his administration's best efforts. In reality, oil and natural gas production on federal lands is down by over 40 percent compared with 10 years ago. And the price of a gallon of gas is up 78 percent compared with three years ago.

Obama also claimed that he approved fewer regulations in his first three years in office than George W. Bush did. But not all regulations are created equal. Through the end of March 2011, Obama has inflicted 49 major new regulatory initiatives (those costing at least $100 million), which are collectively estimated to add $40 billion in new costs on the U.S. economy. That's more than twice the regulatory damage done by the Bush regime.

"The federal government now spends one of every four dollars in the entire economy; it borrows one of every three dollars it spends," Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said in his official Republican State of the Union response. "No nation, no entity, large or small, public or private, can thrive, or survive intact, with debts as huge as ours." Daniels, not Obama, gave a clear-eyed assessment of the state of our union.

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