President Obama should use his State of the Union speech tonight to launch a much-needed “apology tour” to the American people.
As shown by the fact that viewership of SOTU speeches has declined over the last three presidencies, Americans know that no president is going to use the speech as a chance to be honest with them about the state of the nation – despite the fact that they deserve a leader who will “get real” with the people who elected him.
There’s no indication Obama’s going to be that leader this year. This weekend, White House press secretary Jay Carney and senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer explained Obama’s speech will be about “practical” proposals related to issues such as income inequality and immigration (topics that consistently poll in the bottom half of issues American are most concerned about). Yet again, Obama’s focus appears to be on his agenda, not on the issues that the majority of Americans are concerned about.
But that’s not all Obama should apologize for Tuesday night. If he was serious about turning a new leaf in 2014, the last year he has before the lame duck period of his presidency begins, he would say this:
“My fellow Americans, I’m sorry.
“The country is 7 trillion dollars more in debt today than when I took office;
“America has fallen out of the top ten freest economies in the world on my watch;
“The number of Islamist-inspired terror plots against our homeland stands at 61, with 4 successful attacks and 57 foiled plots. But my administration has yet to answer questions surrounding the most recent terrorist plot, Benghazi;
“I’ve neglected America’s armed services and underestimated the forces needed to defend us, therefore the downward trend in our country’s military readiness and capabilities continues;
“The Affordable Care Act has not turned out to be all that affordable, workable or fair with premium costs rising for many Americans, plans being cancelled for others, and despite my promises, it turns out many folks can’t keep their doctor after all;
“And because of legislative loopholes and onerous mandates, the ACA will also entangle taxpayer funds in abortion coverage and severely restrict the ability of Americans to choose health care coverage that reflects their values;
“I’m also sorry to report that more Americans are reliant upon government today than ever before. Food stamp spending is at historic highs with one in five American households receiving food stamps in 2013. And according to a recent study by the University of Kentucky for the Associated Press, ‘working-age people now make up the majority in U.S. households that rely on food stamps — a switch from a few years ago, when children and the elderly were the main recipients;’
“Despite the spin my administration has put on recent unemployment numbers, virtually the same proportion of adults have jobs now (58.6 percent) as did when I first took office (58.5 percent) and the labor force participation rate has dropped to its lowest point in 35 years;
“In terms of starting a new business, it’s not as easy as it should be. I’m sorry to report that the U.S. is ranked 20th, trailing countries like Canada, Georgia, Rwanda, Lithuania, and Malaysia.
“And speaking of business, the flood of new regulations under my administration has imposed huge costs, hindering job creation and innovation. The overall cost of meeting regulatory requirements has increased by over $60 billion since 2009, with more than 130 new regulations.
“General government expenditures are now slightly over 40 percent of gross domestic product, and total public debt equals the size of the entire economy.
“So, in conclusion, I’m sorry to report that while taxes have risen by almost $3 trillion during my time as president, I will likely need to ask for more…”
Obama isn’t going to give that speech.
Instead, he will likely focus on a list of legislative shiny objects, such as paycheck fairness, hiking the minimum wage, and income inequality – all issues the White House believes appeals to key constituencies in the Democrat base including women and blue-collar workers. The problem for Obama and Democrats is that most voters, including independents, are more concerned about healthcare, jobs, and the economy.
Unfortunately, the state of the union when it comes to those issues isn’t strong. President Obama is probably happy the ratings for his speech on the subject won’t be either.