It’s understandable, fitting even, that President Barack Obama should use his annual State of the Union address for a little self acclaim.
After all, the issue of his legacy has kept him largely preoccupied since the day he entered office.
But the legacy that the president attempted to write Tuesday night was, sadly, as detached from reality as the notion that the New England Patriots had no idea they were playing with deflated footballs in Sunday’s playoff game.
In the words of RealClearPolitics writer Alexis Simendinger, the speech was more “I Have a Dream” than here’s the state of our nation — with an emphasis on the I.
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The president opened his almost 7,000-word oration with a resounding declaration that the American economy is a phoenix and his policies were the catalyst for its rise from the ashes.
“At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.”
Indeed, the economy is growing and the stock market is up — great news if you have a 401(k). Oil prices are down and so is the unemployment rate. All good news.
But according to The Associated Press, that’s only half of the story. Some Americans are still living in a reality that isn’t so rosy.
An AP fact check of the SOTU noted that “income of the typical household [is] below its pre-recession level,” most job creation has been in lower-paying or part-time jobs and there are still 1.7 million fewer workers with full-time jobs than when the recession began.
Let’s not forget that booming energy production is a “phenomenon many years in the making” — not to mention one that has occurred despite and not because of Obama.
So even if we cede some credit to the president, it still means that after six years of Obama’s economy the arms of prosperity haven’t embraced many Americans.
Never fear. The president has a solution for that, although it’s as quixotic as his attempt to convince Americans, never mind himself, that a post-partisan presidency was possible.
In what the White House has billed as a bold vision to uplift the middle class, the president proposed what the The New York Times called “an expensive domestic agenda.”
Not surprisingly, said agenda has been adorned with all the accoutrements one would expect to accompany a progressive policy fantasy: enhanced child-care tax credits, no-cost community college, paid sick leave for employees — what some critics like to call “free stuff.”
The president proposes to pay for his high-cost programs by, what else? Raising taxes on the wealthy, or those the president defines as wealthy.
Forget that by the president’s definition the “wealthy” include thousands of small-business owners — the folks who create two-thirds of new jobs and generate half of GDP — who are already struggling under the burdens of the healthcare law and a tax code badly in need of comprehensive reform.
As many pundits have suggested, the White House already knows such proposals are unlikely to happen with this Congress. They are just another element of the president’s dream.
And the president certainly extended no olive branches by issuing veto threats for several of the top items on the GOP-controlled body’s agenda — items like building the Keystone XL pipeline and repealing the most egregious elements of the healthcare law — which have earned bipartisan support in both houses of Congress.
But the element of the speech that seemed most separated from reality was the president’s resuscitated rhetoric from more hopeful times.
“Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns,” — partisan bickering, constant fundraising, appeasing the political base — he wondered aloud before a joint session of Congress.
“Imagine if we did something different.”
Years ago, those words inspired and even raised hope among some that bitter partisan government was not the future of American politics.
But in the House chamber Tuesday night, they were a cynical echo of a dream that even President Obama doesn’t believe in any more.
Cynthia M. Allen is a Star-Telegram editorial writer/columnist. 817-390-7166.