I originally appended this to the last posting, but several people let me know that readers aren't notified by edits of old posts. So I thought I would create a new post in case anyone was interested in my follow up to the State of the Union address.
Told you so!
Obama did not disappoint me. His rhetoric was pretty much what I would have expected. And he did not even attempt to address the deeper issues that are going to have such a major impact on all citizens of the world, as well as those of the US, in just a few years (or actually are already having a significant impact). That is the world of politics. It is the world of people who honestly, though mistakenly, believe that political process and policy decisions make reality.
In truth I could not listen after I heard him utter the phrase "clean coal". He is still so out of touch with simple physics that it is terribly sad. That his science adviser, John Holdren, a physicist, has not been able to make him understand that this is an oxymoron is sadder still (I'm assuming Holdren has tried). Same for Steven Chu, the Secretary of Energy. Surely he is aware of the negative thermodynamics of sequestering carbon dioxide from coal burning, turning it into a compressed or liquefied gas and pumping it under extreme pressure into the ground! Or maybe their involvement in politics has made them forget their basic science. Who knows?
I did tune in for the post-speech commentary on NPR. Nothing really revealing there. The belief that something like a high speed rail in Florida is a good idea is also sad. Will it create a few jobs there? Probably. Will that be enough? Clearly not. Moreover, did anyone even think about the cost-benefit comparison between fixing the rail lines that we already have, beefing up rail transportation as it exists so that many more jobs would be created and it would benefit the whole country for ages to come vs. making it easier for business people to get between two cities that may actually be under water in a few decades? I seriously doubt it.
Here is the real problem. Our president doesn't really have a vision of the future. He has a vision of the past with a green sugar coating that makes it sound like a future. His problem is he really hasn't done the arithmetic to see if things add up. Otherwise he would know that the notion of restoring a growth-oriented economy is complete nonsense. And if he ever did, in fact realize this, he would then have to tell the truth to a lot of people who wouldn't want to hear it. And like Jimmy Carter, who did get it and did tell the truth, the American people would throw him out. In spite of Obama's statement that he would rather have one great term than two mediocre terms, he hasn't actually come to grips with what a great leader would need to do to have that kind of impact.
But look. We can't really blame him. He is in an impossible position. Even if he did get it and was willing to sacrifice his shot at a second term in office he would still face a completely dysfunctional government. He wouldn't be able to get anything done (unless he took my advice and declared Martial law!) The current state of political affairs in the US is just untenable. The Congress is full of fools and madmen. They really don't care about the future, except as far as the next election is concerned. They are pretty ignorant themselves with a few notable exceptions. And for those few I imagine it must be excruciatingly frustrating to try to get anywhere in that environment. And the Supreme Court? Just look at their latest ruling (admittedly a 5-4 decision) that gives corporations unlimited access to buy elections. At least that is the likely effect.
These are the people who run our government folks. We, collectively, had a lot to do with putting them there. Electing Bush as president allowed the Supreme Court to be taken over by demagogic ideologues. Of course it had many other devastating effects on the country and the world (Iraq and Afghanistan certainly). But some of those could have been corrected by Obama if he actually had followed through on his promises. His decision to escalate in Afghanistan will, I think, prove to be one of his biggest mistakes in foreign affairs. His biggest mistake domestically remains his appointments of Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers to their respective positions. Or perhaps more so his acceptance of their formulas for fixing the economy (bail out the banks).
So the upshot of the SOTU address is this: Things are going to get a lot worse, faster. Mark my words. If I'm wrong, you can come back in a few months or a few years and tell me I was full of s**t (I'm sure some of my students will be happy to see that). Somehow I don't think you will have the opportunity.