Obama's SOTU Speech: Government Unbound

You will not hear the president call for any of the New York-type approaches on Friday, nor offer an admission that Chicago has a bigger gang problem than New York (and the gangs will get their guns one way or another). Rather, he will use the day to push Congress to take a vote on his proposed gun measures, and honor Gabby Giffords, Hadiya Pendleton, and the victims of Aurora, Virginia Tech, Newtown, and all the other mass shooting incidents in recent years.

The biggest deception in the president’s talk last night was the promise that all his new initiatives to “expand and secure the middle class” would not produce a dollar in new deficits. That is about as reassuring as the administration’s pledge that the 2009 stimulus package would keep the unemployment rate from ever reaching 8% (now four years and  $6 trillion in deficit spending later, the unemployment rate is still at 7.9%, down from a post-stimulus peak of just over 10%). The $50 billion in infrastructure spending, the new investments in clean energy, the new universal preschool program, the new housing subsidies for new mortgages, the cost of Obamacare for any illegals who become legal under immigration reform will all presumably be financed by new taxes or cuts in other programs.

The new federal spending, or “investments in the nation’s future” as the president prefers to call them, is part and parcel of an approach that sees government intervention as the way to achieve a fairer society. Fairness, or redistribution of wealth and income, is the president’s primary domestic concern. The size of the economic pie and its rate of growth have always seemed less of a concern.

Every recent public-opinion poll has suggested that the nation is more focused on the stagnating economy than on gun control, immigration, or climate change. This almost certainly reflects recent economic data, including an increase in the latest monthly reading on the unemployment rate and a stunning drop in GDP in the fourth quarter of 2012, at a time when economic growth should be accelerating after the steep recession a few years earlier.

The president’s approval rating for his handling of the economy has been consistently lower than his general approval rating, which is enjoying a post-election, post-inaugural high. As a result, the president was forced to acknowledge the obvious -- that a growing economy was good for the country. On a few occasions last night, he cherry-picked a few government programs to boast of  the positive returns from government spending and seemed to endorse a growing private economy, or at least small business growth.

But as in all his speeches, the president could not keep from a few predictable class-warfare attacks. Corporations are generating record profits, but wages are stagnating. Billionaires are paying lower tax rates than their customers or secretariesare. Any entitlement reform would have to come from cuts for the well-off elderly matched by tax increases on the well-off from any age group,  and tax reform had to be a source for new “revenue” (taxes) for the government, not lower individual or corporate rates.

Class warfare worked in the 2012 campaign and the president believes in it. He really does think that the most successful people in the private sector do not deserve what they have accumulated, that their gains are often ill-gotten, and that much of it should be spread around. On the other hand, the parasitic crowd that lives off the expansion of the federal government and now dominates the nation’s capital and the wealthy suburban counties in Virginia and Maryland -- where you can find America’s greatest concentration of high-income families -- are the kind of wealthy people the president is comfortable with. They do not make anything, but they believe in the power of  big government and they generally support Democrats.

As with all of Obama’s ethnic and interest group pandering, the support for Democrats is the most important factor in determining where the president’s priorities and sympathies reside. Last night, the president’s good-galaxy constellation was on full display. Barack Obama is not only the president of the United States, but the leader of the Democratic Party -- a party that he has openly and proudly moved to the left  since he took office.