I watched President Obama’s 5th State of the Union out at the Cinema Grill in New Hope last night, at a party thrown by Americans For Prosperity, hosted by Siri Freeh and some guys.
Main observations? Well, first things first; this was the first time in a long time I’ve sat through an entire speech by this president. And he’s still a first-rate orator. Dad was a speech teacher, and I grew up listening to great speeches on LP (and have quite a few on my iPhone), Kennedy and Churchill and Martin Luther King and many more. Speech is the family business. And in a nation full of politicians who are usually groaningly awful public speakers, Obama is very, very good.
Unfortunately, pretty much everything he said was vapor; Obamacare has nine million members only if you count Medicare subscribers who were already on the plan; we have “eight million jobs” at a time when we should have have many, many more in a normal economic recovery. The unemployment rate is “dropping” only because people are leaving the work force. Obama’s executive orders are either meaningless, skirt the Constitution, or both.
The usual stuff. Better people than me have fact-checked it and found it wanting.
For my part? Three things jumped out at me.
Thunderous Silence: Last year’s SOTU’s marquee issue was guns. The 2013 State of the Union’s message to the law-abiding gun owner? “Shut up or get cut up”.
This year? One fairly tepid paragraph – and the Democrats’ applause was more of the “golf clap” variety.
Clearly, leading with guns hurt the Democrats last year; it nearly lost them the Colorado legislature, and it’s mobilized Real Americans in a way that has to have the Administration thinking of 1994 and 2010 (and Minnesota DFLers of 2002).
I think the paragraph was a sop to the far-left, and not by any means an indication that the Administration or its minions are going to ease off their assault on the Second Amendment. They’ve just switched from a frontal assault to a guerrilla war.
Picking Artisan Cherries In 20 Pound Buckets: I laughed out loud at the two businesses the President chose to trumpet his “income equality” “vision” last night; Costco and Saint Paul’s Punch Pizza.
I laughed out loud at both examples.
Costco is not WalMart. It’s a completely different business model. It carries a tiny fraction of the number of individual items that a WalMart or Target or Cub Foods does; they are located in fairly well-to-do areas. The idea is to provide high service for limited items to a well-off market, using higher-skill workers in what is, in the world of big-box retail, more of a high-service environment. There are many fewer classic “entry-level” jobs at Costco; they aim to hire skill and retain it – in an environment and business model that finances it. In short, very few of even their lowest-level workers are “low-skill” in the classic sense of the term.
They don’t pay minimum wage, because they don’t have “entry-level” jobs; they choose to pay more to attract a higher-skill worker.
Punch is similar; it’s a high-end pizzeria in a posh neighborhood that aims toward a high-value clientele on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul; I wouldn’t doubt that in a neighborhood full of “living wage” activists, starting people at $10 an hour is good marketing. But Punch Pizza is no Taco Bell; it’s a tony niche retailer that gives a robust markup for an uptown dining experience. And again – I’m going to suggest that Mr. Punch gets to pick and choose who he hires.
And in both cases, Costco and Punch are exercising their free will to hike their base wage. Maybe it makes sense given their business model. Maybe it’s a gamble that’ll backfire on them. But it’s something the market – not the law – will sort out.
Outsourcing Liberty: But the biggest laugh-out-loud line of the night was when the President ran down (a very indulgent interpretation of) his foreign policy “accomplishments”.
He said “From Tunisia to Burma, we’re supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy. In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and to have a say in their country’s future”.
And I couldn’t stop myself from replying “But here, we sic the IRS on dissenters!”.
For all President Obama’s soaring, deft rhetoric, and all his vaporous claims, that is the real truth of Barack Obama’s five years in office; underneath the flowery messaging, an ugly, repressive. authoritarian reality, jamming a square free people into a round statist hole.
And that’s the state of our union.