As a candidate for President of the United States in 2007 and 2008, Barack Obama made a slew of campaign promises to both liberals and conservatives in various settings that didn't survive the swear-in ceremony on the west side of the Capitol building. Chief among them being:
Going through the federal budget line-by-line and eliminating programs that don't and making sure that those that do work better and cheaper.
Reforming the use of large numbers earmarks in federal spending bills.
Eliminating capital gains taxes for small businesses.
Televised congressional negotiations on the Health Care Bill on C-SPAN.
Calling out and publicizing misspent government money.
Not hiring lobbyists as administration staff.
Open transparency including listing of tax breaks and earmarks in spending bills online and a 5-day Internet public comment after passage non-emergency bills before being signed into law.
Into this cauldron, enters the President's third State of the Union speech and the speech, while taken on its face, was one of his more inspiring and clearly more centrist speeches, a little delve into the fine details reveals a very common thread to some of the very same campaign promises pre-POTUS Obama made to the Nation, that when donning the POTUS cap, clearly entered into some state of post-candidate amnesia:
But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.
So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. Now, this would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.
Now, most of the cuts and savings I’ve proposed only address annual domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12 percent of our budget. To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough. It won’t.
The bipartisan fiscal commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it –- in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.
This is the same talk again that you used during the campaign. You practically sold independents on the concept that he would be a fiscal conservative who wouldn't play second fiddle to John McCain and then when you arrived in office the first major legislative accomplishment was to sail through the $787 stimulus plan loaded with earmarks and pet projects and ballooned the deficit. You make overtures that you need to make deeper cuts and to give more consideration to non-discretionary spending. It's hard to tell if this is just nothing more than rhetorical bluster of the same kind you offered about fiscal responsibility during his candidacy.
But to help our companies compete, we also have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.
For example, over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries. Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change.
So tonight, I’m asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system. Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years –- without adding to our deficit. It can be done.
This sounds familiar along the lines of your proposal to eliminate the capital gains taxes for small businesses. It hasn't been done. The idea is a great overture if carried out. Simplifying the tax code would be a huge favor all businesses and corporations. Conservatives have been calling for both ideas to be implemented for years. What's interesting to me is that liberals seem to focus on is that biggest problem coming from the tax code seems to be from loopholes and that any reduction in tax rates leads to an increase in the deficit. The biggest problem with the tax code, Mr President, is that it is too complicated and punitive. And while reducing taxes technically leads to an increase in the deficit short-term, it really doesn't in the big picture because it leads to more revenue coming into the government. The real issue that drives up the deficit is unchecked spending. Obviously, if the government spends more than it takes it, and then borrows to make up the difference then the deficit will increase. But if the government cuts taxes, how can that truly drive up the deficit? One can't spend what one doesn't have.
In the coming year, we’ll also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you’ll be able to go to a web site and get that information for the very first time in history. Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done -- put that information online. And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it. I will veto it.
To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. But I will not hesitate to create or enforce common-sense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws. It’s why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies and new rules to prevent another financial crisis. And it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.
Here's the transparency angle again and vetoing earmarks. It was great the first time, though I didn't believe it. The second time, I'm definitely not I'm buying it either. You'll definitely have to prove it to me on this one, Mr President. You can put Web sites up like recovery.gov all over the place and play with numbers; claim transparency, claim you'll notify us about legislation that contains pork and earmarks that you said you wouldn't sponsor but did over and over again, tell us you'll fix burdensome regulation that you've proffered up since the first days you were in congress and then tell us you'll fix it. And in the end words mean things, particularly if they're meaningless from the outset, and especially when they're unfulfilled.
Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation.
While I agree with you, Mr President, on giving foreign workers or students who don't overstay their visas a fair chance to stay in the US and find a job, I do not agree that children of undocumented workers should necessarily have the same benefit on taxpayer dollars. Your statement about addressing the millions of undocumented workers living in the shadows reeks of mass amnesty for illegals and that, Mr President, has been a plank in your party's platform for quite a while, and like the last attempt you made to force amnesty upon us in 2007, you can be sure this would be a difficult debate for you in 2011 too.
The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information -- from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet.
Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”
We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down track or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.
So over the last two years, we’ve begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. And tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble those efforts.
We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We’ll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] what’s best for the economy, not politicians.
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying –- without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.
Within the next five years, we’ll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans. This isn’t just about -- this isn’t about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.
At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) I don’t know if -- I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.
Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all -- and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.
So the answer to all of our pressing infrastructure needs is high-speed rail and high-speed Internet. And who is going to pay for that? And we've already tried the whole infrastructure angle with the 2009 Economic Recovery and Investment Act, not even half of which has been implemented and with nearly a trillion dollars having been spent. Where are all of the infrastructure jobs? I don't see the shovel-ready construction crews tackling the crumbling roads and bridges across America in mass numbers. They don't exist. Thousands of construction jobs? That's all we could muster from a trillion dollars? And now you're going to propose that we rebuild more infrastructure and this time it's high-speed rail and high-speed Internet? President Obama, you just proposed that we make cuts in spending and curb the national debt and you'll have to make sacrifices in the Federal budget like all Americans have to make sacrifices in their budgets. How am I supposed to believe you if you're going to propose another government-led spending boondoggle like the federal stimulus bill? High-speed rail is a localized means of travel that will cost a lot of money to build and maintain and large numbers of people will not be using it on a regular basis. We prefer our cars. Why not use the power of the free-enterprise system and then unleash incentives for businesses to develop their high-speed Internet networks and let it transpire on its own. It'll save a lot of money. And Mr President I do agree with what you say about an "all in one" energy policy but you've already made promises about nuclear energy and clean coal technology before, including in your SOTUS address last year, so should I believe you this time too? And then you want to punish the oil companies, the only current purveyors of relatively cheap energy, by taking away their tax incentives. They already pay massive taxes and it's extremely expensive to drill for oil as it is so they're not raking in the dough like you seem to think. It's one thing to make profits by raw numbers but it's another thing to look at where those profits go. If a business doesn't reinvest its profits, it will die. Where is the proposal that we drill on more domestic land where it is less risky and less expensive so that we can achieve greater energy independence right now and alleviate rising fuel costs so that we can achieve an even quicker recovery of the economy? You call it yesterday's energy. Well, it seems to be rather relevant today. And 1 million electric cars by 2015? Are you going to upgrade the electrical grid infrastructure that has been allowed to age and languish due to the efforts of environmental radicals so that said electrical grid can support said electrical cars? Sounds like a fantasy world with a fantasy ending.
A lot of your speech, Mr President, was loaded with great applause lines and inspiring conjecture and if you had made good on all or most of your previous promises, I would be quite willing to take you at your word and be proportionately inspired. But something about your past rhetoric and corresponding behavior makes me completely doubt a lot of what you said and your actions will have to prove to me beyond a doubt that you are willing to make good on your promises in 2011.