SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 30, 2014

Anderson: The state of the speeches

Barbara Anderson
The Salem News

---- — It has become fashionable in some circles to not watch the State of the State or State of the Union (SOTU) performances by the governor and president.

It’s true that the typical “low-information voters” don’t benefit from watching, since they aren’t prepared to distinguish between reality and fantasy. However, this description doesn’t apply to us newspaper readers. We high-information voters can recognize the issues, note the nuances of expression, the confidence or uncertainty in the presentation, response from the audience and then from the opposition party — and this year, after SOTU, responses from various factions of the opposition party — what could be more fun?

OK, guys, never mind the root-canal analogy. Modern dentistry has made root canals painless. I figured all it took for me to get through the evening was popcorn and a few Cadbury Crème eggs. I’d planned to eat the first egg when Patrick referenced his proposed candy tax, but he never mentioned it. Did the Legislature already tell him his new taxes are dead on arrival this election year?

I did notice that his popular 2006 campaign promise of “property tax relief” is now merely “hold the line on property taxes.”

It would have been fun if he’d mentioned his new $100,000 climate-change czar, expressing his concern about global warming on another freezing Boston night. But this was another thing from his budget that didn’t make the speech.

However, I did get a kick out of the juxtaposition of his two demands: to the Legislature, “raise the minimum wage,” and to the business community, “hire someone.” He doesn’t seem to understand the contradiction.

That’s the thing with Patrick. As much as I disagree with his $1 billion in tax increases, as well as those that the Legislature had sense enough not to do, like his proposed income tax rate hike, and to repeal, like his tax on computer services, he still strikes me as a pleasant person. I think that like most liberals, he’s generally clueless rather than dangerous.

Which brings us to President Barack Obama and his SOTU speech. As I said, I think we should all watch for nuance and conviction, but never mind, I fell asleep in my chair after “Climate change is a fact,” apparently missing his defiance on Obamacare that was noted by post-SOTU panels, between my Cadbury cream egg and three maple cookies with milk that got me through the Republican response.

The catchword of the month, and therefore both speeches, is “inequality,” which has been the norm since the beginning of history but is suddenly something to be fixed by Democrats and, therefore, was also addressed by Republicans, who would help raise the lowest levels with school choice instead of by taxing/penalizing/lowering the highest levels.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, made a solid attempt at showing viewers the kinder, gentler GOP with its own ideas for jobs, health insurance reform and legal immigration. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who spoke for the Tea Party Express, started with some reasons that Obama policies advance inequality but drifted into abortion clinics and marriage, so I switched to an interview with Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, on Fox; he had to answer questions about his earlier comments on Bill Clinton and his “war on women” (sexual activity in the Oval Office), so I got another cookie from the kitchen and returned to see Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, attacking Obama’s arrogant claims that he can bypass Congress on major issues, without regard to the Constitution. Both he and Paul referred to the president’s “my way or the highway” inability to work with Congress, which pretty much captured the part of SOTU that I saw.

Oh please. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, delivered her own SOTU response in Spanish, televised by CNN and Telemundo. Helping to keep immigrants trapped in their own foreign language doesn’t do a thing for their equality.

The opposition party doesn’t get to have a formal televised response to the governor’s address, but Sen. Bruce Tarr did a strong on-site interview with New England Cable News, in which he noted that Massachusetts has one of the highest minimum-wage rates in the nation, making it tougher to create entry-level jobs.

The difference in the two primary speeches is probably the one-party status on Beacon Hill, which makes Gov. Patrick far less confrontational versus the two-party ongoing battle in Washington that gives Obama something to blame for the failure of his policies.

Here is the state of the nation, in English, according to independent libertarian tea-partier me. The state of all the states depends on the state of the union. There is no equality, except the best that can be done with “equality of opportunity” for people who graduate from high school and are willing to start in any workplace at low wages and work their way up, understanding that welfare and permanent unemployment is no way to live. The U.S. is not a monarchy; the president must follow the Constitution. If a president doesn’t understand this, it’s a good idea to make sure the other party controls Congress. If we don’t do this in November, the state of the union, a year from now, will be sorry.

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Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a Salem News columnist.