February 8, 2019

Reflections on the State of the Union.

by Harold Gershowitz

Comments Below

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsThat the annual State of the Union Address was being delivered by President Donald J. Trump says a great deal about the State of our Union. Mostly, it tells us that tens of millions of Americans are not (or were not) happy with the state of our union. It tells us that tens of millions of Americans believe that America isn’t so great anymore or, at least, not as great as it used to be. They have a point. While the American pie has gotten much larger, many Americans feel that their slice of the pie has gotten much smaller, and it has for far too many of our fellow citizens. They also feel that the ruling class they send to Washington to represent them cares more about their own well-being than that of the people who sent them there in the first place.

And so, they sent Donald Trump to Washington to shake things up, and indeed he has. Thirty-four Republicans decided to retire before the last mid-term election. We have a genuine trade war brewing, although we are holding most of the cards because we do most of the importing. American troops are being brought home from the Middle East and the Far East and, perhaps, from Europe too, before long. While President Trump, and many Americans, do not want the United States to continue to be the world’s policeman, we think someone had better ask, sooner rather than later, just who is going to be the cop on the beat. Bad countries, like bad people, do bad things when a cop is nowhere to be found.

Republican fiscal principles seem to be but a faint memory as deficits and debt soar, making the GOP as profligate as the opposition. We now have public debt of $21.7 trillion. In the fiscal year that ended last September it had grown by $779 billion or 17% over the prior year. By the end of the current fiscal year we’ll add another $1.0 trillion of debt, largely due to President Trump’s tax cuts. Now, to be fair, we hasten to point out that federal revenues have risen to over $3.0 trillion, and total revenues, including federal, state and local revenue are estimated to be about $6.5 trillion.  So, President Trump can, rightfully, take a bow as lower corporate tax rates have spurred impressive economic growth. We’re just spending the revenue from that growth (mostly on defense and entitlements) faster than we’re receiving it. None of it is being allocated to reduce our national debt. Our budget deficit was $779 billion last year and is estimated to be $900 billion this fiscal year.

As for the State of the Union Address, it was in our judgment, the President’s best speech delivery to date. Some of the criticism by the opposition was, frankly, ridiculous. Alexandria, Ocasio-Cortez (of all people) was quick to complain that the speech showed that President Trump hadn’t done his homework. “He gave no details…had no plan” she complained, as though any President presents detailed plans in a State of the Union address. Some complained that he simply read a good speech from a teleprompter. Well, that’s exactly what every President has done since they invented teleprompters.

There were elements of the President’s State of the Union Address, however, that did warrant a cringe or two. He bragged that his tariffs had added billions to our treasury as though China and a few other countries were really coughing up big bucks to do business with us. Didn’t anyone tell the President that the exporter doesn’t pay the cost of the tariffs. Importers, that is, American citizens, pay the cost. While he didn’t seem to realize it, he was saying that his trade policies were squeezing billions of dollars out of American citizens. Tariffs are taxes…on us, not them.

His statement that (in his opinion) we would be in a major war with North Korea today if he had not been elected President was, well, rather bush league (small “b” intended). The President was suggesting either that Hillary Clinton would have gone to war, or that Kim Jong-Un was going to invade or bomb South Korea. Kim Jong-Un may be dangerous, but we doubt that he is suicidal. Kim Jong-Un, we suspect, has achieved exactly what he wanted to achieve. He has the President of the United States flying half way around the world to meet him, twice—something no other President has done, and, some might opine, with good reason. First Singapore and now Hanoi. It seems Kim Jong-Un has succeeded in getting Donald Trump to do something no one else was ever able to get him to do…go to Vietnam.

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8 responses to “Reflections on the State of the Union.”

  1. Red Pill Jew says:

    Great post, Hal. I too believe that was the best speech he’s given to date. My thought after watching it was, “He might have won 2 years ago, but this was the night he became a President.”

    That said, like all SOTU speeches, there were the cringe worthy moments as you rightly pointed out. Frankly, I wish they’d do away with the tradition, and just submit it in writing. All the pomp and circumstance smacks of opportunistic self aggrandizement that further alienates the tens of millions of voters you referenced in your column.

  2. Perry says:

    While I was impressed with his accomplishments listed in
    his State of the Union speech I was more than appalled at the
    response which should have been mentioned as well .

    I believe the POTUS showed his willingness to negotiate over and
    over bad deals whether they be with tariffs that he really does
    not want but is using it as a club in order to bring China to
    the table for a fairer deal with US.

    As far as the Democrat,Alexander Cortez remarks this is enough to have most independents cringe voting Democrat in
    2020. I must add too the election and statements of the two
    newly elected Congress women from Minnesota and Michigan
    should bring down the chances of a change in administrations.

    Trump may be a lot of things I abhor, but damn it he is way better than what the “New Democratic Party ” is espousing.

  3. Red Pill Jew says:

    Jeez, Hal. You make it a point to clarify something you didn’t even say? Point taken. Thanks. I guess that’s what i get for agreeing with you.

    • We weren’t clarifying anything we wrote. We were clarifying an inference in Red Pill Jew’s comment that we believed most State of the Union addresses included “cringe-worthy” comments. We didn’t write that or mean to infer that. We are pleased, however, that Red Pill Jew agreed with our basic points.

  4. Leonard Sherman says:

    The speech was great , the president did do some very good things for America in the past two years ,I was disgusted with democrat senators and congress members who sat on their LEFT rear ends They are the one of the greatest dangers to our country.

  5. Ben Donenberg says:

    Just as with the Presidents before him, some good has been done on Trump’s watch and some not so good. And just has been the case when candidates from opposing parties start to line up to criticize and/or position themselves for future opportunities there are those that express extreme positions. This is par for the proverbial course.

    What I don’t hear or see extant or emerging is a cohesive unifying vision for what the “Great America” you refer to actually means. I see and hear partisan and blatantly obvious self-interested visions. American individuals, families and communities are singular and have diverse particular needs and common needs. Where are the forces that share an awareness and god forbid agreement on our common needs?

    The U.S. Consitution and Bill of Rights contain organizing principles that harbor the capacity to provide a framework for a process that offers the possibility for a unifying vision and united governing policies.

    I think all elected officials and appointees charged with protecting America at home and abroad should be constrained to participate in a series of training webinars that guarantees they have read the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, that encourage cross cultural communications among the three branches, and create opportunities so the members of the ruling class can together engage in thoughtful reflections and deliberations about the founding documents’ strengths and weaknesses immediately upon taking their positions. Sort of like a mandatory online driving school. And there should be Continuing Education Requirements for members of our ruling class.

    Maybe if the members of legislative, executive, and judicial branches have a common orientations and ongoing educational periods to remind them of the principles that established the United States and evolution of thought related thereto, they will begin to find commonalities that offer the possibility for a united vision of their roles and responsibilities and they’d have a communal chance to meet and build relationships that lead to the dedicating themselves to the purposes contained therein.

    Everyone gets warm and fuzzy when congressional leaders voluntarily play baseball together. I think they should all be constrained to go to civics classes together in the interest of our Democracy’s self-interest.

    I am not convinced by his actions that our current President has read the founding documents and reflected upon them in the way I believe, for instance, our Supreme Court Justices have.

    Isn’t it in the best interests of our Democracy that our President of United States be required to read and demonstrate at least a fundamental working knowledge of the laws and ethics he is sworn to uphold?

    Certainly there are sound grounds for a diversity of opinions interpretations, and policy approaches.

    But the conversation needs to be steeped in a common awareness and basic understanding of working principles for their to be a chance for our ruling class to discover and express a unity in its diversity.

    Members of the ruling class no longer come to Washington with basic civics educations. The current partisan congressional forums and SOP are longer create the opportunities for vision or congeniality necessary to unify and nurture a “Great America.”

    America needs better educated leaders for it to truly be Great.

  6. Marc Slavin says:

    You have to love his facial expressions and mannerisms. No other president has ever been so animated. By the way, what does anyone know what Nancy Pelosi chews on during his speech.

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