Heartland Institute Experts React to President Obama’s State of the Union Address
The following statements reacting to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night from staff, fellows, and policy advisors at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution.
The following statements reacting to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night from staff, fellows, and policy advisors at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at email@example.com and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/731-9364.
“The president displayed a remarkable lack of gravitas in his State of the Union address. For a while, he was crouched over the lectern leaning on his elbows, like a college professor leading a discussion rather than the Leader of the Free World addressing the nation.
“There was so much else wrong with this speech. Taking credit for things he’s done so much to prevent (like rising oil production), the repetitive call-outs to sad sacks in the gallery in order to cite anecdotes instead of making credible arguments, the incredibly insulting and condescending notion that Congress should ‘give America a raise’ by raising the minimum wage. Do we all work for government? Would we not make more than $10 an hour unless government told our employers to pay us at least this much? That line – ‘give America a raise’ – should appear in dictionaries as part of the definition of ‘pandering.’
“His line about Obamacare – ‘come on guys, voting to repeal it 40 times is enough’ – trivialized an effort by a co-equal branch of government to keep promises its members made to voters back home, to repeal and replace legislation that was passed under false pretenses. He mocked his critics when he should have been apologizing for telling lies to the American people in order to get that legislation passed. The right thing to have said is: ‘I apologize for misleading members of Congress and the American people to get a piece of flawed legislation enacted. Let’s work together to repeal and replace it with something that can work.’”
“The president continues to place his faith in government programs as a means to promote growth and prosperity. Economic history shows government efforts to direct and control the economy tend to detract from growth and impoverish people. America’s historical success is due to an alternative – faith in the freedom of individuals and markets.
“By replacing individual freedom with government control and direction, the president’s policies have produced the weakest recovery in over a century. Had our forefathers placed their faith in government instead of individuals, the U.S. today would be a third world nation. By moving to replace our precious individual freedoms with progressively more government control over the economy and markets, the president opts for policies that will continue to erode the living standards of most Americans.”
“The president says that the economy is improving substantially. Sadly, the average worker does not believe that. As President Barack Obama enters his sixth year in the White House, 68 percent of Americans say the country is either stagnant or worse off since he took office, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
“There is good reason for the pessimism. In 2007, 66 percent of Americans over age 16 either had a job or were looking for one. Today, that is down to 62.8 percent, the lowest labor-force participation rate since 1978.”
“In his meandering mess of a speech, President Obama managed to completely gloss over the relevant facts regarding the failures of his signature health care law. Rather than admit the problems and apologize for them, the president chose to ignore the millions of Americans who’ve learned that even if they like their plan they can’t keep it, or even if they like their doctor they can’t keep him. Instead, he based his metric of success on the number of Americans signed up for Medicaid, an already overburdened and failing entitlement system which offers the false promise of care to millions of Americans.
“President Obama has made health care unaffordable for millions of citizens while needlessly disrupting our economy. At most, his health care exchanges are signing up 15 percent of the uninsured Americans they were supposed to enroll. And why? Because the American people are finding that the promises he made about bringing down the price of health insurance for individuals and families were complete and utter lies. If all the promises he’d made about Obamacare had come true, the president’s speech would’ve been a victory lap. Instead, it’s a grim insistence that his broken policy will endure, despite how much it has hurt Americans across the country.”
“President Obama dares to say ‘research shows government preschool is a great investment’ just a few months after yet another highest-quality study shows it’s fool’s gold. The president apparently prefers only the poor-quality research that supports his agenda of saddling kids with debt while failing to equip them to pay it off.
“The president is quite bold to claim his micromanaging, dictatorial education policies are already improving student achievement when the statistics show his penchant for making laws without Congress has slowed poor and minority kids’ achievement growth. The Common Core education standards and tests his administration has illegally pushed on schools still have no positive track record despite millions spent, and millions more to come.”
“Claiming credit for Common Core by name is problematic for President Obama because many parents and teachers (including even the largest teachers’ union in New York State) are rebelling against this nationalized, cookie-cutter model of education. However, by boasting of his administration’s Race to the Top bribes to bring states on board – plus its funding of the linked national assessments and curricular materials – Obama implicitly took full ownership of Common Core last night. To call it ObamaCore is no exaggeration. Indeed, its implementation is proving to be every bit as productive for education as ObamaCare is for health care.”
“I sat down at my television set with a yellow legal pad and a mechanical pencil to take notes and jot down comments I’d like to make. My legal pad is blank. I fell asleep and might still be asleep if my daughter hadn’t nudged me awake. I’m not sure how long I was asleep, so maybe I missed something important but I doubt it. I didn’t hear anything inspiring, uplifting or amusing, aside from his quip about how mothers might appreciate a phone call from their kids to help them sign up for Obamacare.
“It seems to me if there was a theme that ran through his talk, it’s that executive orders will drop from his pen like leaves from trees on a breezy day in late fall. Congress should grow a spine and remind the president that its job is to make the laws, and the president’s job is to see that the laws are faithfully executed. That’s why Congress is called the legislative branch of government and the presidency is called the executive branch.”
“As a society, it is high time for us to recognize and embrace the truth. Contrary to President Obama’s misguided assertion, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Its increasing concentration only minimally affects earth’s climate, while it offers tremendous benefits to the biosphere. Efforts to regulate and reduce CO2 emissions are simply ludicrous. They will hurt far more than they will help.”
Craig D. Idso
Senior Fellow, Environment
The Heartland Institute
Co-editor, Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change
“The president said ‘climate change is a fact’ and vowed action via the Environmental Protection Agency in his State of Union Speech, but he did not ask for any new legislation such as the cap-and-trade bill he touted a year ago. As a scientist who knows without a doubt there is no significant man-made global warming, perhaps I should be pleased the president took a softer stance on the issue, But I am far from happy about the state of affairs on the issue.
“It has become purely a rock-solid, lock-step political position of the Democrat Party to believe in global warming, and of the Republican Party to disbelieve. I see no hint that the leadership in either party is truly interested in opening their minds to a scientific debate -- to study the evidence and reach a reasoned non-politically motivated position and take actions accordingly.
“Science and politics do not match well. Science is not settled by a vote, and slogans and platform planks are not scientifically significant. It is my deepest regret this has become a political issue. I think we will make little progress in obtaining an open hearing from the public as long as the political leaders line up their followers on one side or the other.”
“President Obama seems to have toned down his climate rhetoric this year given the obvious reality of no rising global temperatures for 17-plus years and the current cold snap gripping the nation. Saying the phrase ‘climate change is a fact’ is meaningless.
“When our children look us in the eye, we want to tell them that our generation rejected the belief that regulating emissions alters our climate and weather. We want to tell our kids that we rejected the belief that acts of Congress or the U.N. or the EPA could alter storms or global climate. We want to say ‘Yes we did’ to our kids when they ask us if we stopped bureaucrats at the EPA and in our government from attempting to restrict our energy choices based on the belief politicians can change the weather.”
“Mr. Obama is fortunate to be president during America’s energy revolution. Extraction of oil and natural gas from dense shale is occurring with no help from the administration. It is occurring on private or state-controlled lands and driven by private initiatives. According to 2012 statistics compiled by the Energy Information Administration, the production of oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids, and coal from federal lands and waters all fell. The difference between what is occurring on non-federal lands and federal lands demonstrates the economically punitive policies of this administration.
“The president correctly stated that climate change is a fact. It has been ongoing for hundreds of millions of years and there is little governments can do to stop it. The great fear of global warming was artificially contrived. For a president to declare that he will expand executive powers, without Congressional approval, to fight this non-threat is a drastic step towards authoritarian government. Already, the administration has contrived an artificial concept called the social cost of carbon. All life on the planet is carbon based. Is life a pollutant? Does life have a social cost? The concept is an insult to logic, language, and science.
“The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) has produced reports reviewing appropriate scientific papers and concluded carbon dioxide emissions are not a major cause of global warming or climate change. Also, the reports cited thousands of studies in laboratories and in the field that demonstrate increased atmospheric carbon dioxide promotes growth of virtually all forms of green plants and is a tremendous boon to agriculture and the environment. Three decades of satellite observations confirm these findings.”
“Last night’s State of the Union Address reminds me of the idiom ‘on one hand, on the other hand.’ On one hand, President Obama extolled efforts to increase fuel efficiency to ‘help America wean itself off foreign oil.’ He touted the new reality of ‘more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly 20 years.’ On the other hand, he promised to use his ‘authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations’ – which is code for more national monuments and endangered species designations that will lock up federal lands from productive use.
“He took credit for his ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, which he claims has ‘moved America closer to energy independence than we have been in decades.’ And, regarding natural gas, Obama said he’ll ‘cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work.’ He also proclaimed: ‘I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.’ Yet, the Department of Energy has dozens of permits for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities languishing on some bureaucrat’s desk. One of the few approved terminals – Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG Terminal Project in Cameron Parish, Louisiana – created more than 2,000 jobs in 2013 and looks to create another 2,000 jobs in 2014. Let’s get those permits issued.
“On one hand, the president says he wants to help. On the other hand, everything he does hinders.”
“In his State of the Union Address, President Obama asked whether we will leave our children’s children with a safer, more stable world with respect to the ‘settled’ issue of climate change. Why doesn’t Obama apply the same standard when it comes to government spending?
“Reckless overspending in Washington is creating an unsustainable mountain of debt that will be passed on to our children’s children. Yet throughout his speech, Obama outlined additional spending initiatives with no consideration of how they will be paid for. One such proposal would create a new ‘minimum wage’ for federal contractors. This gimmicky proposal will have little impact other than to force the federal government to pay more for goods and services – additional costs that will no doubt be passed on to future generations.
“If Obama is truly concerned about leaving our children’s children with a safer, more stable world, he should start by cutting government spending and reducing the tax burden on American workers so that the economy will finally begin to grow and the private sector will create jobs.”
“President Obama seems hell-bent on dismantling America and its system of government one day at a time. He continues, in my opinion, to cavalierly jettison the constitutional system of checks and balances which was the genius of the Founding Fathers. First came the unauthorized czars, and now we have the proclamation of anticipatory end runs around the legislative branch through executive fiat using the moniker of executive orders.
“These unilateral acts are those of a man who would be king, which he is not. As I recall we fired the king more than 200 years ago. Jefferson, Madison, and the legions who staked and gave their lives on creating this republic to operate as a democracy are surely turning in their graves.”
“Apart from throwing a few crumbs to his base, President Obama produced nothing novel or interesting in his speech. But he did sadly reaffirm his commitment to a virtually Utopian society in which government takes the initiative on nearly all fronts. And that is plainly not in the spirit of what is distinctively American or just.
“I had hoped for some learning from the president – to the effect that the private sector is where solutions lie to nearly all our real problems. Government’s only role must be, as Jefferson said, to ‘secure [our] rights’ – not to train Americans for anything other than, perhaps, defending the country from potential aggressors. It is not the job of government to ‘give us a chance,’ since our form of government doesn’t include some monarch handing out favors to subjects.”
Tibor R. Machan
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
R. C. Hoiles Endowed Chair in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise
Argyros School of Business & Economics
“From the SOTU, you’d never guess that we have a record low in number of people employed, record levels of debt, abysmal international standing in education, chaos in the Middle East, and millions losing their health insurance. But we’re going to the Olympics, finding natural gas (on private lands only), and planning (still) to close Gitmo (thereby upholding our constitutional ideals). Amanda in Arizona got health coverage, a small business opened in Detroit, and carbon emissions are way down (no attribution given to our dismal economy). All we need to do now is extend unemployment insurance, raise the minimum wage, and end gun violence. That last bit is one of a number of things Obama promises to do single handedly if Congress won’t cooperate.
“Now that ObamaCare has fixed health care, and reduced al Qaeda to a mere remnant, we can move on to fixing education.
“From the enthusiastic applause, it would appear that Congress is persuaded by this fantasy, though a few audience shots showed some dour-looking Republicans. They’re the ones getting blamed for ‘creating crises.’ Otherwise, all is well, and God bless America.
“How can anyone take this charade seriously?”
“What Obama delivered was a list of the same policies that have ill-served the nation. After five years, we know that what he cannot do is provide leadership sufficient to govern America. Foreign or domestic, his policies have been marked by failure.
“On the long roster of issues he addressed, he placed an emphasis on putting Americans to work again, but that remains a difficult goal to achieve when his administration is scaling new heights in the production of regulations that choke the nation’s business community, from large corporations to small businesses. There was no mention of the Keystone XL pipeline, which his own State Department estimated could produce 42,000 jobs.
“He advocated raising the minimum wage when all that will accomplish will be to reduce jobs and drive up costs to consumers.
“He dramatized Obamacare by using examples of people he said benefitted from it, but made no mention of the millions who have or will lose their health care plans and even their choice of a personal physician.”
“President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night was all about ‘micro-management.’ It was micro-management at one level since he realizes that a divided Congress will not pass any ‘grand’ legislation that he might try to submit. Thus, he proposed a series of small changes that he hopes that either Congress would go along with, or that he can try to impose through ‘executive order’ without Congressional approval.
“But the other level of his focus on micro-management highlights the inescapable political paternalistic mindset in which he thinks:
- He knows what wage government contractors should pay their workers;
- He knows how pre-kindergarten children should be taught;
- He knows how businesses should organize their use of energy in their manufacturing of products;
- He knows how long people should be financially able to be unemployed between jobs while looking for employment;
- He knows how divergent income inequalities should or should not be in America;
- He knows how to create career opportunities for young people and the type of education they should have available;
- He knows the type and quality of health insurance and medical care people should receive.
“This is why he has faced much of the congressional opposition, over which he is clearly frustrated. Many people in the United States, and their elected representatives, believe that these are not matters for the government. These are matters that should be left up to the judgment, planning, and decisions of individuals, families, and voluntary agreements among people themselves in their communities and in the workplace.
“The president’s government-imposed ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions to what he considers to be America’s ‘problems’ are in stark contrast to the diversity of America, and the more reasonable and common-sensical view that people in their own circumstances and with their own knowledge can far better handle their own problems than someone in a far-away national capital with none of the real micro-knowledge of people’s lives. This partly explains the president’s low poll ratings. People come to resent the arrogant ‘do-gooder’ who presumes to know better how people should live than those people themselves.”
“President Obama mentioned his desire to see election reforms, including ‘reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote.’ For all its conveniences, early voting threatens the basic nature of citizen choice in democratic, republican government.
“In elections, candidates make competing appeals to the people and provide them with the information necessary to be able to make a choice. Citizens also engage with one another, debating and deliberating about the best options for the country. Especially in an age of so many nonpolitical distractions, it is important to preserve the space of a general election campaign -- from the early kickoff rallies to the last debates in October -- to allow voters to think through, together, the serious issues that face the nation.
“The integrity of that space is broken when some citizens cast their ballots as early as 46 days before the election, as some states allow. A lot can happen in those 46 days. Early voters are, in essence, asked a different set of questions from later ones; they are voting with a different set of facts.”
“President Obama does not seem to grasp the fact that in a free-market economy an employee gets a raise by showing his or her employer that their value has increased through more training, skill acquisition, education, or productivity gains. Workers who are currently paid less than $10.10 are so because their contribution to total revenue is less than $10.10 per hour.”
“I fully support the president's proposal to increase the minimum wage. However, if this will work as the president believes to increase employment and reduce income inequality in America, would it not do the same for other countries as well? Therefore, America should eliminate foreign aid and tell our former aid recipients to simply raise their minimum wage. If it works for us, it will work for them as well.
“Our aid recipients are likely more savvy than our president and I would expect few to accept the advice.”
The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.