As an aside, I saw John "Stutterer" Roberts of the famed Supremes leering at Obama when he came in. And I have this one question: did Roberts really become semi-illiterate, or develop tourettes, or come down with the problems of a stutterer, at the exact moment when he had to read a few simple lines to swear in President Obama? Or did he twist those words around deliberately and on purpose in order to give fodder to the extreme right-wing groups in this country, and the deaf dumb fat drug-addicted guy on the radio, so they could spend the next four years arguing that Barack Obama "wasn't really" our President?
I'm going to support President Obama and give him every benefit of the doubt as long as he continues to inspire the nation and move in the better direction. Such as his commitment to shut down Guantanamo and to stop torturing people. He didn't really say "we will stop torturing," he said "The U.S. does not torture," which was not a true statement because we've been doing it from the Dark Side, the nether regions of hell in which Dick Cheney dwells. So Obama ducked and bobbed and weaved on that one, and I think he will on other issues as well. I'm willing to let him. I believe he knows that if he can't get this economy stabilized, we're all going down. Dancing on the Titanic indeed. So we need to cut him some slack, give him some leeway.
But not necessarily be stupid about it.
So here are a few areas of my concern from President Obama's speech last night:
Never Say You're Going To End Cancer In Our Life Times.
"Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time."
I thought that was a long-standing tradition, that all Presidents are warned: never say in your state of the union speech that you're going to cure cancer.
But then again, on the other hand, if anybody can do it, I think he can.
No Charter Schools
"And we will expand our commitment to charter schools."
Charter schools are privately-run schools. Sometimes run by profit-seeking morons, sometimes by profit-seeking religious morons, but they're not part of the public school system. Anybody who wants to send their kids to private schools should do so. But not with my money. Public funds should go only to public schools. Period.
Strengthen Social Security, But Do Not Privatize It
"To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.
I don't know what he means about strengthening Social Security, but it worries me when he mentions savings accounts apparently as some kind of an alternative. We already have tax-free savings accounts: they're called Roth IRAs. People put money in, and the earnings are tax-free. If they want to increase the amount people are allowed to put in, that's fine. But it should have nothing to do with Social Security. People should not be given the option, for example, of having a savings account instead of participating in Social Security. The banks pay nothing on savings accounts. Most people would end up turning their retirement savings over to the criminals on Wall Street, the money would all be stolen, and pretty soon we'd have a whole bunch of 80 year olds sleeping on the park benches -- not just in the daytime.
If we need more money in Social Security there is a simple way to accomplish that: raise the cap. Right now, only the first (I think it's $90,000) of income is subject to social security taxes. Raise that to $150,000, or $250,000 for that matter. That is a simple way to get more money into the fund. And it's only taking money from rich people who cheat on their taxes anyway, so it's fair for them to pay more.
End The Wars Now
"We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war."
"And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away. "
I think we need to end both wars now. They never should have been started in the first place, and dragging them on is wasting billions of dollars at a time when our country is broke. Get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. If Obama wants to go get bin Laden, then send some Green Berets to do the job, not Halliburton and the steroid-rage-monsters from Blackwater. Send a trained team, find him, kill him. But don't waste billions of my money.
Why Expand The Military If We Are Going To End These Wars?
"To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned. "
I'm all in favor of a pay raise for the military and for fully-funded benefits for the veterans. I think it should be paid for by a special tax on Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condi Rice, and George W. Bush, because they're the ones who created this new generation of veterans.
But I do not see any reason to increase the number of people in the military. End the wars. That's the way to do it. Bring them all home.
The Free Trade Mantra
"And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe. For the world depends on us to have a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world's."
Screw the rest of the world. The federal government represents us, the citizens of the U.S. I really don't want them spending their time worrying about Japan's economy. That's what got us into this mess in the first place: politicians devoting their attention to everybody in the world except the one group they are responsible to represent: the citizens and working people of the U.S. So let's figure out how to make the lives of our citizens the best possible, and let the rest of the world develop without the continued oppression, attacks, occupation, market control by U.S. corporations.
For example, I would prefer eating food grown in the U.S., and I surely do not want food imported from any other country. It is obvious that people in this country are not well-served by allowing the grocery stores to import cheap poisoned crap then sell it to us for a premium. It would be better to eat locally-grown food, and scale back on the whole processed food insanity that is probably responsible for much of the cancer Obama wants to cure, as well as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Eat locally.
And stop flooding other countries with the trade crops grown in this country. We grow corn then sell it to everyone, puffed up, sweetened, nutrients stripped away, filler, feed for the world. We flood other countries with cheap starch, like rice, put local growers out of business by undercutting them, then raise the prices through the roof and let the local people starve. The entire idea of a "global" food production system designed to maximize profits for a few rich Americans must be ended. Let everyone grow locally and feed their own people, and get rid of everything else.
So let's re-think this whole nonsense about "free" trade. It's not free. It's just that the costs have been ignored. Environmental destruction by corporations gone mad. Selling food that is processed and has no nutrition, and sometimes is poisoned. Putting local farmers out of business so that entire countries starve to death. This has gone terribly wrong.
Same for clothing. Let Americans buy 1 locally-made shirt instead of 10 pieces of crap imported from China and made by child labor. Let's buy local bedding instead of fine Egyptian cotton sheets woven so tightly that some poor Egyptian child went blind just making the top sheet for some rich American's pleasure. End the corporate destruction of the world.
Here's the link to the full text of President Obama's speech to Congress, February 24, 2009.