Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 3, 2022

Election rhetoric in State of the Union

By BO TAO | February 12, 2012

Last week, President Obama delivered his State of the Union speech, and at first blush, it seemed like a delight to hear. America's economy is on the rise, and the wars overseas are finally ending. Although it is true that Bin Laden is dead, the U.S. military has withdrawn from Iraq, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 8.5 percent, the brunt of Obama's speech seems grounded more in election rhetoric than in fact.

In Iraq, the U.S. has replaced its soldiers with private contractors — numbering anywhere between 15,000 to 30,000 — to support its embassy, the largest in the world. These numbers tend to resemble more of an occupation than an embassy protection force.

What's more, the U.S. still has a significant military presence in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and several thousand troops pulled from Iraq are now on their way to, or already serving in, Afghanistan. And in Iraq, the risk for sectarian violence is very high, which raises the question: If Iraq's future ends in civil war, is the U.S. responsible to go back and restore peace?

Concerning the Arab Spring revolutions, Obama has attempted to play both sides of the same coin. While denouncing dictatorship and tyranny overseas, he continues to prop up dictatorial regimes with American aid money. Now, since the international community has voiced its support for the anti-regime movements, Obama has publicly denounced those he once funded. But the future is still uncertain; will these new governments even welcome U.S. appeals for alliance, especially when the images of American dollars being funneled to their former dictators are still fresh in their minds?

Notwithstanding these serious concerns, the U.S. gross deficit is now over $15 trillion and has surpassed 100 percent of GDP. To this end, the economy ought to have been center stage in Obama's speech — but the speech both opened and closed with foreign policy achievements. Obama did talk about the need to raise tax rates on the top income earners in the country — the so-called Buffet rule. But higher tax rates don't necessarily mean higher revenue. Furthermore, what does Obama mean by "fair share?" Should people making over $1 million pay 90 percent at that marginal tax rate?

Obama also tackles the problem of fairer trade and manufacturing. This rhetoric is aimed at the Chinese, which accounts for 2.7 percent of U.S. consumption and 2.5 percent of total GDP in 2010. By definition, trade is also a reciprocal exchange of goods that satisfies both parties. How can Obama make trade fairer? Does he intend to start a tariff war with China? If he really intends to help the American manufacturing base, he would realize that lowering corporate tax rates and streamlining regulation is best for motivating companies to move back to the U.S.

As for green energy, solar panels and wind turbines — which Obama cite as components in the future of American manufacturing — are not going to generate the amount of energy needed to meet U.S. demand. Although turbines do have the capacity to meet America's energy demand, acres upon acres of land would need to be built on to facilitate the number of turbines needed.

There is also the question of the viability of clean energy companies. One company, Ener1 Inc., which produces electric vehicle batteries and received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, filed for bankruptcy only two days after being touted in the State of the Union. To win the future in green energy, the U.S. needs to give a second look at nuclear energy, which is both safer and more reliable than many make it out to be.

In sum, America is in the fifth year of economic downturn since the housing bubble collapsed in 2008. While Obama may talk all he wants about how things are improving, the fact is that as long as the same policies continue, so too will the downturn.

It has become clear that Obama has not been the hope and change he once promised; he has merely continued many of the same failed policies of the Bush administration. His foreign, economic and national security policies all harken back to an era of everlasting war, global recession and gross violation of civil liberties.

If America keeps down this path, the future will remain bleak.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The News-Letter.

News-Letter Special Editions