It’s gotten to be that one of the hallmarks of the State of the Union address is its Seinfeldian nature. Every year it seems that the speech becomes a speech about nothing, as presidents throw out all sorts of grandiose ideas, policies and program proposals that never amount to a hill of beans, making me personally wish we could return to the pre-Wilsonian days of a written message.
Before the president took to the podium last night, the biggest story was about the unilateral implementation of a $10.10 minimum wage for employees working under federal contracts. It certainly is a nice handout to the administration’s union allies, even if isn’t nearly as much as meets the eye, but it seems pretty dubious given contracts already in place between companies and the federal government, to say nothing of the fact that such a sweeping declaration seems to be a clear violation of the separation of powers. No matter how you slice it, it’s a policy proposal that detrimental to our economy given that it will cost more taxpayer dollars to implement without creating any new jobs.
The minimum wage hike for contractors as well as the president’s call for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage were all a part of a central theme of the speech, income inequality. It’s unfortunate because the president has made income inequality a key factor in several of State of the Union addresses, but he has often sought policy positions that promote, not decrease, income inequality. The implementation of Obamacare has hurt families across the country by forcing the cancellation of millions of health insurance policies and astronomical rate increases for millions more. The expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts took a larger and larger chunks of income directly out of the pockets of middle and working class Americans. And the expansion of the regulatory state in this administration has made it harder and harder for businesses to be in a position to create jobs and prosperity across the country.
As for the rest of the speech, there is only so much talk through rose-colored glasses and contrived opening lines that one can take before you realize how little impact these speeches have on our body politic. In fact, the only part of the speech that was both moving and memorable was the tribute to Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, a moment that provided a unanimous standing ovation and one that I wish had not waited until the tail end of the speech.
At the end of it all, today official Washington marches on as if the speech never happened at all…