Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winning the Future

It seemed right for the President to focus on global competitiveness in his State of the Union message tonight.  The metaphorical difficulty with calling this a "Sputnik moment," however, is that it is harder now to point to a single Sputnik that threatens us in the way that we were shocked by the sight of the actual Sputnik.  The threat to the American economy's competitive position is much more amorphous these days.  Nevertheless, the need to invest in education, infrastructure and clean energy should still be clear, because without those things we will have no economy.

The president's focus on those issues also seems like a clever way to force those who think that the main thing we should be worried about right now is government spending to give some content to their ideas.   They should have the burden of showing that cutting spending would not be like removing the engine from the plane while it is in the air.  And while it also seemed necessary for the president to talk about making government more efficient, his heart seemed to be more in telling stories of innovative and successful American entrepreneurs.  The anti-government crowd should be cheered by that focus also.  After all, there is only so much you can do to improve the delivery of government services, which is a pretty dull topic in any event.  What should stir their imagination is helping the next generation of American business leaders.

The speech seemed to go over pretty well.  A CBS poll found that a whopping 82% of a sample who listened to the speech, approved of the president's plans.  On the other hand, Fox managed to turn out a focus group that seemed almost uniformly hostile.  Going forward, I don't envy the Republicans who are going to be forced over the next couple of years to advocate taking benefits away from people, and whining about the deficit, while the President and his party will continue to push for a lot of good things that people want.


  1. The President sure can deliver s speech! I also thought the Congress, Biden and Boehner were well behaved, respectful and polite.

    I'd like to be as sure as you are about the correct course for our country. I probably spend too much time trying to sift through the various opinions and facts (when they really are facts). I should ride my bike more.

    On the heels of the STOU Tuesday, Wednesday CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said "The United States faces daunting economic and budgetary challenges" in an article titled "Deficit Outlook Darkens". A thought a fair review of the two positions of the Dems and Repubs with respect to the direction of the country.


    What I do feel sure of is that unless the President leads on "center opinion" change the Dems will lose the Senate and the Presidency. Then we are back to one party government control like the Dems have had the last two years. I would not want to see that. Along with education and additional health care reform I think it is time for entitlement reform.

  2. Today, Thursday the 27th, Elmendorf testified on capitol hill warning that "the federal government increasingly risks sending the country into a "fiscal crisis," unless cuts are made".


    Okay, off to ride!

  3. To me, whenever somebody starts talking about entitlement reform, it sounds like they are saying that poor people have too much money. I think that is exactly the opposite of the real problem we have in this country.

    As far as the deficit goes, I say when you can borrow money at about 2% interest, you should borrow as much as you possibly can. And then when you max out your credit card, you raise taxes on rich people and start taxing gasoline the way we tax cigarettes. Then we will solve the deficit and a whole bunch of other problems.

  4. << To me, whenever somebody starts talking about entitlement reform, it sounds like they are saying that poor people have too much money. >>

    You can change that way of thinking anytime you like. My point is that we need to at least be open to discussing reforming Social Security. Perhaps have affluence testing, or raising the age for eligibility.

  5. I am losing patience with all of the people saying that Social Security is in some kind of crisis. It is not. The program is sound for at least another 30 years. At some point it might require some tinkering of the kinds you mention, but there is no urgent need for that at all. And Social Security would probably be sound for another hundred years if we just lifted the payroll tax cap which is now I believe at about $106,000. So why would anyone want to scare anyone into thinking that there is any kind of need to reduce Social Security benefits? To answer my own question, it is either to play politics with the issue, or because the people playing these kinds of games are fundamentally hostile to the whole program.

  6. Hostile? Playing politics? I am neither. Joe, you risk sounding condescending.

  7. Sorry if I did not make myself clear. I don't think you are playing politics or hostile to Social Security. I think the people who are trying to scare voters into thinking we have some kind of a crisis with Social Security are either playing politics or trying to destroy the system. As for you, I'm only disappointed that a smart person such as yourself might be falling for those tactics.

  8. Thanks Joe, kind of :-)

    I envy your clear vision because I work relatively hard to form my own objective viewpoint. By your answers I am left to assume:

    1) you more educated on these subjects than I am
    2) you are better able to understand projected numbers by studies than I am (you can find any study that supports your vision if you look hard enough)
    3) you are simply smarter than I am (many many people are)
    4) one of us is an ideologue
    5) we simply disagree -- that's not a bad thing. Good people who want the same or similar ends somtimes disagree.