State of the Union: Presidents Never Mention the Fault Lines

state of the union 2020
President Donald Trump delivered last night his version of the nation’s report card, and as expected, he followed his predecessors’ prescriptions: talk about the successes, talk about some outstanding folks, and stay mum about the real bad stuff nobody wants to hear about.

Highlights of the Successes

President Trump’s successes are substantial from a producer’s point of view. Those who make a lot of money, and theoretically produce a lot of jobs did well partially thanks to tax cuts. Workers also did well, if we consider the present low unemployment rate a good measure. Investors certainly did well considering gains in real estate and stock prices.

Niche issues saw progress. The administration endorsed alternatives to traditional government schools, expressed hopes to plant an American flag on Mars, reiterated efforts to curb illegal immigration, and started work to reform legal immigration by reintroducing previous rules by which only immigrants who can prove they would not be public charges are admitted.

As always reducing welfare rolls is viewed as success by conservatives and heartless failure by liberals.  There was no difference in reaction this time around.

Showmanship

Tradition dictates showmanship in State of the Union addresses, and the President delivered as expected.  The audience responded with great enthusiasm to the presence of 100 year old Tuskegee Airman and retired Brig. Gen. Charles McGee. Awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a State of the Union speech was unprecedented, as the visibly surprised recipient Rush Limbaugh seemed to attest. Sentiment was palpable at the mention of Task Force 8-14 that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – August 14 was the birthday of American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who was kidnapped and murdered by ISIS.

Mum’s the Word on Serious Structural Challenges

Not a word was said about the serious structural challenges this nation is facing. President Trump ended his speech saying that we Americans are pioneers, people who are not afraid to take on difficult tasks. He did not mention that such courage needs to go towards fixing what will eventually bankrupt the country – the unsustainable national debt, cheap money that enables worker-unfriendly monopolies, and irresponsible pension liabilities that are already bankrupting states.

The President did not mention a dysfunctional Congress unable to control spending, reform entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, stem the growth and power of federal agencies, or stop uncivil bickering of word and action.

Speaker Pelosi as Example

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a great match for the President’s showmanship.  Liberals lauded her behavior during the speech, while conservatives saw it as evidence of dysfunction.

The Speaker extended her hand when receiving her copy of the speech expecting a handshake from the President, even though he had not shaken Vice President Mike Pence’s hand.  She shuffled papers while Trump spoke, and deliberately tore up her copy of the speech at the end of the President’s presentation.

Her later assessment of the President’s speech as a “pack of lies” was superficial as expected – no mention on her part either of the serious fault lines.

And the Show Goes On

Donald Trump was not the first and will likely not be the last President to paper over fault lines during a State of the Union address. Correction of structural challenges is difficult and entails financial pain. Therefore, as a rule, neither leaders nor the people ever want to deal with corrections. The show goes on until it stops on its own, as it did in 1929.