Tuesday, January 20, 2015
THE “STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS” WE WISHED WE’D HEARD
The President: “Sit down, this isn’t going to take long.
“I’m here to report that the state of our union is strong, in spite of us. Stocks are up. Unemployment down. Consumer confidence on the rise. You’ve seen the figures. They’re pretty strong and tough to honestly deny.
“Still it is interesting that when this administration, or any other, presents a proposal to change a law or improve a circumstance, the opposition, rather than to look at the proposal’s merits, trots out statements that begin with ‘The American people want…’ A prominent party leader did this just yesterday in response to what he thought I might be speaking about tonight.
“This brings to mind two observations: If the ‘American people’ support some initiative favored by one side or the other, that data is legit. If someone or something wishes to trump the desires of the people for some mystical motive out there – I can’t imagine what it might be – data is either created or ignored.
“First, a really simple one: When 90% of polled Americans say they support increased background checks for those seeking firearm ownership, that fact related to what the American people want doesn’t seem to spur action here in Congress. We still have no universal background checks and gun violence in this country makes headlines, somewhere, everyday.
“Most recent data gathered from points across the globe indicate that 2014 was the warmest year on record and that, since the dawn of the industrial age, CO2 levels continue to increase. An overwhelming plurality of the scientific community sees the connection, but members of this body seek the outlier to bolster their non-defensible position. That’s like going to ninety-nine doctors for a diagnosis and when each says, ‘Yep, it looks like cancer,’ seeking the 100th doctor on the off chance he’ll says it’s not.
“Information supplied just the other day indicates that over 50% of the word’s wealth is held by a mere 80 individuals. Many, many of them our citizens. The gap between the richest of the rich and the average Joe plumber is widening to oceanic proportions. Yet, this body continues to employ discredited economic theory, tosses around unfounded claims about ‘hurting the job creators,’ and turns its back on our country’s history of fairness and equity; all to thwart efforts at improving educational opportunities for citizens and raising wage levels for workers.
“Exploits on the world canvas should inform us about those actions that will be successful and those that will not. When wielding our ample power results in an alienation of another people or culture or belief system, we risk reaping only hatred, violence and terror. Yet when an administration employs diplomatic means to seek difficult, long-term solutions to on-going strife, they are labeled as appeasers, weak and worse.
“And we won’t take time here to again cuss and discuss health care – the law passed, marriage equality – the constitution supports it, and a woman’s right to choose – the Supreme Court has spoken.
“The thing is this:
· When factual data are ignored for whatever reason, somebody wins. Just not the American people.
· When education costs skyrocket and fewer people are able to attain a high school diploma, a bachelors or an advanced degree, somebody wins. Just not the American people.
· When wages stagnate to the point that a full time minimum wage worker must rely upon government assistance to feed his or her family, somebody wins. Just not the American people.
· When healthcare is denied a segment of our population, somebody wins. Just not the American people.
· When we decide our faith is better than theirs, our system is better than theirs, our practice of humanity is better than theirs – when we vilify and dehumanize others – somebody wins. Just not the American people.
· When reason, debate and discussion are shouted down, somebody wins. Just not the American people.
“I can’t speak for the American people, and neither can you, other than I know that the public’s approval rating of the 114th Congress is now down to 16%. Congress is looked upon as unruly, squabbling third-graders unable to rise above name-calling, finger-pointing and he-said-she-said confrontations. No derision intended here toward third graders – I was a third grader once; Vice President Biden, a couple of times – but not so long ago, Congress garnered at least a modicum of respect.
“We need to fix that. We need to change our modes of operation. We need to reject the lies, the double-talk and the deception. We need to employ data rather than hyperbole in making our decisions. We need to revisit our constitutional tenets and historical foundations because those ideals provide a proven pathway forward. We need to make unpopular choices and use the bully pulpit of our collective offices to educate and inform our electorate about all the weighed options, their truths and their consequences. We need to embrace a system that recognizes that while our economic fundamentals are good in supporting both entrepreneurs and investors and many workers – there are necessities a society shares that can better be cared for using complementary means.
“The world – the universe in which we exist – is not black and white. Our job is to find the patterns in the murky shades of gray we face daily and link or relate or just nudge those patterns toward the universal truths and actions that can move the United States forward and return us to the status of world leader we once legitimately enjoyed.
“In short, in order to best serve the American people, in order to re-become that ‘shining city on a hill’ that President Reagan spoke of, we need to get down to the business of the people in a business-like and respectful fashion.
“If we can’t muster the backbone to do that, perhaps we should simply go home and allow others – others who truly want to do the public good – to take up the cause.