If you ignore virtually every major problem facing America, particularly those posing immediate crises for unemployed families, broken communities and struggling states, and focus only on what a country would normally do in ordinary times, then you’ll find some things to like in the President’s address to Congress. Yeah, we should invest in education, and energy, and infrastructure.
But after listening to and reading his speech, I’m struck by how disconnected that speech is from the harsh realities facing the country. To be sure, the President notes that in some areas, America is falling behind China or India and is ranked 9th, or umpteenth, or something other than “we’re number one!” So what? Is that really the problem we should worry about?
You would never know from the President’s speech that there are 15 million Americans out of work. He never mentioned it. Think about that. America’s unemployment rate — from 9.4 percent to over 17 percent when you count underemployed and those who’ve given up — is still at crisis levels we’ve rarely seen since the Great Depression. Sure, this President wants us to improve investments and education to provide better jobs for the future, but there wasn’t a single word from a supposedly Democratic President that would address today’s actual emergency. . . .
Virtually every state in the union is suffering their own budget crisis, but this President apparently thinks that’s not important. States and local governments face not the phony budget deficit hysteria that’s infected Washington but real, massive budget gaps they can’t solve through temporary deficit spending. So everything they’re forced to do is undercutting what Obama tried to do two years ago to revive the economy.
They’re laying off hundreds of thousands of public workers — teachers, firemen, police, public health and sanitation crews; closing parks; cutting services and denying needed health care to those in life-threatening conditions. You have to have your head buried deep in the sand to ignore this, but this President did.
In the meantime, there’s a major crime wave still going on in America’s financial sector. Wall Street banksters and the nation’s largest financial institutions are still systematically looting the Treasury while they nickel and dime the America people already undergoing a huge deleveraging from too much debt. We have an enormous mortgage crisis as a million families lost their homes last year and more millions will lose theirs this year. Yet the largest banks and their servicing agents are systematically committing fraud on both lenders and investors. But the President didn’t mention that, even though the nation’s economy isn’t likely to recover while the housing market is still in the tank. He didn’t explain why his own mortgage relief program had not only failed but had helped banks rip off homeowners and even steal their homes, but face no penalties.
As Americans watch this, they know the country is seeing a fundamental breakdown in the rule of law. It’s not just the failure to hold government officials in the last Administration responsible for crimes, or the continuing abuse of the Constitution in this one. The elite, the powerful, the rich commit outrageous crimes but go essentially unpunished. Corporations from drug makers to oil companies to chemical manufacturers get mere fines for massive theft, massive pollution and massive health or environmental damage, but no one goes to jail, and no corporation is banned from the market. They just come back and do it again.
This President apparently can’t see any of this. He can’t see the country. From his limited vision, there’s no record poverty, no growing, destructive income inequality, no predatory corporations. Apparently, we don’t kill 30,000 people every year from guns, and so on.
I don’t know where his head is. His obligation is to report to Congress on the “state of the union,” but he just failed.
Update: Mike Konczal had the same reaction, and has the data and charts to prove it.