Economics

We Don't Do Big Things

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Over at The American Spectator, Philip Klein points out the many similarities between President Obama's listless blueprint last night for "Winning the Future" and former president Bill Clinton's ballyhooed "bridge to the 21st century." Sample:

"So tonight, let us resolve to build that bridge to the 21st century, to meet our ch

Building a bridge to 1996

allenges and protect our values," Clinton said in his acceptance speech at the 1996 Democratic National Convention.

In his State of the Union address last night, Obama said, "So over the last two years, we've begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. And tonight, I'm proposing that we redouble those efforts."

Is there a more flaccid verb in the English language than "redouble"? Calls to mind some grim, Hugh Hefner-style vacuum device….

Recognizing that I am hardly the average viewer here, I was struck last night by how tired, even sad, the whole spectacle was. It's 2011, and we're still talking about building bridges to the 21st century? Five years after George Dubya Whathisname used his SOTU to launch the instantly forgotten (but nevertheless signed into law!) American Competitiveness Initiative, we're launching a spanking new competitiveness initiative? Gonna get off that foreign oil, build that clean energy, and invest in our kids' education, just like we promised every January stretching back to Richard Nixon? And as someone (I forget who) pointed out on Twitter, 54 years after a country that hasn't existed for two decades put a satellite into space, we're still using moonshots as the go-to metaphor for all the lofty presidential goals no one remotely believes will ever come true.

We're just another country

Here's a reality check: We will not have high-speed rail within Segwaying distance of 80 percent of the country, ever. We will not get 80 percent of our electricity from "clean energy sources" by 2035, unless someone far outside the halls of government invents a snail that eats trash and poops hydrogen. Obama won't veto every bill that arrives on his desk with earmarks–re-watch that part of the speech last night; no one believed him.

Why won't these things happen? Because, as Rep. Paul Ryan rightly emphasized last night, the only real policy issue in America right now is that we are on the verge of fiscal catastrophe because cannot afford the government we're paying for today, let alone the one we're promising for tomorrow. And the president, though he is much more serious on this issue than a huge swath of his political party, is nonetheless not remotely serious about this issue. Vowing to cut $400 billion over 10 years (a plan that, judging by the two people clapping when he proposed it, will likely be cut to ribbons if it survives through Congress), at a moment when the deficit for this year is more than three times that, indicates that Democrats (and a helluva lot of Republicans as well) are hunkering down in our awful status quo–half-heartedly tinkering around the edges of spending, making incremental changes this way and that, then launching new moonshots and redoubling old impotent efforts. Politicians have put us on the precipice of financial ruin, and they show no indication of doing a damned thing about it.

Sen. Smalley

And I think they know it. Look at the plaintive, semi-desperate, Stuart Smalleyesque mantra Obama kept repeating at the end: "We do big things." By his insistence his anxiety shall be revealed. We don't do big things, America, not in the moonshotty Marshall Plan way of speechwriters' cliche box. Increasingly, we don't do little things, either–like keeping libraries open five days a week in California. What we do is snarf up ever-larger portions of your grandkids' money for purposes that are usually obscure and often criminal.

There are more than a quarter million people working at the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce. Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security combined nearly pass the half-million mark. And at a moment of grave fiscal peril, we continue to spend half the planet's money on defense, with Obama et al expecting thunderous applause for snipping out "tens of billions" from future defense spending growth. We continue to arrest 800,000-plus people a year for smoking or trading a plant that makes you want to eat Pop Tarts.

No, these people are not serious about the task at hand. The state of our union, as measured by the competence of people in power, is a fucking disgrace.

NEXT: New Report: Half Billion People Escape Abject Poverty In Past Five Years

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  1. Recognizing that I am hardly the average viewer here, I was struck last night by how tired, even sad, the whole spectacle was.

    It’s the Academy Awards of politics!

    Good article, Matt. These scum won’t stop until they run into a brick wall, but they might just be getting close to one at this point.

    1. Where’d I put my mortar and trowel.

    2. Hollywood for ugly people.

    3. Agreed, good article Matt.

  2. “We will not have high-speed rail within Segwaying distance of 80 percent of the country, ever.”

    Nor should we – because that objective is idiotic on it’s face to begin with.

    “We will not get 80 percent of our electricity from “clean energy sources” by 2035″

    Ditto.

  3. “Obama kept repeating at the end: “We do big things.”

    What he meant was we do big boondoggles.

    As evidenced by his pom pom waving for mass transit and “clean” energy.

  4. I’m pretty sure anyone who believes what was said last night can be declared clinically insane.

    1. After I hit the “vote” button on an msn-related website this morning that asked my opinion of the sotu speech, I made the mistake of reading the opinions of other voters. You would not believe the praise and support that exists for Obamas speech from the “American People.” It was astounding to read the enthusiastic reaction to the bromides and logical fallacies of last night’s speech. I think too often that libertarians, who focus on the actions of politicians, fail to realize the importance of changing the mindset of the man on the street. Until your next door neighbor realizes the unsustainability of our current trajectory, our “leaders” are not going to change, and we will not be “led” by them to more rational policies. It may well be true, as others here have said, that nothing will change until the crisis is obvious to even the dolts among us, and the economy is in ruins.

      1. Exactly. There is a significant portion of the public that believes O’s nonsense.

        1. It makes pretending that our lifestyles have no consequences easier.

      2. I, too, was very concerned about the response it got from other people not of Libertarian bent.

  5. Best closer ever. Or at least today.

    1. You know, I pretty much rocked in my day.

      1. You’re fucking out you french cancuck fuck.

  6. “…invents a snail that eats trash and poops hydrogen.”
    Pray tell me where I go to invest in your hydrogen pooping snail???
    And I hope these are patriotic AMERICAN snails, that can live off of freedom fries, and not those surrender monkey French whining snails.
    Hmmm, I wonder how many snails I’ll need to power my Hummer?

    1. Don’t tell Obama about the car that runs on water. He may want to invest our money on it.

    2. hey there actually is an enzyme that poops hydrogen.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogenase

      And E coli have four!

      1. “hey there actually is an enzyme that poops hydrogen.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogenase
        And E coli have four!”

        What more could an eviro-whacko want? Poisoned people and no oil!

    3. The hydrogen pooping snail has been around for decades. Big Oil bought the patent and put in a big evil warehouse, never to be seen again.

      1. Bah, everyone knows you’re just a shill for Big Snail.

        1. Well played, TallDave. Well played.

  7. Good piece Matt. Nails it on the head.

    That said, I did hear about some guys in Berkeley who custom-designed Yeast/e.Coli cultures that eat all sorts of garbage and shit out pure Ethanol…

    But then, I haven’t heard much about the whole Microbial Ethanol thing in the last 2 years, so maybe it didn’t work out quite like they’d planned…

    1. I’d heard about that, too. Yeah, if they were able to produce ethanol @ $1.00 a gallon, I’m pretty sure they’d be very wealthy now.

  8. Good one Matt.

  9. No, these people are not serious about the task at hand. The state of our union, as measured by the competence of people in power, is a fucking disgrace.

    No comment. Just needed to be repeated.

    1. + a million

  10. There are more than a quarter million people working at the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce. Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security combined nearly pass the half-million mark.

    All on my list.

    1. That list is as good today as two years ago. Well done, J sub!

  11. “We don’t do big things, America, not in the moonshotty Marshall Plan way of speechwriters’ cliche box.”

    OH, we do too do BIG THINGS! Ginormous things…well, its electronically creating TRILLIONS of dollars, cause we probably couldn’t actually afford the ink, paper, labor, and machines to print the dollars, but we SURE AS HELL can electronically create TRILLONS of Dollars out of thin air!!!!
    AND I’m proud to be an AMERICAN, where at least I know I can borrow…

  12. Let’s see…

    Ron Paul is a fucking racist.
    Bob Barr does PR for dictators.

    Who’s next for you libertoid assholes? Michelle Bachmann?

    1. Let’s see…

      Edward is a basement dweller with spittle dripping from his mouth and snot bubbling from his nose as he pounds away at his keyboard in impotent rage.

      What’s next for you, Edward? Cutting yourself?

      1. Edward Emo. I like it.

      2. It would be nice to think that, but truth be told, I doubt if he would be so dogmatic if that were the case.

        Max is living a caviar, single malt and fine Columbian life style, and we are paying for his high end escorts.

        1. The joke’s on him, alan.

          That caviar is really just very salty gerbil dung, that single malt is well turpentine, that Columbian lifestyle is papier-mache terra cotta and the the escorts are pre-op trannies.

          Max wouldn’t know sartorial tastes if you gastronomically infused his mom’s tit with with Du Fresne’s foams.

          1. Speaking of Dufresne, have you ever eaten at wd~50? My cousin is friends with Dufresne and his father, and he goes frequently, and he’s taken me. Pretty great. But Wylie is a fucking nut.

          2. The welfare cheat would go for the pre-ops on our dime, the bastard.

    2. Nancy Pelosi.

  13. Inspired rant. Hard to pick a favorite line, but I’ll go with “We continue to arrest 800,000-plus people a year for smoking or trading a plant that makes you want to eat Pop Tarts.”

    1. Ditto.

  14. To paraphrase something I read elsewhere but can’t give credit because I don’t remember where: America is like someone so morbidly obese he can’t even walk, plus he’s an alcoholic crackhead heroin addict who smokes crystal meth every day, and when he finally decides “Christ, I’m a mess, I need to start taking better care of myself,” what does he do? Switches from regular to decaf coffee in the mornings, and leaves everything else alone.

    1. But, but…if he sticks with the de-caf, is he not a success and therefore worth the extra subsidy?

      This Tony logic makes me feel really stupid.

    2. “? and a Diet Coke.”

      1. We used to call the obligatory “large” diet drink “The Neutralizer” when I worked at BK as a yute.

        “Gimme a double Whopper? with cheese, a large fry…large onion rings…um….an apple pie…and a Diet Coke?….better make that a large…”

        Yeah, you need the large to neutralize the large fry AND the onion ring…

        And why do horribly obese women insist upon wearing spandex pants? The horror – it stays with me 30 years later…

  15. They are calling it Obama’s Sputni

    1. WTF???

      Anyway, they are referring to it as Obama’s “Sputnik Moment”, but I think they mean his “Dupnik Moment”.

      1. BTW, I don’t know how much Reason paid for it’s server upgrade, but whatever the price, they got ripped off.

        1. In Russia, server squirrels rip off YOU!!

  16. Is there a more flaccid verb in the English language than “redouble”?

    Is “Tony” a verb?

    1. I took a Tony this morning. Oh, that’s a noun.

  17. I liked the proposal from the Epstein/Gillespie interview yesterday- cut the department of Agriculture out and get rid of ethanol subsidies today.

    That would save hundreds of billions of dollars right this very second and all that would happen is the cost of gas would go down as well as the cost of food. Seems like a “BIG THING” we could do to actually improve life for everyone except for those who live off of government subsidies. Which is precisely why it won’t happen, of course.

    1. cut the department of Agriculture out and get rid of ethanol subsidies today.

      You’ll have to pry those subsidies out my cold, undead hands, mortal…..

    2. That would be good, but why would ending ethanol subsidies make gas prices go down?

      1. Because the Ethanol requirements in gasoline are blatant giveaways to the corn lobby. End the requirements, the cost of blending goes down, the cost of fuel goes down.

  18. Well said, Matt.

    Unfortunately, depressing. I’m a hopeful person by nature, but, based on the evidence I see, the USA is dooooooomed…

    RIP ‘murca – ya had a good run.

  19. I liked the proposal from the Epstein/Gillespie interview yesterday- cut the department of Agriculture out and get rid of ethanol subsidies today.

    That would save hundreds of billions of dollars right this very second and all that would happen is the cost of gas would go down as well as the cost of food. Seems like a “BIG THING” we could do to actually improve life for everyone except for those who live off of government subsidies. Which is precisely why it won’t happen, of course.

  20. This post wouldn’t be so ironic if it wasn’t coming from a libertarian…

    …”verge of fiscal catastrophe”….you people really have not learned anything from history, have you?

    Now repeat reagans line about “telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free”…

    …remember, if you repeat it often and loud enough, it’ll be true…

    1. you are a fucking retard. The catastrophe was caused by loose central bank policy, which is something most (but not all) libertarians are against. Contrariwise, progressives have bought the 2% steady inflation, which besides being impossible, is fundamentally unsustainable and screws the poor. The ONLY people advocating a non-inflationary monetary system are the libertarians.

      1. 2% inflation screws the poor? Because they have large amounts of money, not debt? Really?

        I don’t think you really understand what inflation is…you seem to think it only applies to durable goods…

        Are you also against fractional reserve banking?

        Do you understand what happens in a recession when you have a hard money policy with no fractional reserve banking? Have you thought this through?

        You seem to be a pissed off conservative who doesn’t really understand anything they are saying…pretty common now a days…

        …funny how you don’t realize your beloved capitalism is a double edged sword…

        1. don’t don’t a days… …funny a seem beloved this to through? You off to reserve you Really? I they when hard money with realize policy they what applies happens you off how days… …funny to you is you to a reserve it understand a seem money, policy with seem you this they they think large seem seem off pissed be Because to think think they not reserve a money, durable money edged inflation realize money poor? seem a you hard it how recession inflation goods… Are conservative a off against against poor? reserve no days… …funny now debt? only

          1. Ironically enough that was as rational as most libertarian posts on here…i couldn’t tell the difference…

            1. “..i couldn’t tell the difference…”
              That’s not at all surprising.

              1. Hey, we agree on something!

                I’d rather you agree with me for the wrong reasons, then be in disagreement. I’m very pragmatic…

  21. Awesome article Matt. I just wish the pop media would start reporting like this. The citizens might start snapping out of their stupor.

  22. SM|1.26.11 @ 2:00PM|#
    “This post wouldn’t be so ironic if it wasn’t coming from a libertarian…”

    ^ Would someone please flush? That piece of shit stinks.

  23. Truly an epic rant Matt. Well put.

  24. Yeah dude, if only *fffffftttt* pot were like legalized *fffftt cough cough* then things would be like awesome.

    Do I have to go to work? What’s work?

    1. You’re confusing libertarians with hippies.

      1. meant for Shasta

  25. Hear, hear!

    Screw it, let’s go on a cruise.

  26. Those that can, do – those that can’t get government jobs…

  27. To paraphrase what one of Reason’s staff said a few months ago: “Those terrible libertarians! They want to change the system so that they can leave us alone!”

  28. ” we are on the verge of fiscal catastrophe because cannot afford the government we’re paying for today.”

    And apparently Reason can’t afford proofreaders.

  29. If the federal government really wants to help business, how about an across-the-board exemption from all federal regulations for the real innovators and job creators – small business? Because federal regulations are designed for (and all too often by) big companies, “one-size-fits-all” national regulations impose far higher compliance costs per employee on small businesses than on big business, which can afford to absorb the costs of large internal staffs and armies of lawyers to comply with massively complex federal regulations. Let the states regulate small businesses so the federal government can focus on the big corporate malefactors. Following the original meaning of the interstate commerce clause and freeing small business from federal regulation will do far, far more to unleash the job-generating power of small business than a dozen of Mr. Obama’s token regulatory reviews. See http://www.timelyrenewed.com

  30. Once upon a time, those who predicted the economic collapse of the United States were regarded as Tin Foil Hat conspiracy whack jobs. Considering the current economic situation and political climate it seems they were merely ahead of their time and the era of the Disunited States of Argentina will soon be upon us.

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