Re-state of the Union
This is what the president should have said.
President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday wasn't what I wanted to hear. This is what the president should have said:
"I cannot imagine what I was thinking when I pushed Obamacare. I now see it is folly to entrust government, which cannot balance its books and routinely loses track of billions of dollars, with even greater power over health care.
"If something as simple as a website is too much for government to get right, imagine what government will do to complicated medical pricing and insurance plans.
"Foolishly, my plan destroyed many sensible insurance plans—some offering catastrophic-only coverage for a lower price—exactly the insurance so many people need.
"I see my fellow Democrat, Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia, seated nearby. I take to heart his comments, which he can safely make now that he's retiring from Congress, about how Obamacare is economically doomed, with few young people signing up but sick old people taking money out. The math doesn't add up.
"Now that I think about it, it would be better to end government involvement in health care altogether and let people shop around for the best free-market plans, including catastrophe-only plans, depending on individual needs. Let's try that. In fact, let's see if I can revise other items in my agenda so they work better for consumers …
"Minimum wage laws, for example. Although a higher minimum is popular with people from both parties, minimums make no sense. The law cannot make an employee who a company values at $5 an hour become worth $10. Minimum wage laws just increase unemployment by eliminating some jobs. They don't do the poor any favors. Let's repeal them.
"And let's get the feds out of the preschool business! Government does a bad job with K-12 education. Why would we think our central planning should expand? My education department funded studies of Head Start, and we were all astounded to learn that they have no effect. It's insane to do more of something that our own research shows does not work. Education should be left to local governments and parents.
"Immigration: It's odd that I'm seen as a friend to immigrants, given that I've deported more of them than the previous president did. But if we don't want people breaking immigration laws, the best thing to do is simplify the law. Conservatives worry that people will come here to mooch off the welfare state or commit crimes. So how about letting people in with quick and simple procedures focused on checking for crime and terrorism, but saying no immigrant is eligible for welfare? That compromise makes sense.
"National Security Agency surveillance: After all the outrage over the Patriot Act, you must have been surprised, America, to discover that the NSA does even more snooping under my presidency. I will not abandon the basic governmental duty to keep citizens safe, but we should limit snooping to people whom we have probable cause to suspect might be terrorists.
"Climate: I think the greenhouse effect is real, but the evidence that humanity's contribution to it will cause dire problems is debatable. Better to reduce Environmental Protection Agency micromanagement and let America get as rich as possible. This will help us cope with environmental side effects and afford the research necessary to find better sources of energy. Global warming is a theoretical problem. We have real problems, like reducing our debt and getting clean water to the world's poor.
"Drugs: I used marijuana and cocaine, and I understand that some people are harmed by drugs. But adults should have the right to decide what to put in their own bodies. If people struggle with addiction—as I've struggled to give up cigarettes—putting them in prison isn't a smart way to help. Let's legalize all drugs. End the futile and violent drug war."
After all, you own your own body and mind. If more of our policies respected that fact, our union truly would be strong.