After President Obama's third State of the Union address this week, the Cost of Government Center decided to take a look at how this speech different from joint addresses past. The speech, while rife with the President's usual demands for tax hikes on families and small businesses, was more of a campaign speech than an executive joint address. It is telling, then, that the President spent more time avoiding many of the top issues of past addresses than mentioning them.
Notably absent from the speech was any mention of his plan to salvage the economy via government “stimulus.” The President hasn’t used the banner term for his failed economic recovery plan since his last State of the Union Address, when he only mentioned it once. Promising Americans at the outset of his presidency that with the passage of the $1.2 trillion spending and debt package unemployment would never reach 8 percent, voters are not likely to keep buying into the President’s economic acumen with the jobless rate cresting its 35th month above that promise plateau.
High Speed Rail, the object of the President’s affection in many past joint addresses, didn’t even receive a passing glance in this speech. Perhaps after Republicans slashed all funding for HSR last year, the President could see the writing on the wall. But after characterizing high speed rail as a boon for job growth, the President has evidently given up on his economic silver bullet.
The President also only dedicated a few sentences to his so-called regulatory reform. The President’s last budget called for businesses to forgo $6.2 million in economic growth to make way for excessive regulation. His last joint address promised regulatory reform that would have taken place in an imaginary world. This week, the President used to creative language to imply the Bush Administration was a more aggressive regulator than his. The numbers tell a different story - the Bush Administration averaged 45 major regulations per year, while the Obama Administration has already averaged 59 in its first two years alone. This may be seen as an outlier if the future did not also look so bleak – there are currently nearly 5,000 regulations waiting in the wings, 219 of which would constitute major rulemakings.
The President was forced by his own failures to back away from discussing the spending and regulatory agenda he so aggressively promoted in the first few years of his administration. This did not, however, stop him from continuing to support onerous tax hikes on families and small businesses. Check out the ATR blog for a fact check of the President's State of the Union tax myths.