Best I can remember the first “State of the Union” I ever watched was President Reagan’s in 1981. Although I was only in High School, I was a political geek even back then. Some of you may remember the TV sitcom, “Family Ties” starring Michael J. Fox as the lead character, Alex P. Keaton. Alex was a high school aged kid who over the time of the show started college. Even in High School, Alex wore ties and sport coats to school and carried a brief case. And of course he was a budding capitalist and conservative in his political persuasion. Sounds like me in the early eighties.
Fast forward thirty years and I am still watching Presidential State of the Union speeches even the ones given by those who I differ with ideologically. And regardless of a President’s ideology, I am always in awe of the institution and history that “the state of the union” presents. I get caught up in the pageantry, poetry, and hope that most of the 30+ speeches I have seen over my lifetime offer.
The next day, however, reality sets in. Regardless of whether I agree with the majority of the speech or disagree with the speech, I am more and more burdened by the misdirection, the half-truths, the rhetoric, etc. Just consider the last few given by our current President and those of President Bush. Both always delivered eloquent and for the most part inspiring speeches. But the partisan tone is so apparent, the substance of the points being presented become tainted.
Consider that President Bush, a conservative Republican, spent money so feverishly that our real debt explosion began during his watch. And President Obama walked right in to the White House with every intention of continuing that spending and growing the federal government to an unprecedented size.
Although I could spend the rest of this column pointing out the failed policies of the Bush Administration, that is old news. President Obama has now been the leader of our country for three years. Everything is now on his watch. He is completely accountable, along with Congress, for where we are today.
After three years of partisan bickering, trillions more of red ink, and a lower standard of living for most Americans, President Obama proudly proclaimed that the State of our Union is getting stronger. You cannot spin the real state of our union any better. Consider the following: the current national debt of the United States is at $15 trillion and growing, the share of that debt for the average American family is $250,000; we have over 23 million Americans out of work, and almost 50 million Americans receiving food stamps. And last but not least, our Congress and President have now operated our government for over 1000 days without an approved budget.
No wonder most Americans are angry and frustrated with government at all levels.
How do we fix the dire predicament that our selfish, arrogant, and power hungry elected officials have put us in? At least three areas come to mind that could help get us back on track as the strongest nation on earth. We should get our fiscal house in order, we should demand our elected officials play by the rules, and get government back as close to the people as possible.
Our fiscal affairs are on a path to implosion. The American people deserve and should demand a balanced budget with the only exception being during times of war and only then with a two-thirds majority agreeing that war or disaster conditions warrant deficit spending. It is criminal to me that a President and a Congress spend taxpayer dollars without an approved budget.
I wrote about reforming Congress recently where someone suggested and I agreed that elected officials should not be able to enrich themselves by trading stocks on insider information, that they should not receive lucrative retirements from serving their country, or health care programs that are better that the ones their constituents can afford. And they should not receive automatic pay increases while the pay of their constituents is flat to declining. Serving in an elected position should be an honor and require some level of sacrifice rather than being a lottery ticket to wealth and power.
And last but not least, power must be returned to the people by restoring it to its lowest common denominator or getting it back as close to the people as possible. The 10th Amendment of the US Constitution places all power not specifically granted the Federal Government should be that of the State governments. Unfortunately, Republican and Democrats alike have continued to usurp powers at the federal level.
It is time for the governors and state legislatures to take back all powers that are legitimately in their domain from the federal government. The current litigation over Obamacare could provide the legal precedent and process for States rights to once again be respected and appropriately given back to the states. Governors and state legislatures should become much more vigilant in keeping their federal counterparts consistent with our constitution.
Many of our state governments have also mismanaged their states financially and pushed burdens down to their local communities. Local elected officials are the closest to the citizens and therefore can and should keep an open dialogue about state issues and their impact on local governments. So again local city officials and county officials can and should work closely with state elected officials in holding them accountable.
If we are ever going to become the United States of America again and be the beacon to the rest of the world, everyone elected official should place the welfare of our country and the jurisdiction they represent over party allegiance, money, fame, or power. We became the country the rest of the world admired and envied through the efforts of servant leaders throughout our history. Career politicians and party hacks must be replaced by America’s next generation of servant leaders.
May God bless our community and our United States of America!