Monday, February 1, 2010

State of the Union

I finally found some time to listen to President Obama’s state of the Union Address which was presented last Wednesday.  I was unable to watch at the time because I was teaching the junior high students at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church the seventh petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “But deliver us from evil.”  What does this mean?  “We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven” (Luther’s Small Catechism).  After class is over, the students play basketball or games in the gym and then we close with evening prayer in the nave of the church. 

From the get go the ego-centric nature of the address was incredibly obvious.  I have never heard so much “I” language in any State of the Union speech.  I have probably been watching state of the union speeches for the last 15 years, the imperative to watch was usually strongly set forth by my parents, who understood that an educated and engaged citizenry is necessary for a strong republic.  In this speech however, the focus and reference point was hardly a sovereign country, with borders, and a people of its own.  That reference point was Obama, “One year ago I took office…,” going on to announce all the problems he inherited.
The most peculiar part of the speech that kept recurring is the bizarre insistence that government creates jobs and grows the economy.  President Obama spoke often about the jobs he is “creating,” even though there is a much more significant level of unemployment now than when he first took office.  Where does this idea come from, that the government “creates jobs” or creates anything for that matter.  The government takes, shifts (steals) wealth, intrudes, and constricts.  Government is incapable of “creating” anything. 

New programs, new bills, new green jobs are those catch words used in the speech for a little trickery, as if government creates and grows anything.  The growth of government destroys wealth, it does not create it.  The only thing that creates jobs is wealth and unfettered capitalism.  It has already been noted by other critics that Obama’s ‘change’ campaign is a revivification of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s failed “New Deal” philosophy that by exponentially increasing the size of the federal government a country can reign down prosperity from above.  It was a horrible idea and prolonged the depression for an unnecessary amount of time.  It was a bad idea then and it still is a bad idea. 

If we are to have a strong economy and prosperity for all, government is not the solution, government is always the problem.  Government gets in the way.  Government cannot nurture – it cannot love or comfort.  Government is cold and sterile.  It does not ‘create,’ ‘empower,’ or ‘motivate’ but does the very opposite.  Go visit any DMV or Post Office and see how cozy you feel there.  Government does not create - it either steals or shifts around wealth.  For my socialist friends, I usually ask for one example world-wide where a country has taxed and stole their way into prosperity.  I am still looking for a single example. 

How can the idea that the government ‘creates jobs’ be taken seriously?  I hope we can collectively come to the consensus soon that socialism in whatever form it takes is poor for the country.  The only way that socialism can hold even the most miniscule tidbits of feasibility is if you have a citizenry with a a growing and multiplying population.  If boys and girls just want to have fun, pollute wombs with birth control and play with rubber balloons on their sexual organs, putting off marriage and family, there will be nobody to pay for your socialist programs.  Very simple math.  If the birthrate is decreasing (true for U.S.) and population aging, why would you increase the size of federal government?  Yes, we cannot.  If I knew anything about law, had any power, or had lawyer friends, I would file a lawsuit against the federal government, on behalf of the unborn plaintiffs whom are being buried in the irresponsible spending of the government.

It is the governments proper work to curb evil, while promoting justice and mercy.  When government becomes a force that threatens and destroys life (abortion/euthanasia/entitlements and assault upon nuclear family) then it has departed from its legitimate use of governance and power.  This will be something to prayerfully consider in these latter days.  I have already written on the correlation between Religious Culture and Market Laws HERE. 

“O merciful Father in heaven, from You comes all rule and authority over the nations of the world for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do well.  Graciously regard Your servants, those who make, administer, and judge the laws of this nation, and look in mercy upon all the rulers of the earth.  Grant that all who receive the sword as Your servants may bear it according to Your command.  Enlighten and defend them, and grant them wisdom and understanding that under their peaceable governance Your people may be guarded and directed in righteousness, quietness, and unity.  Protect and prolong their lives and we with them may show forth the praise of Your name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Pastoral Care Companion, p. 638).


  1. Great post, Mike. You put your finger on something I just read recently by Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution at Stanford: "Obama is not just inexperienced, he is hampered by a distinct inner emptiness-not an emptinuess that comes from stupidity or a lack of ability but an emptiness that has been actually nurtured and developed as an adaptation to the political world." Scary stuff.

  2. I think that is right and completely terrifying - that is also an indictment upon us all - purely political adaptation - shiftiness - appeasement - relativists

  3. A few points:

    (1) Completely unfettered capitalism can have serious consequences. See, e.g. 2008-present day. Some regulation sure appears to be necessary.

    (2) Government is not innately bad. As something created by and composed of people, government has potential to be both wonderful and terrible. We would not have the Peace Corps without Kennedy and Senator Humphrey, key figures in the government at the time. I think the world is a better place because members of our government create groups like this. The same goes for USAID. While government itself may not have the capacity to motivate, the people it is comprised of certainly do.

    (3) Government and Jobs: I think a better statement is that government itself is not the most efficient creator of jobs, rather than government is incapable of creating them. Businesses are more effective at creating jobs--small(er) businesses, to be more precise. It seems that the best way to create jobs is to give tax breaks to the businesses that employ the majority of the workers.

    Is the government on the right path? We'll see over the next few quarters. I will say that if it did nothing when the subprime crisis started, we would be in a much worse situation than we are now (remember that it was Bush that signed the first stimulus legislation). Expanding our government was necessary to prevent an unacceptably high percentage of americans from losing their homes. Thanks to careful government intervention, america staved off a much more damaging financial meltdown.


  4. (4) Your post conflates all forms of socialism with full-on command systems like 1980's-era Soviet communism. Like most things, economic systems fall on a spectrum. Toward one end (but not all that close to the end), are strong market-driven systems, like ours. Near the opposite end are totalitarian systems like that of the former USSR. Many, if not most, of the world's nations fall in between.

    Socialism is not an innately evil thing. It just happens to be that a strongly socialist system will likely never be acceptable to the American public. It's a matter of historical context. Our country was founded by a group of people who had, to put it mildly, a serious distrust of strong central governments, and a well-deserved paranoia about governmental intrusion into private affairs. These people helped frame the key governmental issues and set the parameters of the debate in ways that endure to this day. France, Sweden, and Germany each originated under different sets of circumstances, and their citizenries harbor somewhat different values and biases. All of these countries are considerably more "socialist" than the U.S., and have more extensive government involvement in various sectors like education, health care, and economic regulation. Their citizens also pay much higher taxes; as economists like to say: there's no such thing as a free lunch. Similarly, there's also no "perfect" system, ours included. Please note that every country I mentioned has a significantly lower birth rate than the United States. You are entitled to your opinion, but you should not use your blog to write things that are unequivocally false.

    (5) Government "theft": First, it is not "stealing" to charge for a service. Second, every country utilizes taxation as a necessary evil to fund certain programs/services. You ask for an example of a country that utilizes taxation to become great: the answer is every country that could ever be considered great. Certainly, taxation is not what has made these countries great, but the Obama Administration is not attempting to use taxation as the primary means to achieve prosperity. Take a look at the tax rates that were used during several past administrations, you'll see that current rates aren't all that aberrant.

    (6) Do you really think our country would be in a better place if our population was growing at a significantly greater rate?

    (7) What do you mean by "assaulting the nuclear family"? I assume you are referring to gay marriage. How exactly is that a threat to the nuclear family?

    Finally, I appreciate your sense of civic duty, but merely adding a few new pieces of information to a rigid set of beliefs doesn't count as educating oneself, nor does it fulfill one's duty. We all should take some time to deconstruct our views and consider why we think what we do. We should research the basics. Unfortunately, far too many people never get above a basic knee-jerk, Keith Olberman-ian/Glen Beck-ian level of thought. This intellectual laziness has created an increasingly uncivil political sphere, where anger has taken the place of reason, and shouting matches have taken the place of constructive discourse and debate. This is a bad thing for our country, one that I think would make most of our founders roll over in their graves.

    We, as citizens, and more generally as people, are at our best when we make a concerted effort to keep our minds open and to subject these important issues an informed and searching review, not to litmus tests.

  5. This reply makes me chuckle. I’ve never met a happy liberal, and this blow by blow denial of your post, Mike, makes me smile a little.
    I would contend, Anonymous, that your stanch devotion to Obama lies not in the fact that he stands for something, or is moving America forward, or is pro-active in cutting taxes, reforming education, or building up infrastructure. Instead, I would bet the farm on the fact that you see him as a cultural symbol, as someone with whom you could share a racial trust.
    Obama became president by running on a platform based on race and conformity. He did not win the election because he was reading, putting forth new ideas, and willing to risk popularity for belief. Instead, he purged himself of convictions and played on a nation’s insecurity: race. And America fell for it.
    The election process didn't weed him out like it should have because he played the race card. It was a cheap trick, but he knew America's timidity in that arena and used it to his advantage.
    And as for your question: “Do you really think our country would be in a better place if our population was growing at a significantly greater rate?” Absolutely it would . . . unless we want to be Russia.
    The more babies the better. And that’s not just a healthy, pious Christian belief. It's Econ 101, my friend. Given that we could take each person on the planet, give them a townhouse and a yard, and still fit everyone inside the state of Texas, I’d say we're doing okay.
    But then again, I listen to Glenn Beck. You probably can't trust me anyway. :)

  6. 1) We have not had "completely unfettered capitalism" since . . . Herbert Hoover got involved and screwed things up.

    2) According to the Constitution of these United States of America, the federal government has no right to start such entities. Such rights belong exclusively to the sovereign states and to the people, according to the 10th. Amendment.

    3) Following up on the above, the government therefore has no right to create jobs. In true laissez faire capitalism, which our Constituion assumes, the people will create jobs. And thus the government had no right to get involved in the housing crisis, which previous unconstituional legislation had caused.

    4) Socialism (in all its forms) is unconstitutional. That makes it illegal. And we're not Europe. The Founding Fathers recognized that things are much more efficient when you take out the governmental middle man. For the middle man creates more government, which creates more bureaucracy, which makes things slower and less efficient.

    5) It may very well be stealing if it's for things that are unconstituional. As we saw above, that means, in this case, that the feds would be using it for things that only the states and the people have the right to do. Also, the income tax in opposed to the dream of the Founding Fathers for this country.

    6) If it weren't for certain sins in this country, our population would be growing faster. And God did command Adam and Eve to increase and multiply and fill the earth.

    7) See #6.

    For #'s 6 & 7, see also what the lovely Miss Dorr has written in her second-to-last paragraph above.

    Yes, if the Founding Fathers are rolling around in their graves, it's because of what has happened to this country in the past 150 years, NOT because of anything written by our blogger.

  7. Please give the constitution a close read. As someone who interprets it for a living, I can say that your opinions do not hold water. If you want to be able to contribute to policy debates in a meaningful way, then both of you have a lot of studying to do. Get your facts straight, then draw your policy conclusions. I would also recommend that you travel, read, and spend time talking with people who are different from you.

    God Bless

  8. Please demonstrate how our opinions don't hold water.

  9. "People who are different from me"? What does that even mean?

  10. I pray that our Lord and Savior help President Obama. His office is as the leader of our country and I am obligated as a citizen of this great nation to respect that office. My prayers are that the Holy Spirit move in him and guide his hand. I am troubled that his administration seems to lack genuine respect for people and further lack respect for life as God gives it.


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