Published for Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2013
President Obama delivered yet another speech with skill Tuesday night and, near the end when he spoke about victims of gun violence, emotion. The president’s problem has never been with the theatrics of politics. It’s the substantive and governing side where he continually falls short. So it was with this most recent State of the Union.
This speech stood in sharp contrast to Mr. Obama’s inaugural address, when he emphasized liberal social issues and climate change at the expense of economic issues. Stung by press coverage that he had ignored jobs and deficit reduction, and with 39% in the Feb. 10 Gallup poll approving of his handling of the economy, the president reversed course Tuesday, devoting almost a third of the State of the Union to these two issues.
Nevertheless, the president’s suggestions won’t spur job creation and economic growth. His proposals were liberal, stale, unfocused and often counterproductive. For example, raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour would actually cost jobs.
After he offered such flimsy lines as “good, middle-class jobs . . . must be the North Star that guides our efforts” and “our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing,” the president’s projected payoff—to create 15 “global centers with high-tech jobs” and hazy promises of more research—was pretty pathetic.
It was jarring when Mr. Obama claimed credit for things he opposed, as when he boasted that America is producing “more oil at home than we have in 15 years . . . and more natural gas than ever before.” This progress has happened despite the Obama administration, with far more new drilling on private and state lands than on federal land or waters.
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