Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My State of the Union ... by Alan Caruba

My State of the Union
By Alan Caruba

Each one of us has their own “state of the union” so far as the economy is concerned. Much of the workforce receives a paycheck, but many of those jobs have ceased to exist. Other jobs involve contract services. A reported 10% of the workforce is unemployed and the likelihood is that the actual percentage is much higher.

Small business, one of the largest components of the economy, is hurting because consumers are cutting back on spending. It is no surprise either that the banking community, under direct attack by the President, is reluctant to stick its neck out. The result is an understandable reluctance to extend credit and loans, and a loss of investor confidence. On Wednesday, the President will give his first State of the Union (SOTU) speech, but if it looks and sounds familiar, it is because it will be the third time in the past year he has addressed a joint session of Congress. That has to be some kind of record, but he has set records for more than 400 speeches in the past year.

When the President reads yet another speech written for him by other people, keep in mind that he has surrounded himself with a cabinet and advisors composed primarily of lawyers like himself. Most have no experience in private enterprise. They have not managed a business, nor met a payroll. Less than ten percent of them have experience in the business sector. And these are the people charged with solving the current financial crisis!

I do not need to wait until Wednesday to hear President Obama’s State of the Union speech. I already know he cannot be trusted to respond honestly and candidly about any issue. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) gained fame by calling out “You Lie!” in an earlier speech and he was right. He did, however, apologize for the breach of etiquette, but I am pretty sure other Republicans in the chamber will feel the same impulse.

After fifty years of earning a good living as a public relations counselor and a provider of editorial skills, the market for my skills has contracted in response to the economy. That’s my SOTU. I am confident that, when the economy improves, there will be individuals, corporations, trade associations and others who will rev up their efforts to influence consumers and issues, but until then, while the President lives off the fat of the land, I am pretty much living off my “fat.”

A recent issue of U.S News & World Report devoted an entire issue to my generation and those closely gaining on it. It concluded that many either do not want to retire, nor can afford to. I have a cousin, also in his 70s, who’s in his Wall Street office every day. According to the magazine, both of us have a good chance of making it to age 100! Many investments intended to provide a retirement nest egg have been reduced in value, interest on savings is miniscule, and the rising cost of living has left those in their seventies and older often unable to opt out of the work force if they are fortunate to be employed or considering re-employment if a job can be found. We make excellent workers because we come equipped with a good work ethic and attitudes. Meanwhile, a legion of Baby Boomers is beginning to join our ranks, lining up for their Social Security and other benefits.

Tampering with Medicare this year, a huge distraction from the task of encouraging job growth, was possibly the dumbest thing the White House and Democrat Congress could have done. There will be a senior citizen payback at the ballot box in November.

I have a younger member of my family who, like thousands of Americans these days, owns a home whose value is less than his mortgage. Like all homes, it is a money pit. And worse for him, it is in New Jersey, a state with the highest property and other taxes in the nation. At the height of the housing bubble, I sold the home in which I had lived for more than sixty years and moved to a luxury apartment complex. I miss my former home, but it didn’t come with a pool, a fitness center, and a charming concierge staff.

Having been born during the Great Depression of the 1930s, I have now lived long enough to be in a new Depression. The irony is that both had their roots in government policies and, in both cases, were prolonged by government hostility to corporations, banks, and other generators of income and growth. The present administration is maniacally opposed to Wall Street. They oppose the engines of energy in America, oil, coal, and natural gas. They waste billions on so-called “renewable” energy or “biofuels”, all of which are incapable of producing sufficient energy for even a moderate-sized city or town. Biofuels just drive up the cost of crops like corn for no sensible reason.

Those “shovel-ready” construction projects have not yet materialized while the nation’s infrastructure continues to be neglected. Not one single new nuclear plant or refinery has been built since the 1970s.

Over the years, the auto industry has been destroyed by increasing congressional interference in the form of mileage mandates, by requirements for ethanol use, and, internally, by the auto unions that demanded and received huge medical and retirement plans that ate profits. Two of the largest American auto manufacturers are essentially owned by the taxpayers due to massive, multi-billion bailouts, and controlled by the unions that destroyed them.

So my SOTU is to find a market for my editorial and other skills. I don’t give a rat’s patoot what the President will say Wednesday evening. He’s not the solution. He is the problem.

Alan Caruba

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