Two Things to Look for in the State of the Union Message

by Burt on January 26, 2010

Early hints about President Obama’s State of the Union message on Wednesday reveal two points of interest.  First, he will follow FDR in trying to win votes by targeting key groups for government subsidies.  FDR was famous for this kind of bribery:  Give money to farmers not to produce, he would say, and then build roads in key congressional districts to win support for the Democrats.  His AAA and WPA performed those tasks openly and cleverly.  President Obama is apparently going to single out various middle-class groups to win over with taxpayer dollars.  First, is a doubling of the child care tax credit for families earning less than $85,000.  Notice the complexity of this proposal and also its arbitrariness.  Families earning $84,500 will have a legal right to federal money (or reduced tax payments), but families earning $85,001 are unworthy of such help.  The more government intervenes, the more politicized it gets and the more complex it becomes.

Second, President Obama is searching for scapegoats to explain the economic problems of his first year in office.  True, he is publicly saying that all is well (even after Massachusetts last week) and that all he has to do is channel today’s populist spirit.  But he is also searching for those to blame.  FDR did the same thing and both seem to have seized on the same group:  Wall Street bankers.  FDR blamed them for the Great Depression and when his New Deal programs failed to produce a recovery he railed against bankers during his re-election and said of them (and other businessmen) that he “welcomed their hatred.”  He told both Ray Moley, one of his speechwriters, and Henry Morgenthau, his secretary of treasury, that attacking wealthy people earned him votes with the electorate.  President Obama is hoping for the same result.  He is demanding that banks be smaller and that bankers be more accountable.

The search for scapegoats may be ongoing with President Obama:  Government intervention usually fails miserably, and it is easier to blame others for the failure rather than rethink the ideas behind the programs.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: