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POWELL: The Real State Of The Union And Simple Steps For Improvement

With a new year often comes anticipation and optimism. And this year the State of the Union address will be delivered before a new Congress—a Republican majority in both the House and Senate.    

President Obama’s State of the Union speech will likely have its smallest audience to date. That is the price that any leader pays for being dissembling on a range of important issues—from Benghazi to IRS misconduct and censorship—and showing disrespect for the voting public.  After all, when after the November 4 election results came in, and Obama said that he heard the message of “two-thirds of the people who chose not to vote,” that was final confirmation of rigidity and denial that turns people off. 

What America’s domestic and foreign policy failure both now have in common at the outset of 2015 is a bit of an “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome—where reality is turned upside down, where nonsense is passed off as truth, where disarray is a plan and stonewalling is passed off as acceptable response.

Unfortunately there are no silver bullets to our current predicament in either domestic or foreign policy. What American people should demand now is not immediate results but more honesty in public discourse about the causes of our national decline and the need for new and different approaches that embrace realistic solutions grounded in principles and institutions that work and deliver measurable results. 

On domestic policy, the first order is for Washington to acknowledge the absurdity of dealing with over-indebtedness by piling up more debt or fixing problems with more regulations.  Any new legislation or executive order—like free community college—that adds to the federal debt should simply be dead on arrival, without offsetting spending cuts.  Clearly a new monetary policy approach is needed by the Federal Reserve, whose six-year experiment with  zero interest rates and money printing has left the poor and middle class entirely behind, while helping big government, Wall Street and corporate officers with big company stock awards get even richer. There is something wrong with Washington policy that has left the vast majority of Americans worse off than they were ten years ago. 

On foreign policy, it is clear that the U.S. war on terrorism is utterly failing, largely because of an unwillingness to name and describe the enemy and its ideological roots.  Radical Islamic jihad is on a barbaric march promoting a culture of death and total submission, capturing more and more territory in Africa and the Middle East, while the U.S. commander-in-chief can’t articulate a strategy to defeat this enemy—in large part because he won’t describe and acknowledge precisely who that enemy is.  President Obama’s no-show in Paris appears to have been driven by his narrative of denying the Islamist characteristic of modern terrorism. Sadly, experience shows that perception of weakness invites more aggression. 

The widespread polling in 2014 that shows public trust in both the media and government at or near historic lows—with only 24% acknowledging trust in Washington—actually has a positive side to it.  If Republicans can help the average American people connect the dots they can make a convincing case for less state activism, less regulation, tax reform and more freedom.           

There may never be a highly informed electorate in America, but people do understand that increased government regulation—requiring government permission on ever more economic, social or cultural activities—has gone too far.  People do understand that government cannot run national healthcare and cannot be trusted with more debt and tax revenue after such a manifestly poor record of stewardship of the resources it already has.  Similarly, average people and particularly younger people understand that entitlement programs need restraint and reform because government mismanagement has already robbed them and future generations–leaving those programs insolvent. 

Why not think about this year as a turning point for greater government accountability and more power to the people?  And as for we the people, let’s make it a year for greater self-reliance.   

Finally, 2015 must be the year of protecting the free flow of information. So any suggestion by President Obama’s State of the Union address to subject the internet to new costs and regulations or to the internationalization of Internet governance protocols, is unacceptable.           

The Internet is one of the few institutions that works well in educating, disseminating information and expanding freedom precisely because it is decentralized and relatively unregulated.  That is something to think about in contrast to what most institutions of government, public schools and the establishment media have delivered.             

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute and a managing partner at RemingtonRand LLC.



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