The State of the Union is … absolutely bonkers.
The SOTU used to be a solemn document sent by the president to Congress discussing high public policy. Now it is fodder for TV’s talking heads gibbering on as if it meant something. I did not watch it. My intestines are not strong enough to take the bragging and lying.
President Donald Trump is a brazen swindler. His infrastructure plan is a brazen swindle. He said, “I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need.” This does not mean we would invest $1.5 trillion. Only $200 billion would be federal spending, snaffled from other programs. Some more would magically come from the states. The rest would be an “orgy of crony capitalism” (Paul Krugman).
Our publicly owned assets would be sold for peanuts to Wall Street investors — who would get tax breaks for buying them, then charge us astronomical fees and tolls for using them, whether or not they actually fixed them up. This triple whammy would replicate the scandal of Chicago’s outrageously expensive parking meters. And it would attract only the juiciest projects. Do not expect this flim-flam to provide new water pipes for Flint, Michigan.
I did, however, watch Bernie Sanders’ rebuttal to Trump’s speech. It was not on TV but is on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2ibkHGRyaQ).
Trump pretended to root for the little guy but immediately promoted the interests of the super-wealthy. Sanders gave a list of the campaign promises Trump has broken. Here are two. He said he would bring down prescription drug prices, but then appointed a former pharmaceutical executive, Alex Azar, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. And he said he would take on the titans of Wall Street.
Sanders said: “As president, not only has Trump NOT taken on Wall Street, he has appointed more Wall Street billionaires to his administration than any president in history. And now he is trying to repeal the modest provisions of the Dodd-Frank legislation, which provide consumer protections against Wall Street thievery.” Watch your wallets, folks.
Sanders gave a list of the crises that Trump ignored. Here are two. He made no mention of global warming. And in Trump’s deranged mind, immigrants are responsible for all our problems. Yess! We can deport our way to prosperity!
Sanders then roasted Trump on the economy and America’s staggering inequality: “Since March of last year, the three richest people in America saw their wealth increase by more than $68 billion. Three people. A $68 billion increase in wealth. Meanwhile, the average worker saw an increase of 4 cents an hour.”
Sanders is America’s most popular politician. His vision for the country is wildly popular. It would crush Republicans at the next election. It is one in which all residents have access to an expanded Medicare program, workers earn at least $15 an hour, families have access to paid child care, and students can attend public college for free. Concluding optimistically, he saw the beginning of a “political revolution” promoting “an agenda that works for the working families of our country and not just the billionaire class.”
Democrats gave a tepid rebuttal to Trump’s speech from Joseph Patrick Kennedy III, supposedly a rising star. He is personally worth over $40 million and takes money from Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital, Bank of America, big oil and big pharma. (Democrats are still wondering how to appeal to the blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt who cost them the last election.)
Unlike Kennedy, Republican strategist Steve Schmidt did not mince words. He said that Trump’s speech was delivered from an “alternate reality” and would be instantly forgotten once Trump returned to his usual “reckless” behavior. He was correct. Trump declared war on the FBI, partially causing the stock market to plunge 666 points. His antics do not impress foreigners. The dollar fell 10 percent against the euro last year. The BBC said that investors had been reacting to “political turmoil” in America. Bloomberg said Trump was “a key driver of the dollar’s decline.”
Trump’s utter cluelessness is hidden behind a torrent of outrageous behavior, infantile tweeting, uncontrollable lying and never-ending scandal. His speech itself was scandalous. He showed the donors who gave him money for it, thus commercializing it. This new low is a breach of public law prohibiting the use of official broadcasts for campaign fundraising. The watchdog Public Citizen filed an ethics complaint.
Lastly, we note that Melania and Donald arrived in separate cars. This may have been due to stormy weather (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). This sad fact sums up this whole miserable affair. Trump’s speech was “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (Macbeth).