Monday, January 30, 2006

State of the Union

Tomorrow night, our nation’s president will be issuing his annual State of the Union Address. It got me to thinking…

Exactly what is the state of our union? See, I don’t really expect the president to answer that question. Not with any real specificity anyway. Oh, sure he’ll give a list of all the great progress we have made in our various and sundry endeavors domestically and around the world, but what is the state of our union at the very local, very personal level?

Of course, that depends on whom you ask. Assessment depends on perspective. It’s how one views the world and how those events affect one in real and abstract terms. If I have loved ones in Iraq then the foreign policy in respect to the “war on terrorism” has a direct and personal impact on my daily life. If I don’t, then it still may have an effect, but in a more abstract way and probably not as a constant presence that I am sure those closer to the conflict feel. The state of the union on this topic may, to some, only be a matter of policy discussion rather than life and death.

Then there is the matter of the Supreme Court. It appears that the court is about to take a tilt towards the right. How does this affect the state of the union? To some, at a very personal level, this shift spells disaster – today! It bears on their every waking moment. I am with those that do not take this recent turn of events as an immediate threat. Besides the total unpredictability of how justices will view cases, the court does not have the power or the inclination to be overturning precedent willy-nilly. Indeed, it is the only branch of government that has adhered to any ethical standards and not been immersed in scandal after scandal after scandal.

How about the economy? There’s an issue that should be near and dear to pretty much everybody. Bush will say that the economy is growing, that so many new jobs have been created, that the tax cuts for the rich and the spending cuts for the poor are working. The vocal rich will agree, the silent poor won’t and those in the middle are just plugging away. The establishment does not pay too much attention to those on the fringe. The victims of Enron, the victims of Katrina and the victims of government are no longer front-page news. If you are not among them, the state of your union is not so bad.

It is true that we get outraged on a regular basis. We cry foul, we stomp our feet and we scream, “No fair!” There is a brief period of intense pressure and then it goes away. The status quo re-asserts itself and we go on about our happy, ignorant lives. Almost all of us. In the wake of these outrages are those left behind. Those whose life savings went into the pockets of those who are using that money to mount multi-million dollar defenses. Those who are making payments on homes that will never be rebuilt. Those who are dying in Iraq. And... those who are paying attention.

So tell me, what is the State of your Union?


The Zombieslayer said...

It's actually quite good. But it got really scary a few months ago before I got this current job.

You are absolutely right about it all depends on who you ask. New Orleans still hasn't recovered. Here in California, the tech industry is now finally recovering.

I have no immediate relatives in Iraq (they're all too old or too young), so I'm kind of out of the loop there. Had several friends of mine who lost friends in 9-11, but I didn't know anyone who died in either 9-11 or the Iraq War.

Michael K. Althouse said...

zs: Me too, but as this administration extends more and more, more and more lives are immediately and directly effected. Be it either by action or inaction, I have to wonder whose next. Where and when does the government stop? At what point should I worry. They've locked up more than one journalist...

Ellen said...

Once again, a brilliant post!

I will find it amusing in a sarcastic way if Bush says that the economy is growing. I hope someone reminds him that Ford is in the process of closing plants, as well as Kraft. The lay-offs will be tremendous. Granted, Ford had implemented a plan to ease the pink slips, so they do have a safety net in place for some.

Then there is Dell, who has planned to hire 5,000 more employees in India, increasing their staff to 15,000 outsourced jobs for that country.

Talk to the lady from Enron who was on the news today. She made $40,000 a year working for that company. Now she has nothing, is working two jobs, and scambling to put anything together to help pay the mortgage tomorrow. In the meantime, her husband suffers from cancer, and the health benefits have been cut off.

You are absolutely right, it is a matter of who you ask, and where they stand financially, or if they have a family member fighting in a war nobody wanted.

The state of my union has me barely hanging on these days. With all the cut backs in businesses, catering is considered a perk, and one of the first things cut in budgets. Corporate is my bread and butter. So now my partners and I have to re-tool, and plug along as best we can. I can deal with that.

What makes me bleed is that many people I know that can't find a decent job at all... and in the meantime we are supporting an administration that is doing a poor job of running our country and spending our tax dollars. (In my case, I pay 28% in taxes a year, as I am self-employed.)

They have already proven their incompetance with the mess we have been left with from the hurricanes. Even Jimmy Carter, who implemented FEMA during his administration, is embarrassed by the mis-handling. It will take years to straighten out our Gulf coast at the rate we are going now.
But hey, lets go fight a war, or send money to other countries not to grow pot, or raise the salaries of our government officials. In the meantime, we suffer as a nation in the hands of a bumbling administration that wants us to feel good, but live under fear.

I always enjoy reading your posts as they are well thought out. It's easy to see why you are a journalism student, as you possess a wonderful writing quality.
Keep up the good work!

X said...

I just love politics. It's interesting because it's laughable. I'm much more well-versed in Canadian politics, but how can I not pay attention to our neighbours to the south?

This SOTU will reflect on how Canada's new government will be, given the fact that we have conservatives in power now (well, as of Feb 6th). Our Prime Minister designate bows to teh Republican Gods of the US, and you can bet your bottom dollar that he will make closer ties with Bush and twist the country's way of thinking on the international scene. It will be bad.

Of course, it won't seem that way to most.

Politicians always paint a nice, rosie picture so everyone is happy. Those who don't follow the news on a regular basis, or don't think about the consequences of the government's actions accept it. Those who are directly affected or look a little deeper than the average bear begin to question.

Sigh. It will be interesting as to what Bush says, but, as you noted, it can be pretty predictable.

Michael K. Althouse said...

ellen: Thank you {blush}. You're too kind. My personal circumstances are pretty good considering... However, I do not think my kids will enjoy the same opportunity judging by the direction we're heading. Therefore the state of MY union ain't so good by association.

outinleftfield:Yes, I've gotten wind of the politcal quagmire up north. I guess it will keep you plenty busy! You're absolutely right in that those who are not directly affected usually don't make too much noise. The exceptions are those that may not feel the pinch themselves but are informed enough to feel for those who do and the patriotism to say ENOUGH!


neal said...

First let me say, damn you have been busy! I have been logging on just long enough to make a few posts of my own then getting offline. I need to make a point of checking your blog more often or else I will be swamped.

The state of my union is getting by. My wife and I both work and together we make roughly $30,000 a year. We are lucky in that when I was a military contractor I made good money and we paid off our house.

We have all the essentials and a bit extra to buy the occasional frill items but not much more.

When the stock market was high when Clinton was president we began investing in mutual funds for our retirement. When Bush/Gore fought it out the market began to fall and then along came 9/11 and it really took a hit. We rode it out hoping for the best. The dow and NASDAQ

Anonymous said...

The state of my union is that the haves which shall remain unnamed but I'm sure you know who I am referring to, sit back and collect the money and the have not's which makes up the rest of us, the rest of the world are capped out pawns in the game. The key word is 'capped'. Think about it, salary-wise what are the limits on non "old rich" families? I don't know what the exact number is, but I'm guessing anywhere from $500K a year to possibly $1.5 million. I'm saying this is the max for the "high end" professions (jobs) such as medicine, executives or law. Any higher than that and you are looking at a very very small percentage of the population. And a large portion of that piece is "old money". Yes you have your new age entrepreneurs but we are talking about the general population. We are all capped by the MAN.

Jamie Dawn said...

MIne is okay. I've got shelter, food, and a loving family. I'd like to say that mine is great, but it's not. Of course, none of that is Bush's fault.
I actually support him, in general. I hope he delivers a confident & stirring message that raises the hopes of our nation and gives us a shot in the arm.
I like for a president to have lofty goals.
I'm a person who likes to look with hope towards the future, and I want a leader that leads that way.
I am a Republican, but I support Dems who are positive and have good ideas for the future. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any Dems in the spotlight that are like that. The raving Ted Kennedy-Howard Deans of the party get all the attention, and that is not a good thing.
I support sound minded people. There are several far right Repubs that I can't stand.
I hope Bush delivers a great speech.

Saur♥Kraut said...

A wonderful post! You're right, it all depends on your viewpoint.

I'll be honest; I don't think it's all that great, whether I view it from a personal standpoint or as an outside observer.

I agree that the Supreme Court nominee isn't a true problem. I know there are many who won't like him, and I understand why. As you pointed out, it's not as if he's some dictator who can make carte blanche rulings. In fact, there are others on the Court and THEY don't have that ability either.

My main concern is what the administration is getting away with. I think that we, as a country, have gone too far in promoting and embracing profit, big business, and the almighty dollar to the detriment of the average American.

That sounds sweeping and almost like a conspiracy theory, doesn't it?

But I would argue that when a pervasive attitude permeates a country over a long period of time, it's not so much a matter of conspiracy but simple logic. Monkey see/Monkey do.

That means that if YOU are a head honcho at a corporate level and YOU can get away with doing something, it certainly makes sense that other honchos will also do it (and get away with it).

It is shown in the deterioration of the relationship between employer and worker. It's seen in the jobs that go overseas or are imported illegally and are lost to the American worker. It's seen in corporate scandals such as Enron and Martha Stewart.

And today I was shafted by my old firm. Why? For a little money, and because they could.

I'm not saying that I believe that America is declining because of my experience today. I see that merely as an illustration of the decline.

And I have no easy answers...

Bar L. said...

Excellent point and very well written. My current state is fine, but I have a hard time sleeping sometimes knowing about the poverty in other places (I give as much as I can but wonder if it really makes a difference).

I think we should boycott Dell.

Thanks for some substantial food for thought!!!

Michael K. Althouse said...

neal:My immediate world is ok too. My kids...that's ok, but full of uncertainty. However, as a consciencious citizen, I feel and empathize with the pain of other's and wonder, who's in their corner. The government? I wonder.

anon: I'm not in the habit of responding to anonymity because I doubt you'll even be back. But on the off-chance that I am wrong (it has been known to happen!): It sounds like you're saying that the American Dream is not attainable. Although I may agree to a point, the American Dream was never about "getting rich." It's about being able to own a home, work until age 65 or so and retire comfortably while being able to send your kids to college and pay for weddings and the like. Not everyone can be rich, the math doesn't work. That said, I am concerned about the atainability of the dream.

jamie dawnI think it is apparent that I am not a huge fan of this administration. I do not, however, have anything against republicans in general. Like the Dems, there are planks in their platform I agree with and planks I don't. I just feel that this particular administration is out of touch with the real America.

saur:Always good to hear from you my friend! Yes, I think there is a culture of corruption - and it's not just the Repubs, but also the Dems and, as you pointed out, corporate America. We seem to be numb to it. They appear to be winning. I don't trust the lot of them.

bar bar a said: ...I have a hard time sleeping sometimes knowing about the poverty in other places...

Thank you. That, my dear, is my point. To get beyond ouselves and understand that if anyone is suffering, we all are.