This past week President Obama appeared before Congress to report on the state of our union. The constitutional edict to the president is actually rather simple, stating, “He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
However, as with far too many things that originate from our nation’s capital, the State of the Union has morphed into just another national witticism, focused more on the pomp than circumstance. This year’s speech was no exception, representing a diversion from reality, and was immediately forgotten due to its stale focus.
There was a time when the State of the Union was nothing more than a written report, submitted to Congress with little fanfare. Much like the modern-day equivalent of an annual company report, the State of the Union was meant to report on what the president thought was going well for the country, what was going poorly, and to outline the president’s policy vision for the next part of his term. The president was never obligated to give the State of the Union address on a yearly basis, nor was the State of the Union originally conceived as an address for the American people. With the advent of radio and television, how could any self-respecting politician resist the opportunity to present an unchallenged speech to a seemingly captive audience? The fact is, Americans have lost faith in our federal government and in this president, supported by the reality that this year’s audience was the lowest since Bill Clinton’s last address in 2000.
Yet the more accessible the State of the Union became for Americans, the more unremarkable the message, the more forgotten the citizen. With President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union, he helped to confirm the new age of the “Forgotten Man.”
Today’s politicians have stopped listening, not to polls, but to the real voices of those wanting only to move beyond the manufactured crisis created in D.C., and to be left alone to thrive and prosper without the weight of poor policies created by incompetent politicians. Talked down to, nothing more than a political prop, hostages not only to an economy that has abandoned them, but to representatives who lack understanding of their plight, today’s forgotten man is looked upon as a person deserving only of platitudes and not as someone capable of thriving if only the government would stop trying to help them.
In the end, safety nets and public assistance are only a small part of the conversation. When all is said and done, the forgotten man wants to be remembered as a working man, not just another number in a bureaucratic labyrinth. So long as there are those in government who believe they can control equal outcomes, opportunity will be stifled for everyone in this country.
President Obama talked about government job programs, addressing income inequality, investing in infrastructure and raising the minimum wage. The merits of each of these are open to debate, but all they are right now is the heavy hand of government pushing down on a fragile economy in need of real solutions to real problems, not false answers to the wrong questions. Obama, like so many, believes the myth that government can create jobs, failing to realize this is nothing more than a collective delusion.
Failing to learn from history, Obama and his allies are doomed to repeat it. Noted economists Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian looked at the Great Depression and concluded our government’s ill-advised tinkering, confusing policies, oppressive business oversights, uncertainty and the zealous focus on the passage of a wish list of social programs helped prolong the Great Depression for between seven to 15 years. The mistakes then are the same ones being made now, creating a new forgotten man, suffering from the uncertainty created by clueless politicians.
When government tries to control the economy what it is in fact doing is controlling the people. Far too many representatives and their supporters believe that wealth is finite, that there is only so much pie and that equal distribution means merely cutting everyone a smaller piece. They could not be any further from the truth. A disciplined, ethically American free market is what creates opportunity. Yes, some people make more than others, but that does not mean they did so by taking from someone else. American capitalism has elevated more people out of poverty than any other system in the world because it understands the pie is infinite, that it can grow so everyone can have as big or as small a piece as they are willing to strive for.
It is fully understood that some people do better than others and some people remain in poverty. It is also understood that a small percentage of businesses in the world do not manage themselves from a position of integrity and positive ethics. Neither of these justifies the heavy hand of government, at all levels and often by members of both major political parties. Boundless certainty, stronger support for small business, a simple and balanced tax code, a government that spends within its means are the keys to a thriving American economy. None of which was espoused by President Obama in his State of the Union address.
The phrase “forgotten man” has its origins rooted in the Great Depression of the 1930s, first uttered by President Franklin Roosevelt during one of his fireside chats. However, depending on where you stand politically, the phrase can have a different meaning. Yet, millions of our neighbors remain forgotten, sinking further into an economic abyss created by a small percentage of people driven by greed and prolonged by a government blinded by economic ignorance.