Opinion | Bruce Butler: The State of the Onion
Tuesday, Feb. 7, is the date for the annual spectacle of the State of the Union Address, when the three branches of the U.S. government come together in the House of Representatives chamber, and the president of the United States — regardless of party — declares “the state of the union is strong.”
Following this proclamation, the entire chamber erupts with three minutes of applause and a standing ovation, except for the U.S. Supreme Court justices. When the speaker of the house and the vice president of the Unites States are in the same party as the president, the two stand and cheer in unison, behind the President, throughout the duration of the speech. When the speaker of the house and the vice president are in opposite political parties, like this year, the two alternately stand and cheer, while the other attempts to remain stoic.
Short of a major gaff by the president, the much-anticipated speech is soon forgotten. Some might suggest the address should be more aptly titled the “State of the Onion,” because the state of the union in 2023 is precarious.
Leading up to this national event, the communist Chinese government sent a giant spy balloon across the continental Unites States, where it methodically zig zagged across the country on a tour of military installations and other strategic infrastructure. Whether the Chinese military/government intended it to become a front-page story is debatable, but the spy balloon was certainly meant to be a visible message — far beyond its espionage value — to the U.S. military and senior government officials. Either way, the fact that the spy balloon’s presence tied the Biden administration and top defense officials in knots for days, in front of the national media, was an extra bonus for China. Their message is crystal clear, however: President Joe Biden and the Unites States are weak, and countries counting on the U.S. for support and protection should rethink their geopolitical alliances.
In addition, the U.S. does not have a functional, sovereign southern border, violent crime in many major U.S. cities is historically high, U.S. education and student proficiency scores continue to decline, inflation has outpaced real wage increases and the Biden administration has forsaken domestic energy supply and independence — and high paying jobs in poor rural areas — for a return to dependence upon foreign oil and governments with dubious environmental and human rights records. All of which result in a diminished and less prosperous United States of America.
While I would argue that supporting the Ukrainian military in a proxy war against Russian aggression in Eastern Europe is less expensive and preferable to having a NATO country invoke Article 5, which would physically commit the U.S. military to a catastrophic and deadly war in Europe, there appears to be no strategy to decisively equip the Ukrainian forces in a manner that would end the war. Instead, the current trajectory is for an endless war and endless spending. Once again, there is no leadership and no accountability, but there will be a bipartisan standing ovation in support of Ukraine.
The President will, no doubt, tout recent job creation and low unemployment numbers as signs that his profligate spending has helped the economy, and that any kind of spending restraint, other than cuts to defense spending, are a “threat to democracy” and freedom itself. Inflation, the debt limit, and the $32 trillion federal debt notwithstanding, there will be calls for student loan forgiveness, universal health care, unrestricted access to abortion, carbon taxes, more spending on green energy initiatives, more funding for teachers’ unions and public education, “comprehensive” immigration reform, and more lenient criminal sentencing and police “reform,” under the guise of social justice. There will be platitudes about free speech, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and endless investigations.
Public opinion about government, especially the federal government, is understandably low, which is a real threat to our democracy. There needs to be a thorough house cleaning of senior bureaucrats across the departments of defense, justice, state, energy, education, health and human services, and the IRS, FBI, and CIA, to name just a few. These necessary reforms, that would strengthen the state of our union, will be notably absent from the address. I recommend drinking shots every time there is applause.
Bruce Butler's column "Common Sense Conversations" publishes biweekly on Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Butler is a former mayor and council member in Silverthorne, where he has lived for 20 years. Contact him at email@example.com.
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