State of the Union

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By Maria Fotopoulos

Maria is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow who focuses on the impacts of growth on biodiversity. Find her on Twitter | in | FB.

The writer’s views are her own.


 

January 21, 2015

“The state of the Union is strong,” President Obama told the nation last night. Depending on your personal situation, how extensively you follow what’s happening in the world and your level of respect for power and authority, you may believe that.

Most certainly after six years in office, the President wants to have a good story to tell, so being able to cherry pick the data used to tell that story is tremendously helpful.

For example, the President included a factoid that’s been floating around recently that health care inflation is “at it lowest rate in 50 years.” Not surprisingly, he neglected to mention the consistently outrageous rate increases Americans have had to absorb for health care coverage through the last decade. Thus, in the context of that exorbitant, long-term price gouging, a one-time blip in inflation is pretty much meaningless.

The President also touted cheap gas. Of course we all would prefer to pay less to fill our gas tanks. But the reality is, when gas is cheap, people don’t conserve as much, nor do they worry as much about fuel efficiency when making purchase decisions. On the industry side, at some point low prices make extraction too expensive in the U.S. It’s early, but the signs are here: both Baker Hughes and Schlumberger announced large layoffs recently. So, there is another side to this consumer boon.

Then there was the President’s overall positive take on the economy and job growth. “Jobs are being created at the fastest pace since 1999,” he said. However, there is much more to the jobs picture. U.S. population is 320 million, and last month 92.9 million people weren’t in the labor force. This was 456,000 more nonparticipants than in the prior month. Large numbers have just given up the ghost, and some have managed to get on the disability train.

Dig a little deeper into the employment picture, and we see that the labor participation rate for American men of prime working-age is at historic lows, with further declines expected; American women are missing out in the high-tech world, and youth unemployment is very high.

In noting the statistic of 11 million jobs created, the President neglected to mention the number of those that are low-paying in service industries and part-time, and that more than 321,000 new jobs need to be generated monthly for 15 months to counter the negative employment impact of his amnesty.

While the President talked a lot about the importance of the middle class and jobs, as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) remarked after the State of the Union speech, the President’s policies have “hammered working families, whose average inflation-adjusted income has fallen a stunning $4,200 since 2009.”

“All net employment gains since the recession in 2007 have gone to foreign workers, and yet the President has violated federal law in order to provide work permits to 5 million illegal immigrants – allowing them to take any of the few good jobs that exist,” Sessions continued.

If the President truly wants to help the middle class, he’d end policies that promote illegal immigration. But, no chance of that; he also said he’d veto any legislation that was counter to his immigration plans. As Sessions concluded, “The President delivered an address tonight to a Congress whose authority he does not recognize and to a public whose votes he has nullified with an imperial edict. Congress must use every tool at its disposal to stop this unlawful edict, end the immigration lawlessness and reverse our slide towards congressional irrelevance.”

Tell your elected officials to support American workers.
 

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