Mr. Clinton made his state of the union address tonight, and I just have to say something. If you're totally uninterested in politics, you better leave now ;)
Now, Mr. Clinton is a politician, and he's pretty good at it. Let me talk about politicians for a bit. Politicians get my utmost contempt. Their living is based on language, which you'd think would give them a great reason to keep it pure. Instead, they spend their time twisting and mangling things. They're just as bad as lawyers (of course, many of them are lawyers).
On to the speech. One thing he tried to take credit for constantly during the speech was the economy. I expected him to do so, and he did. Let me explain something here. He had little to do, directly at least, with the economy. There are two real reasons why the economy was so strong.
1) Alan Greenspan. For all the jokes, he's very, very good at his job. There's a reason Congress and the President have little direct control over the Federal Reserve. His function is to prevent something like the Great Depression from happening. Simple control over interest rates and so on does this remarkably well. Clinton himself had almost no impact on this part of our government's economic controls. By law, he can not have much control here. Clinton's so-called economic policy had little to do with anything. The economy is very sluggish to response from controls of the legislative type. It always has been, always will be.
2) This is important. Clinton's policies had little effect on the economy for a very simple reason. It's called "a Republican controlled Congress." He had little chance to pass major legislation. He had almost no chance to expand the bureaucracy. This meant that there was little new red tape for businesses of all stripes to work through. Less government control almost always means more productive business. With Congress fighting him over everything, he COULDN'T do anything to cause major harm to the economy, simply because he could barely do anything. There's a lovely little thing called The Peter Principle that sums up the idea of bureaucracy.
Frankly, he cannot take credit for a strong economy, as much as he tries. And a strong economy is at the root of most of the things he was trying to take credit for. A budget surplus? Strong economy. Low welfare rolls? A strong economy, more people working. Lower crime rates? A strong economy, more people able to work for a living and not resort to theft, etc. Increase in exports? A strong economy. Nearly everything he tried to take credit for has at its root a strong economy. Which is something he had little to do with.
After his bit about responsibility (no comment necessary), he goes on to talk about a "balanced budget" and fiscal responsibility. Only one problem here. He's already planning to spend whatever excess comes in. Setting aside for now what he wants to spend it on, let's look at the national debt. We're trillions of dollars in debt. Interest on the debt is one of the bigger budget items outside social spending. Does anyone else think that maybe we should pay this off now? It's simple math. If we wait, the number increases. If we start paying off now, we save a HUGE amount in interest. (I won't get into the actual amount of trouble the debt is or isn't causing.) And yet, what does Clinton want to spend this surplus on? Social Security. The single largest federal expense. The largest single budget item, one that can only increase. And within the current SS rules, how is this going to work? There is no "social security" trust. It's money in, money out. People paying social security taxes now are supporting those on it now. Why are we suddenly attempting to save up for this? He talks of setting it aside until we repair social security, but he doesn't have any suggestions as to how that'll happen. This system, aside from somehow becoming a nation identification standard, simply cannot survive. Throwing more money at it doesn't really help. How do you think we got this debt in the first place?
He next tackled the topic of education. Now, I've already lambasted the recent test scores in Colorado. Do you remember his talk of sending out college students to teach kids to read? Wow, sure worked wonders, didn't it? As for expanding Head Start, it's, well, a start. Head Start actually works. The only problem is, it doesn't get followed through. Head Start students, by the time they graduate high school, are not statistically ahead of the rest of their class. It's all well and good teaching kids to read early and so on, but if you don't follow through, it doesn't do a damn thing. Then he talks about the national voluntary testing for fourth and eight graders. Give me a break. If it was mandatory, we'd get results like those in Colorado, and that'd be political suicide for whoever was in office. The democrats have tried to set themselves up as "the education party"; they can't afford to do something like this. National standards will not happen as long as politics is running things. As for adding 100,000 certified teachers, well, please. This was like his adding 100,000 police. It's insignificant. There are several hundred million people in this country; does he really expect class sizes to magically drop to 18 by giving each school an extra tenth of a teacher? And schools are controlled by local school boards. I admit, his idea of merit based grade advancement is a good one. Only one problem. If we actually set the standards where they belong, we'd have most of each grade staying behind. Remember, in Denver, Colorado, three schools produced NO fourth graders who could read or write to the standard. The joke of a 20-year-old high schooler wouldn't be a joke much longer. It'd be the norm. And this all ties in with a point he makes a bit later. Juvenile crimes are most frequent between 3 and 5 p.m., when the kids are off of school and the parents still work. There's an incredibly simple way to improve the education system and cut down on such crime. Make school longer. The U.S. has some of the shortest school days and school years of the Industrialized World. Simply give the teachers more time to teach. Instead of spending money on after-school programs, spend money on school. Instead of teaching the kids tailgate basketball, teach them.
His talk of court vacancies being a problem is rather misleading of him. If I remember the numbers (from Meet the Press) correctly, over 200 judges have been appointed since he's been in office, with something like 40 still up for review. For Congress, this seems like fast work.
As for hypocritical, can you beat his "strong military" speech? A draft-dodger is now talking about how necessary and great a strong military is. Of course he can't get drafted now
Then he talks about NBC weapons and how we should be tough on them. This, of course, brings up Saddam, and how we will be tough on him. We've already caved time and again. The threat of a military strike now means almost nothing. Even if Clinton follows through on it, he's already shown just how far (and what a distance it is) he can be pushed.
The next is unbelievable. He blames the campaign finance scandals on the media. "Oh, the high cost of commercials made me break the law" he says, like someone held a gun to head. If he can be coerced this easily, do we want him running the country?
Then he blatantly plugs Al Gore as his replacement. He doesn't put it in those words, but he talks about all the government waste Gore's cut, never mentioning that it wasn't even a drop in the bucket. Gore does have one major stumbling block in a quest for the Presidency. You have to have a personality to win a personality contest.
He also talks about IRS reform as if he single-handedly brought it about. Let's face it, there wasn't a single thing he could have done to stop it.
After campaigning for more increases in social spending, he moves on to how D.C. has been improved. This is a joke. I've been to D.C. The slums are less than a block from the White House. It's a horrid, nasty little city where a direct hit from a meteorite would count as gentrification. For a city that spends thousands of dollars to rip out and replant all the median flowerbeds every month, talk of spending to increase the quality of the city is a joke.
Then he gets to the environment. Environmental protections and, in specific, "global warming." Anyone remember the Dihydrogen Monoxide bit? This is even more incredible, since Al Gore was our representative at the international global warming conference. He's written about what a hoax it is, yet lately you couldn't pry that out of him with the offer to turn him into a real boy. As for Clinton's bull about "new research," well. Not too many of you have heard of the "new" fuel cell powered car that some companies have been working on. It's received almost no media attention. And yet fuel cells are one of the most efficient energy sources around. They've got low emissions at worst, and can easily rival internal combustion engines for performance. There's just one problem with this technology. It would hurt the oil companies. It's been around for decades. NASA has used them from the start of the space program. The only "new" think about it is a small gasoline cracker to convert the gasoline into a form fuel cells can use. But full-cells are best run with liquid hydrogen. It would produce no emissions aside from pure water, and would produce the best fuel/energy rating. Liquid hydrogen is also actually safer to use in a car than gasoline. In a wreck, the low molecular weight of hydrogen allows it to dissipate quickly, making explosions almost impossible. There have even been real world tests of liquid-hydrogen fuel-cell cars, and they compare very favorably to ICE. The only problems? There's no distribution system for liquid hydrogen. It's not easy to get. There's several ways around this. If big business put their minds to it, it'd be solved quickly. If nothing else, the fuel cells could be run off propane (with less pollution and better output than gasoline) which is already widely available. Why has this technology not become widespread? It'd cause major economic problems for the oil companies. The need for oil wouldn't disappear, but it'd be vastly reduced. They've already got the automotive companies under control. This technology, and much more like it, has been sitting around for years. It has purposely been withheld. There's no reason to spend more money on research when we're not even using the best of what we already have.
And he just couldn't resist that over-used phrase "cyberspace." It was either that or information superhighway, and I'm not sure which is worse.
And why is he suddenly supporting the space program? It's gotten some good press lately with the Sojourner probe and John Glenn, he must be trying to capitalize on it. The space program has been a major budget-cut target for years. If he was serious in his support here, we'd have an orbital station now and not have to rely on a cobbled-together hunk of worn out junk like Mir.
Well, this was a long one, and had nothing to do with Daria. But it had to be said.
The Peter Principle
In other words, you get promoted as long as you can do your job. As soon as you can't do it, you're stuck. You won't get promoted, you might get transferred, but you'll never get demoted to a job you can actually do. Explains a lot, doesn't it?