Thursday, January 29, 2015
And the loser is...
I stopped watching awards shows. For most that means little. For friends and former colleagues in Los Angeles its near heresy. The first months of the year are full of the self-congratulatory events which, according to Variety number 564 - or 4,058 trophies each year. The television shows that broadcast the festivities have become the most tedious exercises in programming. Washington, DC – another ‘industry’ town – has its own fair share of predictable and useless events, the biggest being the State of the Union…another event that I’ve ceased watching due to it being more about politics than policy.
The annual report is called for in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution: “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.” By tradition the State of the Union speech comes in January and “every president since Woodrow Wilson, with notable exception of Herbert Hoover, has made at least one State of the Union report as a speech delivered before a joint session of Congress. Before that time, most presidents delivered the State of the Union as a written report.” Since 1966, the speech has been followed on television by a response or rebuttal by a member of the major political party opposing the President's party.
The address is one of the rare times that the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government are gathered in one place at one time. The message is aired on television and is a way for the President to speak directly to the country. Since 1934 (after the ratification of the 20th Amendment that moved the opening of Congress from March to January) the address has shifted from a year-end report to a beginning-of-session call to action.
National Taxpayers Union Foundation analysts have calculated the cost of spending proposals in every State of the Union address since 1999. President Clinton proposed $327 billion in new government spending in 1999. Bush proposed $134.6 billion in new annual spending in 2008. President Obama has proposed an average $41.7 billion in new government spending in each of his State of the Union addresses.
Does it matter? Not much. According to research by political scientists from Dominican University of California and the University of Northern Iowa as it relates to proposals being fully enacted, the results range from a low of 4 percent for Obama in 2013 to a high of 67 percent for LBJ in 1965.
So if the State of the Union is not about policies, it must be about politics. The speech has become an applause fest with one party clapping and standing and cheering while the other sits on its hands. New YorkMagazine reports: “Since 1991, there's been an average of around 80 applause lines in State of the Union addresses. The most applause interruptions on record is 128 times during Bill Clinton's nearly one-and-a-half-hour 2000 speech, and he and Obama average about 90 applause lines each, compared with fewer than 70 for George Bush and his son.”
The State of the Union is now a missed opportunity. And the loser is...America.