By Watchdog Reporters
WASHINGTON, D.C. — When President Barack Obama takes to the podium at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, he’ll go old-school Fidel Castro on you — talking at great length, with apparent insight, intelligence, and sympathy for the people. But there are some things even the most powerful man in the world can’t say. Or won’t.
Herewith, 12 things Barack Obama won’t tell you tonight.
1. Republicans know how to fix a budget …
Look no farther than Wisconsin. Republican Gov. Scott Walker pledged to repair the state’s multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, and he did. The fix didn’t come without pain, but the Badger State went from a $3.6 billion hole to a supposed surplus of more than $200 million in two years. Walker helped balance the budget through his controversial collective-bargaining reforms with public employees: Most state workers now must chip in for their state pensions and pay more to their health insurance plans. To Wisconsin taxpayers who exist without guaranteed pensions or health care premium breaks, the reforms were likely welcome news. For taxpayers the move has already saved taxpayers — even Democratic taxpayers who hate Walker —hundreds of millions of dollars.
— Matt Kittle, Wisconsin
2. … and Democrats generally don’t
In California, the state’s progressive Democratic leaders are following the Obama model of economic development — higher taxes for more government jobs. Gov. Jerry Brown is touting California’s recent success: the state temporarily balanced its budget — thanks to a massive increase in sales and income taxes, making the latter by far the highest in the nation. But there’s trouble just beneath the surface. Stanford University pins California’s unfunded pension liabilities at nearly a half-trillion dollars, and the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office notes that the Brown budget doesn’t set aside enough money to even make the minimum payment on such debt. The president is touting a supposed economic recovery, even though that ephemeral rebound will ultimately run into the nation’s wall of entitlement debt. In Sacramento and Washington, D.C., Democratic leaders are sure they can tax their way out of the mess, but they can’t control their appetite for spending. The current progressive approach simply is not sustainable.
— Steven Greenhut, California
3. The true cost of ObamaCare
Please excuse the president for his failure to explain to America precisely what expanding Medicaid is going to cost them. The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured wrapped all of that up with pretty bow back in November in a report that told all of us what a good deal $1.03 trillion over the next decade would be. And that’s if everything goes just as expected. In Texas, where the discourse is more direct, a consulting firm for a grassroots religious nonprofit based in Austin produced a report that spelled out just what those costs would be: smart, affordable and fair. Translation: $115 billion over the next 10 years in Texas alone. All of this intelligence, affordability and fairness is achieved at the state level by leaving almost all of the financing — at least for now — in the capable hands of the federal government, hands at this very moment gripped tightly on the lever of the U.S. Treasury printing press.
—Mark Lisheron, Texas
4. Government is crowding out the private sector
The president used his second inaugural address last month to laud the public sector’s ability to do just about anything. It’s unlikely he’ll say much about areas where government is squeezing out private enterprise. Residents of Pennsylvania are already familiar with the problem. The state is one of only two in the entire nation (the other is Utah) where government owns and operates all liquor stores. If you want a bottle of booze for a State of the Union drinking game, you’ll have to get it from a government employee. But that’s hardly the only example of government competing with the private sector. According to Golf Course Industry Magazine, the government owns more than 2,400 golf courses in the United States — that’s more than one of every five courses in the country. One county in Michigan has 22 government-owned courses, according to a study by the Mackinac Center. Governments own dozens of hotels and conference centers as well, and some of the arrangements are real head-scratchers. In Pennsylvania, for example, the Hyatt Regency at the Pittsburgh airport is owned by the Dauphin County Authority. Dauphin County, by the way, is more than 200 miles east of Pittsburgh — about a four-hour drive. Governments also own zoos, nursing homes, parks, parking garages, libraries, animal shelters and more. Every asset owned by the state, local or federal government, means less opportunity for the free enterprise system to thrive — and more expense for taxpayers.
— Eric Boehm, Pennsylvania
5. On schools, Obama reforms stopped learning in Chicago
The president will placate his big-labor friends in the classroom by saying we need to hire more new teachers. But President Obama will not say that those new teachers may be teaching at charter schools in his home city of Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to close dozens of low-performing and half-empty schools, reopening some as charters. That possibility, and the fact that Chicago’s Teachers’ Unions will not be able to force union dues from every new teacher in the city, sent the CTU on strike last fall. The president also will not say that given the choice, more and more students are leaving the union-controlled classrooms. He doesn’t need to say it. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2004, Chicago had 6,000 students in charter schools and a wait-list of 3,000. Today, there are 53,000 charter schools students in Chicago, and a wait-list of 20,000. The president is right: more teachers are needed. They’re just needed in charter schools.
— Ben Yount, Illinois
6. Oil exploration is a jobs program
While the president will most assuredly discuss job creation, he’ll skip out on the most obvious stimulus package of all: responsible natural resource development. While the rest of the nation stumbles through a rough economy, North Dakota, home to the latest oil boom, is bustling thanks to fracking. The state’s unemployment rate, 3.2 percent, is best in the nation. Jobless workers from around the country flock to such towns as Williston, Dickinson and Watford City, where jobs in bringing up oil from the Bakken Formation are multiplying. Wal-Mart, typically a target of criticism for offering low wages, starts workers at $15 per hour. Workers in the energy sector bring home nearly $100,000 annually. Some are so desperate for the jobs, they willingly leave their families and live in cramped RVs, tents or even in cars on city streets. This is what the beginning of prosperity looks like.
— Dustin Hurst, Idaho
7. We’ve got drones at home
Don’t expect to hear “the man who killed bin Laden” say a word about the widening use of surveillance drones in the United States — because what happens in Afghanistan and Iraq doesn’t stay there. History has shown that what America’s military deploys overseas eventually ends up being used domestically, and, sure enough, the FAA predicts that 30,000 of the unmanned craft will be operating in U.S. airspace by 2020. A burgeoning multibillion-dollar industry is busy marketing aerial drones equipped with sophisticated spy gear and armed with tear gas and other “anti-personnel” devices. And it’s all being done under a commander-in-chief who promised the civil liberties-friendly and “transparent” administration in U.S. history. What’s transparent is something else: the quiet but steady assault on Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure.
— Kenric Ward, Virginia
8. What stimulus funds?
Another issue that has played a large part in the president’s policies, but likely won’t get much play in his State of the Union address, is the inaccurate tracking of stimulus funds. Take Kansas: the state received $2.6 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars to fund 3,224 projects, ranging from road repairs to academic grants. But while most recipients filed and reported everything as required, the avalanche of paperwork associated with tracking each nickel and dime has led to a number of mismanaged and inaccurate reports. The Kansas Department of Transportation, one of Kansas’ largest recipients of ARRA funds, split $348 million among 152 projects. But in December, Recovery.gov incorrectly listed nearly 75 percent as having not yet started. Similar inaccuracies have popped up across the state, making President Obama’s goal of transparency more opaque than anything.
— Travis Perry, Kansas
9. Government is hiding
While the presidents says he’s all for transparency, the Department of Energy offers a new model — a way for to shield government activities from public nosiness. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado says it’s not a government agency and, so, not subject to public disclosure — all because the DOE funnels taxpayer dollars to the lab via a private, nonprofit management company. True, this cozy partnership was created during another administration, but under Obama’s stimulus plan funding ballooned from $328 million to a high of $536 million with no public oversight. And if you’re looking for a poster-child for the problem of highly paid government workers, consider NREL director Dan Arvizu, who makes about a $1 million a year — about $600,000 more than the president himself.
— Tori Richards, Colorado
10. There’s a coming financial crisis — in the states
Few officials want to talk about the $4.4-trillion unfunded government pension liability swallowing municipal and state budgets across the country — and certainly not the president bankrolled by the very same labor union bosses that negotiated the path to future bankruptcy. The president won’t mention the pension system that bankrupted Scranton, Pa., or San Bernardino, Calif. Even in Wisconsin, where officials use scandalous accounting standards to claim 100-percent funding levels, unfunded liabilities are actually some $60 billion. Perhaps the president knows he’ll be out of office before the problem surfaces. Perhaps he thinks a federal bailout will take care of “too big to fail” pension funds. We’ll never know, because he’ll never mention it.
— Ryan Ekvall, Wisconsin
11. The real costs of environmental regulation
You won’t hear the president tell you what his Environmental Protection Agency is doing to the coal industry, as harsh regulations drive more than 200 coal-fired electricity generators to close over the next three years. The industry estimates that costs of compliance could reach $220 billion, with 2.2 million jobs lost. We’ll all pay, especially folks in the Upper Midwest and Mississippi Valley, where peak-year income loss run to $1,600 per family. And for what? The most expensive of these regulations, meant to scrub a few insignificant particles of mercury from the air (at the same time Congress is filling our light bulbs with the stuff), is based on a study of remote islanders who subsisted for years on pilot whale meat laden with mercury and PCBs. They’re the only folks on the planet who might get some faint benefit from the regulation. For the rest of us, it’s another pointless expense. And you won’t hear the president talking about how clean our water is now — so clean, in fact, that federally established water funds are now being used to buy and close down first-rate golf courses next to pristine rivers — consider Ohio’s historic Aurora Country Club — on the chance it might make the water a touch cleaner.
— Jon Cassidy, Ohio
12. Gun control has failed
Somewhere near the top of his presentation, President Obama will look sorrowful and nod respectfully toward the parents of Hadiya Pendelton, the 15-year-old gunned down in Chicago just days after performing with her high school at the president’s second inauguration. The president will talk about the need to keep children safe. But he won’t say that an assault weapons ban or a ban on 30-round magazines would not have saved Hadiya. The men accused of killing the teenager allegedly used a handgun to spray bullets into a crowd. The president also won’t say that Chicago’s near-absolute ban on guns did not keep that pistol out of the hands of two convicted criminals with admitted gang ties. But his reliance on images — Hadiya’s grieving parents, scary looking AR-15s — will say something he can’t: gun control is a failure.
— Ben Yount, Illinois