The State of the Union is the opposite. The president gives a performance, extremely animatedly, head swiveling from left-side prompter to right-side prompter, continually urging action now: “Let’s start right away. We can get this done. … We can fix this. … Now is the time to do it. Now is the time to get it done.” And at the end of the speech, nothing gets done, and nothing gets fixed, and, after a few days’ shadowboxing between admirers and detractors willing to pretend it’s some sort of serious legislative agenda, every single word of it is forgotten until the next one.

In that sense, like Beyoncé lip-synching the National Anthem at the Inauguration, the State of the Union embodies the decay of America’s political institutions into a simulacrum of responsible government rather than the real thing, and a simulacrum ever more divorced from the real issues facing the country. “Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion,” said the president. Really? Who knew? “Now we need to finish the job.” Just one more push is all it’ll take.

What’s he on about? The annual “deficit” has been over a trillion for every year of Obama’s presidency. The cumulative deficits have, in fact (to use a quaint expression), increased the national debt by $6 trillion. Yet Obama claims Washington has “reduced the deficit” by $2.5 trillion, and all we need to do is “finish the job.” Presumably this is a reference to allegedly agreed deficit reductions over the next decade, or quarter-century or whatever. In other words, Obama has saved $2.5 trillion of Magical Fairyland money, which happily frees him up to talk about the really critical issues like high-speed rail and green energy solutions. These concepts, too, exist mainly in Magical Fairyland: if you think Obama-approved taxpayer-funded “high-speed rail” means you’ll be able to board a train that goes at French or Japanese speeds, I’ve a high-speed rail bridge to Brooklyn to sell you.