9 p.m. ET all across the dial. I promise you this: No matter how bad you think this will be, it’ll be even worse. Don’t believe me? Go read Matt Welch’s Frankenstein State of the Union, stitched together from the remains of more than five decades of SOTU addresses. Ninety percent of these speeches is boilerplate that gets repeated by Democratic and Republican presidents alike year after tedious year. The only reason to watch is that other 10 percent.
And I think you can guess what that’ll be about.
“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” Mr. Obama says in brief excerpts of the speech released by the White House on Tuesday evening. “Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
By putting a significant accent on taxes, where his differences with Congressional Republicans have always been pronounced, Mr. Obama renews the pressure on them to extend once again a temporary payroll tax break for most working Americans — and also amplifies the attention that has been focused all week on the wealth of Mitt Romney, one of his leading challengers, who has disclosed that he pays less than 15 percent on income of more than $20 million a year.
For weeks, Mr. Obama and his aides have been signaling that the theme of Tuesday’s speech, scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. Eastern Time, would be that the richest Americans should shoulder more of the nation’s tax burden, that the middle class should have a shot at prosperity and that the disadvantaged should be provided social scaffolding to help them climb upward.
In case you’re a prominent Democrat and that’s too complicated for you to follow, the White House also issued a set of talking points for the speech today. Meanwhile, Warren Buffett’s secretary will be onhand for the obligatory Skutnik moment when he calls for a new “Buffett Rule” on taxes (soon to become the “Romney Rule” if Mitt is the nominee). The Buffett Rule won’t fix entitlements and it won’t erase our deficits, but it might get The One re-elected — it’s popular, after all — and of course that’s what really matters. (His own top economic advisors warned him long ago that our current deficits are unsustainable, but oh well.) Apparently he’s also planning to say “I intend to fight obstruction with action” to show that he’s a can-do man of action, so if you liked those unconstitutional recess appointments earlier this month, good news: There may be more illegal power grabs to come.
Meanwhile, via Boehner’s office, a few snippets from Mitch Daniels’s rebuttal:
The extremism that stifles the development of homegrown energy, or cancels a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands, or jacks up consumer utility bills for no improvement in either human health or world temperature, is a pro-poverty policy. It must be replaced by a passionate pro-growth approach that breaks all ties and calls all close ones in favor of private sector jobs that restore opportunity for all and generate the public revenues to pay our bills…
It’s not fair and it’s not true for the President to attack Republicans in Congress as obstacles on these questions. They and they alone have passed bills to reduce borrowing, reform entitlements, and encourage new job creation, only to be shot down nearly time and again by the President and his Democrat Senate allies…
No feature of the Obama Presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others. As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat. If we drift, quarreling and paralyzed, over a Niagara of debt, we will all suffer, regardless of income, race, gender, or other category. If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policy, there will never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have.
Let the Daniels 2012 speculation begin! Here’s your handy dandy Hot Air/Townhall widget for livetweeting plus a sneak preview of tonight’s address that was released a few days ago — by Obama’s campaign, not by the White House. Like Krauthammer says, “This is all about reelection. This is not a State of the Union, it’s the state of the presidency.” Exit question: Will he attack the Supreme Court again tonight or is it some other group’s turn to be demagogued?
Update: National Journal has the text of O’s speech as prepared for delivery. Key bit:
Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up. You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You’re the ones who need relief.
Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.
We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference – like a senior on a fixed income; or a student trying to get through school; or a family trying to make ends meet. That’s not right. Americans know it’s not right. They know that this generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to their country’s future, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility. That’s how we’ll reduce our deficit. That’s an America built to last.
Update: And here’s Daniels’s rebuttal, again as prepared for delivery.
A second view, which I admit some Republicans also seem to hold, is that we Americans are no longer up to the job of self-government. We can’t do the simple math that proves the unaffordability of today’s safety net programs, or all the government we now have. We will fall for the con job that says we can just plow ahead and someone else will pick up the tab. We will allow ourselves to be pitted one against the other, blaming our neighbor for troubles worldwide trends or our own government has caused.
2012 must be the year we prove the doubters wrong. The year we strike out boldly not merely to avert national bankruptcy but to say to a new generation that America is still the world’s premier land of opportunity. Republicans will speak for those who believe in the dignity and capacity of the individual citizen; who believe that government is meant to serve the people rather than supervise them; who trust Americans enough to tell them the plain truth about the fix we are in, and to lay before them a specific, credible program of change big enough to meet the emergency we are facing.