State of the Union: Strong, but we still worry

WestWordsWEBPresident Obama will be delivering his State of the Union address this week. If it is anthing like the last 40 or so such speeches, it will be three times as long as necessary, ignored by many and promptly forgotten by the rest.

Always trying to be helpful, here’s my suggestion for what the president ought to say, keeping it to five minutes:

My fellow Americans, I am glad to announce that the state of our experiment in self-government remains strong. We have concerns and worries, but at this time we have no crises of survival. (I would define such crises in our history as the War of 1812 when the British burned down the White House, the Civil War, World Wars I and II and the Great Depression.)

We have never been free of worry because that is the nature of life. Such is our time now.

But if I may, I’d like to outline a half dozen concerns we all ought to remain focused upon. These concerns are significant enough that, if they are not addressed, any one of them can grow into an existential crisis.

1. Nuclear proliferation. I am glad to report that international sanctions caused Iran to pull back from its unilateral pursuit of nuclear weapons. We now have a plan in place which, if it works, will preserve the peace and alleviate some of the danger that would  result if Iran ends up with nukes.

It is one thing for democratically elected nation-states to have the bomb; it is quite another to put it in the hands of a dictator or religious zealots who think they will be sending us all to hell.

2. Partisanship run amok. A true democracy works only on a level playing field in which opposing viewpoints get heard. Too many patisans are now trying to  discourage participation not only through regulations, but also with threats and intimidation. Whether it is Democrats singling out Republicans for IRS harassment or Republicans closing traffic lanes to punish Democratic officials, everyone should remember that this government was established to serve the public, not attack it.

3. Data privacy. While terrorism remains a concern, having the government gather and store information about every American, the vast majority of them law-abiding, is dangerous. We have no assurance that such information will not end up being used to curtail our freedoms. We need to follow the Fourth Amendment, demanding probable cause for individual search warrants, and end the data dumping.

4. Mushrooming federal debt. The national debt is the insidious elephant in the room. We have had only one year, 1835, when the nation was debt free, but we always managed to keep it under control — until the last 30 years.

Debt is insidious because, like a frog in boiling water, we don’t realize the danger until it is too late. A crisis could materialize overnight, causing interest rates to rise, forcing either rampant inflation or debt repudiation.

5. Health care. The reasonable belief that everyone should have access to health care conflicts with our ability to pay for it. The Affordable Care Act increased the demand for health care, but did little to increase the supply of it. The inevitable result is that prices will continue upward. Some will point to a temporary dip in the increase, but it will be temporary because the fundamental economic flaws in an overregulated industry have not been addressed.

6. Education. The United States is not competing well internationally in academics. If we don’t demand more from our students in the classroom, they won’t be able to compete in a global economy where knowledge is king. Don’t blame schools or teachers; it’s the expectation of parents that counts, and they need to do more than demand good athletic teams.

Thank you, and good night.

Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Peach. Reach him at (320) 352-6569 or e-mail tom.west@ecm-inc.com.

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