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State of the Union Challenge

Last week, Ron (Akkam’s Razor) issued a State of the Union challenge, asking “do you have any stories, any real life examples of how the President's suggestions can hurt or help you?” He tagged some distinguished bloggers who frequently write about politics—and me for some reason, who never does. So yo, what’s up with that? Whatever. I should take more of an interest in politics (beyond voting regularly), and I would if only it didn’t involve so many politicians.

I purposefully avoided watching the SOTU address live; our President’s oratory makes me tense and nervous, and I can’t relax. But I did load the text into a browser window to read on the train, and when I learned of the challenge, downloaded the audio in iTunes. I was surprised by how well he spoke.

He had me at “Madame Chairman.” That was a great moment for Nancy Pelosi and the Congress, and it was good to see it acknowledged. After that, however, I was dismayed to hear so many gray areas painted in black and white.

I have to comment on a couple of issues. First, there’s the “matter of earmarks” to the tune of $18 billion. I had never heard this term, but it seems like just another word for pork. Bush got applause for his plan to cut earmarks in half by the end of session, but why did they applaud? Earmarks are put there by Congress, right? Are they at all motivated to limit them? Seems like that’s the kind of stuff that will help them get re-elected.

The new strategy to send reinforcements to Iraq sounds like the same strategy to me. I mean, if you’re trying to put out a grease fire the wrong way with water, you don’t just keep adding more water.

I’m sure the issues in the State of the Union address have a local impact. Really, they must of course, but it’s difficult to see. Kind of like electricity; it may be invisible, but it’s powerful. Health care and education are two issues important to me and two that clearly have a local impact. I went for extended periods without any health insurance and have been very lucky then to never need care and very lucky now to be covered. Many, many people are not so lucky. As long as health care remains private, at least there’s an attempt to make it more affordable. I could have used a break. I’m not aware of the effect that No Child Left Behind has had on our local schools, but I was alarmed to read about the Camden testing scandal. Inflating test scores does nothing to help the children.

By now it should be clear why I never write about politics. Still, I had more to say than I thought I would, but that’s enough. Tomorrow it’s back to lobster rolls and pussycats!


earmarks are pieces of pork which are paper clipped or dogeared onto larger bills as they pass a politician's desk. a process that the previous congress liked to do to more than excess.