Coulda Been a SOTU

Coulda Been a SOTU February 5, 2011

Last month, John Kerry gave an excellent speech to the Center for American Progress which almost word for word ought to have been what the president gave as the State of the Union. In fact, he even used “Sputnik moment” as a theme, which makes me assume that someone at the White House was listening, even if no one else was. A key passage, emphasis mine:

For the last months we’ve watched the news and read the campaign literature and heard a lot the soundbites. We’ve heard politicians say they won’t become a part of Washington. That say they’re for small government, lower taxes, and more freedom. But what do they really mean?

Do they want a government too limited to have invented the Internet, now a vital part of our commerce and communications? A government too small to give America’s auto industry and all its workers a second chance to fight for their survival? Taxes too low to invest in the research that creates jobs and industries and fills the Treasury with the revenue that educates our children, cures disease, and defends our country? We have to get past slogans and soundbites, reason together, and talk in real terms about how America can do its best.

If we are going to balance the budget and create jobs, we can’t pretend that we can do it by just eliminating earmarks and government waste. We have to look at the plain facts of how we did it before, and by the way, you don’t have to look far. In the early 1990’s, our economy was faltering because deficits and debt were freezing capital. We had to send a signal to the market that we were capable of being fiscally responsible. We did just that …

How we got off track is a story that doesn’t require retelling. But the truth of how we generated the 1990’s economic boom does need to be told. We didn’t just cut our way to a balanced budget; we grew our way there.

I love that imagery, of growing one’s way toward economic equilibrium rather than just slashing things away to get below some arbitrary line.

I happened to read a Boston Globe piece on Kerry’s ambitions regarding the position of Secretary of State, which mentioned Ezra Klein’s recommendation of the speech in question, and only then did it cross my attention. I hope it gets around without too many more degrees of separation.

And like I said, this could have been the State of the Union. 


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