The Faculty Senate assigned me to live-tweet President Obama’s State of the Union Address last night, and I did. I was, so far as I know, the first squirrel to perform this important civic duty. I feel … exceptional.
I’m not sure I feel exceptional enough, though. I didn’t live-tweet the Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ Republican Response, because Chef and Mrs. Squirrel thought that would be bad for my diet. They were right. If I’d stayed up to watch that, I might have dived into the macadamias to calm myself. Instead I read his speech this morning, and now I’m forcing myself to wait for breakfast.
Governor Daniels said several things that were plainly false. He accused President Obama of “trickle-down government,” rather ironic in that trickle-down economics is a Republican touchstone. While he correctly noted that the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio is almost on par with Greece and Spain, he blithely ignored the reason. As Jeffrey Sachs explains in The Price of Civilization the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio is high not because our government spends more than other developed nations – it doesn’t – but because our government taxes less … on a par with Greece and Spain.
Dr. Sachs’ solution is for the federal government to collect more in taxes. Governor Daniels’ solution is for private business owners to make more money. One of those solutions makes sense. The other is … exceptional.
Governor Daniels also criticized President Obama’s “extremism” in not approving the “perfectly safe” Keystone XL pipeline that would have created “tens of thousands of jobs.” President Obama’s policy was, Gov. Daniels said, “pro-poverty.” Yet the existing Keystone pipeline suggests the proposed extension was not “perfectly safe” and independent analysts, peering beneath the hood of TransCanada’s mathematical fallacies, found that its construction would create only a few thousand temporary jobs. It seems the facts on which Gov. Daniels based his argument were … exceptional.
After claiming that Republicans want to preserve Social Security and Medicare for the “truly needy” – more factual exceptionalism that does not survive scrutiny of GOP proposals – Gov. Daniels said “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.” This is the thinly-veiled charge of “class warfare” that President Obama expected. Again, the argument seems … exceptional … given Republicans’ long history of using wedge issues that whites against people of color, men against women, and Christians against everyone else, all while pushing more wealth for the wealthy.
Finally, Gov. Daniels comes to the core of his … exceptionalism:
You know, the most troubling contention in our national life these days isn’t about economics, or policy at all. It’s about us, as a free people. In two alarming ways, that contention is that we Americans just can’t cut it anymore.
In word and deed, the President and his allies tell us that we just cannot handle ourselves in this complex, perilous world without their benevolent protection. Left to ourselves, we might pick the wrong health insurance, the wrong mortgage, the wrong school for our kids; why, unless they stop us, we might pick the wrong light bulb!
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.
Governor Daniels seems convinced that government should not suggest choices or require clearer disclosure of costs and risks. He insists government should leave Americans to sort through impenetrably complex options and make the right choices for themselves. Decades of data about how humans make choices are irrelevant. Americans are … exceptional.
If other data show that American society is increasingly class-bound, with more income flowing to the very wealthy and CEOs earning an average 325 times the average worker’s pay, that’s “blaming our neighbor for troubles worldwide trends or our own government has caused.”
All of these problems would be solved if only we would return to the sacred covenant made between God and the Founding Fathers. These were not mere humans hashing out in committee their best draft of a founding document, one that included procedures for later generations to amend it. Indeed the Founding Fathers must be revered to the point of rewriting history. Because they were … exceptional.
To understand the modern Republican Party, you must understand their belief that America is a chosen nation and they are its chosen leaders, inheritors of an poli-apostolic bloodline from the Founding Fathers. When we object, we don’t simply disagree. We commit heresy.
I’ll stick to my diet and wait for breakfast. But I feel … exceptional.
Good day and good nuts.