Heartland Institute Experts React to Obama’s Last State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama on Tuesday night delivered his final State of the Union Address, touching on climate change, energy policy, education, health care, the economy, and his legacy after nearly two terms in the White House.

The following statements from public policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at [email protected] and 312/377-4000.

“President Obama’s speech last night was a very good presentation of the State of the Union … in Argentina. The spectacle of the president taking credit for $2 a gallon gasoline, when his administration’s goal and policy has been to increase gas prices to $8 to $10, shows that America has descended to banana republic status.

“That goal and policy has been publicly stated by John Holdren, the president’s science advisor, and by Obama’s past secretaries of energy. This just demonstrates what the speech was really all about: calculated deception. America today can’t even have a rational discussion of public policy, which is what is making American democracy completely dysfunctional.”

Peter Ferrara
Senior Fellow for Entitlement and Budget Policy
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

Mr. Ferrara is the author of Power to the People: The New Road to Freedom and Prosperity for the Poor, Seniors, and Those Most in Need of the World’s Best Health Care (2015)

“Regardless of what sales pitch President Obama tried to put on last night, America is still in a deep economic crisis. An $18 trillion national debt and record low participation in the labor force still remain causes for concern with the American economy.

“State legislatures are not waiting for Congress to get its act together on a balanced budget amendment because they understand Washington is gridlocked. This is why you are seeing state legislatures take the lead this year to pass resolutions calling for an Article V convention.”

Kyle Maichle
Project Manager, Constitutional Reform
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“The president continues to push a federal intrusion into local education by expanding education further into pre-K and childcare. This not only will increase costs for taxpayers and drive down parental options, it will provide no lasting education gains. Parental control with money following the child is the only proven method to improve education outcomes, not the top-down bureaucratic mandates President Obama proposes.

“Likewise, adding more federal subsidies to higher education and mandating ‘free’ community college will just make the college debt problem much worse. Costs will continue to increase under these subsidies and new mandates. Federal intrusion in education is the real cause of higher costs and the high student debt load.”

Lennie Jarratt
Project Manager, Education
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“I am in the unusual position of (then U.S. Senator) Barack Obama telling me: ‘I have read your book, Make a Difference, and it is in my library.’ I said, ‘What did you think?’ He replied, ‘Very good, but you didn’t use my name in it.’ I said, ‘You were a junior senator in the minority, but if I knew you were going to be so important I’d have put you in.’

“After Obama became president, I then followed up with his advisor David Axelrod, who lived in my building in Chicago, to see if he was interested in pursuing the three main ideas:

(1) integrating the many programs to provide holistic assistance in moving families from dependency to self-sufficiency;

(2) connecting government programs with communities, especially employers, because ‘work is at the heart of a happy life’; and

(3) measuring performance outcomes. There was no interest. If the president really cared about disadvantaged people he would make these things a priority. He has not.”

Gary MacDougal
Policy Advisor, Welfare Reform
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

From 1993 to 1997 MacDougal chaired the Illinois Governor’s Task Force on Human Services Reform.

“President Obama had nothing to do with $2 gasoline. In fact, oil and natural gas production on federal land has been dwarfed by production on private land as federal agencies have delayed the permitting process for oil and gas wells. The hydraulic fracturing breakthrough that made the president’s Environmental Protection Agency regulations remotely possible due to abundant, affordable natural gas has essentially happened in spite of his actions, not because of them.

“While the president touts jobs in the renewable energy sector, he ignores how his regulations have destroyed the livelihood of the families who depend upon coal mining. President Obama’s legacy in coal country will not be rosy: It will be marked with unemployment and substance abuse.

“Renewable energy is still more expensive than traditional fuels, and highly dependent upon federal and state subsidies, as well as renewable energy mandates for market share. Forcing low-and middle-income families to subsidize solar panels for their wealthier counterparts may be considered a success by this president, but few people outside the Beltway would share his sentiment.”

Isaac Orr
Research Fellow, Energy and Environment Policy
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“Apart from what some commentators have politely noted as a certain level of ‘cognitive dissonance,’ what stood out most about President Obama’s seventh and final State of the Union address last night was its remarkably tepid quality.

“To be sure, the president’s glowing self-review of the ‘success’ of his indecisive foreign policy of ‘leading from behind’ in Libya, Syria, Russia, Ukraine, and Iran stands in stark contrast with conditions on the ground, where he persistently refuses to put American boots despite the best advice of career military advisors.

“So, too, does his rosy view of the American economy, in which the number of jobs the private sector has managed to create despite his administration’s over-regulation, war on fossil fuels, delay and denial of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and a deceptive U3 unemployment rate, contrast starkly with the slowest peacetime economic recovery and the smallest percentage of able-bodied adults in the work force ever.

“But what most stood out was the degree to which the president simply didn’t seem to care. His delivery style varied wildly between a lecturing tone, attempts at folksy humor, pure pontification, and the earnestness of a high school freshman trying to make something out of his first original oratory. In short, the president’s heart clearly wasn’t in it. If Barack Obama is, as he claims, his own best speech writer, then he must have turned this one over to someone else.

“The president’s one brief moment of rhetorical flash was his penultimate sentence, when the glare in his eyes and his furrowed brow recalled something of candidate Obama on the 2008 campaign trial as he pronounced: ‘I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.’

“The speech itself was not.”

David L. Applegate
Policy Advisor, Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“President Obama said last night that ‘gas under $2 a gallon ain’t bad either.’ This from a president who has done everything possible to shut down the oil and gas industry through regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, the Endangered Species Act, etc. He wants to take credit for something he didn’t do, and I’m not surprised. I did not hear him explain why gasoline demand is down more than 4 percent compared to last year despite lower gas prices. Nearly 100 million unemployed Americans are not driving to work.

“The president said: ‘Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources.’ The president accuses people who question or disagree with the hypothesis of man-caused climate change as not wanting to keep our nation and world safe for our children and grandchildren, and not wanting progress. Accelerate? Tell that to the people in coal country! A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions, different attitudes, different interests. That’s one of our strengths, too.

“Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue – just as they did, fiercely – over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.”

Bette Grande
Research Fellow, Energy Policy
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

Ms. Grande represented the 41st District in the North Dakota Legislature from 1996 to 2014.

“Obama claimed he can fix the planet, and the climate, just as he fixed health care. ‘We delivered more care and benefits to our troops coming home and our veterans,’ Obama said. Really? Where’s the evidence that delays, cover-ups, and soldier suicides have lessened? “But now we are going to have a ‘new moon shot,’ with Joe Biden ‘in charge of mission control.’ That way ‘we’ can cure cancer, just as ‘we’ stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. And we will also ‘end the scourge of HIV/AIDS’ and malaria too – if only we would all ‘cooperate’ with his policies.

“The most disheartening thing about the speech was the frequent applause. Congress was elected by the very process he deplored and is owned by the crony capitalists and left-wing ideologues who are destroying American medicine and our country. Or they are just as disconnected from reality as Obama appears to be.”

Jane M. Orient, M.D.
Executive Director
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
[email protected]

“The target is too easy unless you realize that it makes no difference. President Obama can say and do the craziest things as long as Congress sits by and the attorney general (AG) is in his pocket. There is a basic flaw in the Constitution regarding the AG. A lawless president supported by a lawless AG is untouchable, as long as Congress is unwilling to act. This is a recipe for tyranny, potentially to the fullest degree. The only positive aspect of the speech was that quite often applause was very subdued.”

Christopher Garbacz
Director of Economics and Planning Division
Mississippi Public Utilities Staff
[email protected]

“The front page of the Wednesday morning edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said: President Obama ‘urges voters to reject politics of fear.’ This comment is hilarious. For the entire Obama administration they have been using fear to promote abandoning our abundant, inexpensive, and geographically distributed fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas due to the false premise carbon dioxide from using fossil fuels is causing catastrophic global warming. Remember New York City under water due to ocean rising? Water skiing on the National Mall? Food shortages due to drought? Flooding causing disruptions? An ice-free Arctic ocean killing all the polar bears? Population killing heat waves across the nation? The list goes on.

“Hundreds of thousands of years of climate data show the influence of atmospheric carbon dioxide changes had a negligible effect. Present satellite temperature data show no global warming the past 18 years in spite of 30 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions since the start of the Industrial Revolution happening since the mid 1990s. The scare-mongering comes from calculations of computer models that can’t be validated.

“President Obama wants his legacy to be the leader in stopping fossil fuel use and replacing it with renewable energy sources of solar, wind, ethanol from corn, and other biofuels. With present technology, these sources are expensive, unreliable, and require vast land areas. If President Obama succeeds, the U.S. will deteriorate to lifestyles of the early nineteenth century. Undeveloped nations of the world would be condemned to perpetual poverty, and millions of increased annual deaths.”

James H. Rust
Professor of nuclear engineering (Ret.), Georgia Tech
Policy Advisor,
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“President Obama’s campaign against fossil fuels is misplaced. He blames use of these fuels, and carbon dioxide emissions, for global warming/climate change. Yet the United Nations and the U.S. government have failed to provide actual evidence that carbon dioxide emissions change the climate, which has been changing for hundreds of millions of years. There is little or no evidence that carbon dioxide is a leading cause. Some scientists claim carbon dioxide is the primary cause of recent global warming/climate change, but they do not offer the physical evidence. Many scientists, including those with the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), insist that recent climate change is all within natural boundaries.

“Created in 1990, and with a current budget of about $2.5 billion a year, the U.S. Global Change Research Program was charged with understanding ‘human-induced and natural processes of global [climate] change.’ This multi-billion-dollar program with 13 participating government agencies ignores the natural processes that have changed climate for millions of years. As such, it has misled the president, Congress, the courts, and the American public. To the extent that Mr. Obama has been responsible for these efforts, he has participated in this long-term distortion.”

Kenneth Haapala
Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
[email protected]

“President Obama laid out his final vision in the State of the Union address. Republicans need to get their act together quickly in order to prevent Obama’s climate legacy from being cemented.

“The GOP nominee for president in 2016 must present a basic plan to roll back Obama’s climate regulations. Here is a simple breakdown of what is needed: “1) Repeal all EPA climate regulations; “2) Withdraw the U.S. from any Paris agreement (nonbinding) ‘commitments’; “3) Withdraw the U.S. from the UN climate treaty process entirely; “4) Defund the U.S. portion of the UN IPCC climate panel; “5) Start praising carbon based energy as one of the greatest liberators of mankind and the best hope for the developing world’s poor. “Anything short of this clear and comprehensive approach will lead to failure and guarantee Obama’s climate policies will become permanent in the United States. Republicans have to get a coherent plan and articulate their course of action.”

Marc Morano
Climate Depot
[email protected]

Mr. Morano is producer and host of the upcoming film Climate Hustle.

“The president spoke about the need for more cooperation in Washington. If he were serious about that, he should note that his only proposal to receive strong bi-partisan support, according to the CNN Microsoft Pulse focus group, was the call to change outdated regulations and cut red tape.

“It seems to me, if he wanted to get things done in his last year, he’d use his political popularity with congressional Democrats to advance a swath of regulatory rollbacks. But then again, as this president has demonstrated throughout his two terms, he doesn’t need Congress to advance his agenda. The president, if he really wanted, could simply achieve his regulatory reform agenda by executive order.”

Jeff Stier
Senior Fellow, National Center for Public Policy Research
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“Sometimes we learn more about a president by what he doesn’t include in any of his state of the union addresses. Remember when Nancy Reagan led the nation in a highly successful ‘Just say no to drugs’ campaign? How about when Hillary Clinton took the reins on universal healthcare with somewhat less success? In both cases, our first ladies took the lead on something their husbands supported but didn’t have time to handle personally. And regardless of how you feel about these two campaigns, at least you knew there was consistency between husband and wife in the Reagan and Clinton Administrations.

“Not so with Barack and Michelle Obama. In what will go down in history as the greatest case of a president and his first lady speaking with a forked tongue, Michelle Obama has spent the last seven years pretending to support organic farming – while Obama has quietly supported cutting-edge, science-based farming that relies on synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and genetic engineering, all of which are banned in organic farming.

“And this is why the president has, for the seventh time running, failed to mention organic or GMO farming in his state of the union address. Once again, the media let him get away with it. But if you ask any farmer in America – big or small, organic or GMO – what the single most important issue in food production is, they’ll tell you it’s the battle royale that ensues between the proponents of old-fashion organic and modern-day GMO farming.

“So please ask yourself, do you like spending roughly half the amount on groceries that people do in Europe? Do you enjoy living in the country with the safest and most reliable food supply history has ever known? Then you might very well ask yourself why the president pretends there’s nothing to talk about when it comes to keeping Americans fed.

“As the great American sportscaster John Sterling put it, ‘One dupe is as impossible as one twin.’ And for the seventh year running, America’s First Couple have once again duped us all.”

Mischa Popoff
Policy Advisor
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“The president laid out a redistributionist agenda, whether through taxes, cross-subsidies, or regulations. The agenda supposes that the mass of people have been made obsolete by globalization and technological advance, and must be provided for by government instead of through their own labor. This view has been at the core of the progressive agenda for more than a century. It underpins progressive social policy as well as economic policy, to include support of disconnecting human sexuality from marriage, the socialization of the upbringing of children, population control, and eugenics. The agenda appeals to those on the take, and repels those taken from.

“When the primary focus of government shifts from protecting us in our rights to redistribution, politics tears at the social fabric of society. It is no wonder that our politics have become coarse. The president touts about half of the numbers, and ignores the other half. Employment is up and unemployment is down. But, the increase in employment is primarily part-time jobs without benefits; and unemployment is down primarily because of reduced participation in the labor force (even after controlling for the age composition of the population). Suicides are on the increase, as is substance abuse, and surveys indicate that long-term expectations are of diminished standards of living for the next generation.

“In his two terms in office, this president has devastated hope. Yet there he is, as charming as ever. A man of remarkable rhetorical skill who burst onto the scene like William Jennings Bryan, and won.”

Clifford Thies
Eldon R. Lindsey Chair of Free Enterprise
Professor of Economics and Finance
Shenandoah University
[email protected]

The Heartland Institute is a 32-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.