Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Editorial: State of the Union Ideas Useful but not Enough

USA Today Editorial:

Those are worthy targets of opportunity, but the president gave shorter shrift to another obstacle to reviving the American dream, the nation's growing debt. The cost of servicing that debt alone is now $4,200 per household this year. Most of this borrowing is not being undertaken to defeat tyranny, build massive infrastructure programs or improve education. Rather, it is funding a yawning gap between historically low tax receipts and unaffordable spending on health care and retirement benefits. Taxing millionaires won't close the gap, and suggesting that it would is deceptive.

Problems of such scale will not be solved until the nation can overcome its inability to adapt its education system, politics and culture to a world rapidly being remade.

Obama spoke eloquently on these topics, particularly the desire to produce better skilled workers and generate more investment in American manufacturing. Yet his proposals were mostly small bore and have little chance of being enacted in an election year. That might be all that's possible in these contentious times.

Dealing with the big challenges would require both parties to stop fighting long enough to provide each other cover as they make difficult decisions to cut popular spending programs, overhaul the tax code and channel more of the money that the government does spend into long-term investments, as opposed to living subsidies. That's a sure path to improving the state of the union, but not one the nation's political culture is yet willing to accept.

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