Obama’s State of the Union in Five Words: I’ll Give You Free Stuff

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By Veronique de Rugy January 16, 2015

President Obama’s State of the Union address next Tuesday will be a little different this year from years past, because he isn’t expected to announce any new major proposals during the speech itself. But he will lay out big plans — we just know what they are already. From Politico:

But as for the State of the Union tradition of unveiling big announcements for a year-ahead agenda, Obama’s done with that. The country’s been done with that for a while, aides say, and the White House has finally caught up.

They believe they’ve now redefined the State of the Union model, not just for this year and next but for the next couple of presidents at least.

Most of what’s in the speech they’ll have already announced as part of Obama’s two-week lead-up tour. White House aides say that may be it — they’re not interested in making big legislative asks for the GOP to reflexively shoot down, nothing on par with last month’s surprise restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

It doesn’t matter much either way. Whether he announces proposals during the speech or in the two weeks preceding the speech, the bulk of what the president wants to do is give stuff away for “free”:

Two “free” years of community college for Americans who are “willing to work for it.” This is obviously not free because taxpayers would be footing the bill. It’s also a bad idea since it wouldn’t even accomplish its intended goal.

Free” paid sick days and paid family leave. It won’t be free for the employers who would have to shoulder the cost, or the employees who would suffer from the unintended consequences of a policy that would make hiring more expensive, cuts workers’ wages, and make employment contracts more rigid.

If Congress doesn’t pass the president’s paid sick days and paid family leave plan, hell encourage state and local governments to act. That too would be “free” . . . except for taxpayers who get stuck paying for a proposed $2.2 billion plan to help states study paid leave.

Universal access to broadband and high-speed Internet. That will come “free” by having the FCC trample on state laws that restrict municipalities from building their own networks. The language he’s using to sell this plan (“clear away the red tape” and “help communities succeed in our digital economy”) makes it sound free, right? It won’t be. My colleague Brent Skorup notes that the government has “spent billions on broadband.” As Skorup explains in a piece that I highly recommend, federally funded public broadband networks aren’t just costly – they’re also unwise and unhelpful in terms of getting people access to fast Internet.

,( Americans would face a host of new state and local taxes and fees that apply to public utilities. These new levies, according to the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), would total $15 billion annually. On average, consumers would pay an additional $67 for landline broadband, and $72 for mobile broadband each year,)

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