Our Sputnik moment

President Obama’s State of the Union had a number of themes and crosscurrents that don’t really add up, but taken together they send an important message. He’s willing to say just about anything — something we learned during the debate over Obamacare — regardless of its relationship, or lack thereof, to the truth. And the Age of Big Government isn’t over. It may be on life suipport, but Obama won’t be pulling the plug.
Taylor Dinerman comes at the speech from a historical angle, considering the trope of “our Sputnik moment.” Was the invocation of Sputnik something more than Obama’s effort to reconnect with the older demographic? Citing the American space program to promote big government certainly has a retro feel to it.
Charles Krauthammer mentions in passing that Obama drew on the trope of the “Sputnik moment” despite “the irony of this appeal being made by the very president who has just killed NASA’s manned space program[.]” And Rich Lowry offers “[a] new cliché about the Apollo program[.]” Like a lot of clichés, it has a kernel of truth: “If we can send a man to the moon . . . we can waste lots of money based on false analogies.”
No one has taken the Soviet theme deeper than Daniel Greenfield. He titles his critique of the SOTU “Obama’s state of the Soviet Union.” Greenfield is a close reader whose attentiveness to the text may go beyond what the text warrants, but he may have found the essence of the speech. Here, for example, is Greenfield on Obama’s celebration of Kathy Proctor:

One of the more surreal moments in the address came when Obama mentioned Kathy Proctor, a 55 year old woman who after losing a job in the future industry is now a second year student at a community college working toward a biotechnology degree. Her plan is to become a biofuels analyst.
I can’t imagine a worse model for American workers than a 55 year old woman amassing unknown amounts of student debt for a job in an industry that doesn’t exist except as a government subsidized program. Even if Obama succeeds in obtaining more ethanol subsidies and some biofuels company decides to hire Kathy to be their biofuels analyst, her job will only exist because of the billions poured into subsidizing the educations and industry that make it possible. A job and an industry that would not exist without those subsidies. This is not how a genuinely productive country is run. It’s not how we’re going to beat China.
What’s worse is that the odds are very good that Kathy Proctor will join the ranks of other struggling Americans whom Obama singled out as examples, only for them to lose their jobs and homes. Jennifer Cline was one of those success stories, using unemployment benefits to go to college. Then she had to sell Obama’s “Things will get better” card to make ends meet. It’s true, “Things will get better”, as long as you have a letter from the big man himself and there’s still a market for Obama’s autographs.

In the words of Ralph Kramden: To the moon, Alice!

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