WASHINGTON (AP) — It was a wish list, not a to-do list.
President Barack Obama laid out an array of plans in his State of the Union speech as if his hands weren’t so tied by political realities. There can be little more than wishful thinking behind his call to end oil industry subsidies — something he could not get through a Democratic Congress, much less today’s divided Congress, much less in this election year.
And there was more recycling, in an even more forbidding climate than when the ideas were new: He pushed for an immigration overhaul that he couldn’t get past Democrats, permanent college tuition tax credits that he asked for a year ago, and familiar discouragements for companies that move overseas.
A look at Obama’s rhetoric Tuesday night and how it fits with the facts and political circumstances:
OBAMA: “We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.”
THE FACTS: This is at least Obama’s third run at stripping subsidies from the oil industry. Back when fellow Democrats formed the House and Senate majorities, he sought $36.5 billion in tax increases on oil and gas companies over the next decade, but Congress largely ignored the request. He called again to end such tax breaks in last year’s State of the Union speech. And he’s now doing it again, despite facing a wall of opposition from Republicans who want to spur domestic oil and gas production and oppose tax increases generally.
OBAMA: “Our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”
THE FACTS: That’s only half true. About half of the more than 30 million uninsured Americans expected to gain coverage through the health care law will be enrolled in a government program. Medicaid, the federal-state program for low-income people, will be expanded starting in 2014 to cover childless adults living near the poverty line.
The other half will be enrolled in private health plans through new state-based insurance markets. But many of them will be receiving federal subsidies to make their premiums more affordable. And that’s a government program, too.
Starting in 2014 most Americans will be required to carry health coverage, either through an employer, by buying their own plan, or through a government program.
OBAMA, asking Congress to pay for construction projects: “Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”
THE FACTS: The idea of taking war “savings” to pay for other programs is budgetary sleight of hand. For one thing, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been largely financed through borrowing, so stopping the wars doesn’t create a pool of ready cash, just less debt. And the savings appear to be based at least in part on inflated war spending estimates for future years.