By David Tulis
My wife, Jeannette, looks at me and rolls her eyes when she considers I quit a part-time wage-earning job as a newspaper editor to take up the hopeless task of writing about local economy.
But President Obama is on my side as a proponent of local economy. So I cannot go wrong in espousing the idea, “Love your neighbor — buy local” — can I?
President Obama in his state of the union chat uses the idea of local economy to win sympathy of his listener. His first two sentences rush immediately to individuals whose callings bring ostensible good to the nation — a teacher who gives “extra time” with a student and an entrepreneur who “flipped on the lights of her tech startup and did her part to add to the more than eight million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.”
There follow five more glimpses of unnamed people living out local economy lives in family, at home or on the job.
The federal chief executive says less about pending executive orders than I expected, but says “our job is to reverse” several evil economic trends. Some ideas “require congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you” in congress, he says, “But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
He says by his authority he will create a new sort of federally regulated tax-favored investment vehicle, a sort of IRA (MyRA). He also orders all federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of F$10.10 an hour. He promises more controls against the rights of gun owners in the name of public safety.
The scope of most of the speech is grandly national, unifying. Central government, powerful in every area of American life, has remedies and promises for the masses, whose individual hearts and minds are free to find solace in the sweeping nature of the president’s speech. As a device of rhetoric, the state of the union speech creates the sense of moral unanimity, of care for all, of the spiritual and moral idealism that accounts for philosophical problem of the one and the many, the mass and the individual.
Individuals lend credibility
To give the impression that he and his government connect with the people, Mr. Obama sprinkles into his narrative people such as Andra Rush, whose hiring story as a Detroit manufacturer he tells. Another is a married woman with two sons, Misty DeMars, whom Mr. Obama says lost her job from federal budget cuts. He quotes her letter, “We are the face of the unemployment crisis. *** I am not dependent on the government. *** I am confident that in time I will find a job…I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love. Please give us this chance.” Another, Estiven Rodrigues, is an alien who went through school and applied for college amid cheers from parents and school officials.
These personal references are humanizing devices that connect us to Mr. Obama and his program. Mr. Obama ingratiates himself with his listener, urging him to sign up for Obamacare as if he were your chum. “Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind – plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.”
Mr. Obama is borrowing from local economy, pretending that national government is our intimate, a real help.
As for the executive branch’s total surveillance of all electronic communications by phone or Internet under general warrants (illegal under state and federal constitutions), Mr. Obama pretends obedience to the law is not in his hands. He will work with the congress to “reform our surveillance programs.”
Local economy is about the free market created when individuals in a given town seek to prosper themselves and their neighbors as honest and gracious traders, merchants and service providers. Local economy is personal economy. It starts with individuals and works it way outward, eventually and indirectly affecting every person in a given city, town or county. Speeches by presidents borrow the concept of local economy, but they cannot make it real in national economy or in the functions of the administrative superstate that Mr. Obama ably represents.
Source: cbsnews.com, Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address, full text