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State of the Union and American Values

  • State of the Union and American Values

  • 29 January 2012 by 0 Comments

State of the Union and American Values

By Richard Larsen

Published – Idaho State Journal, 01/29/12

The president, in his State of the Union address declared, “The problems we’re overcoming are not the heritage of one person, party, or even one generation. It’s just the tendency of government to grow. And there’s always that well-intentioned chorus of voices saying, ‘With a little more power and a little more money, we could do so much for the people.’ For a time we forgot the American dream isn’t one of making government bigger; it’s keeping faith with the mighty spirit of free people under God.”

If you don’t recall that opening line, it’s understandable, for it wasn’t in the latest State of the Union, and it wasn’t this president. The president was Ronald Reagan, and the year was 1984. Whether one agreed with him or not, there was remarkable consistency in what he said, and his message didn’t vary based on the venue, his audience, or the grandness of the stage. Even more remarkable was his policies and recommendations to congress and the American people were consistent, at least incrementally, with what he said. This is an increasingly rare commodity, especially in politics, as we observed firsthand this week.

In this week’s State of the Union we heard, “What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.” I couldn’t agree more! But what does he think those values are?  The historical version of those “American values” and Obama’s are not synonymous. For the rest of the speech the only words uttered with greater frequency than “fair” and “fairness” were “I,” “me,” and “my.”

From what Obama said Tuesday night, his notion of our “American values” is not based on freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness, or any of the ancillary principles or traits that have made America great. His overarching theme was “fairness,” which is simply a euphemism for class envy, based on increased taxation of the most financially successful Americans, to pay for more regulation, agencies, and programs. This concept of “values” is very un-American . They are distinctly antithetical to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that encompassed the nation’s political value system for two centuries.

This contrast is observed even more starkly with the 1986 State of the Union address when President Reagan put the role of fairness in proper perspective. “Private values must be at the heart of public policies.” He elaborated, “Americans have always valued faith, character, hard work, personal responsibility, self-reliance, discipline, competition, charity, fairness, and achievement. Values originate from what people believe, especially what they believe about God.” Clearly, from Obama’s speech, those are not his idea of “American values.”

Editors at The Washington Post observed this as well, when they said of Obama’s speech, “None of the proposals constitutes a single bold stroke to revive the economy, but the heart of Obama’s message was that America’s wealthiest citizens must do more to cement the economic recovery and pull the country from its dire fiscal condition.”

We should, with every major speech like the State of the Union, assess the consistency in speech and actions. If one tells us one thing but does another, that’s not just duplicity, it’s hypocrisy and prevarication. Here’s a perfect example from Obama’s speech the other night, “But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed:  That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.” He obviously doesn’t really believe that, since government now is expanding and encroaching into our lives more than ever before and he proposed even more government “solutions” in his speech.

In describing the period leading up to Reagan’s 1984 address, Reagan said, “There was a feeling government had grown beyond the consent of the governed. Families felt helpless in the face of mounting inflation and the indignity of taxes that reduced reward for hard work, thrift, and risk-taking. All this was overlaid by an ever-growing web of rules and regulations.” Sound familiar?

Every solution for Obama is another government program or more spending. This is clearly not an American value. But this one is, “I think the best possible social program is a job.” That, too, was Ronald Reagan. He also correctly assessed the relationship between expansion of government and individual liberty, when he declared factually, “As government expands, liberty contracts.”

For those of us who lived through the Reagan years, the contrast between our president from thirty years ago and our current incarnation could not be more stark. They are diametrically opposed in the role of government in our lives, the American values that define us culturally and economically, and in the inherent trust of people, versus a trust of the government.

History and our founding documents provide a documented transcript of what our “American values” are, and that transcript provides a narrative much different from what our current president portrays.

AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board.  He can be reached at

About the

More than anything, I want my readers to think. We're told what to think by the education establishment, which is then parroted by politicians from the left, and then reinforced by the mainstream media. Steeped in classical liberalism, my ideological roots are based in the Constitution and our founding documents. Armed with facts, data, and correct principles, today's conservatives can see through the liberal haze and bring clarity to any political discussion.

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