By the time you read this, Barack Obama will have delivered his valedictory State of the Union Address; as I write it, his speechwriters will be making their last-ditch efforts to make a sow’s ear into a silk purse.
What might this speech actually have sounded like if composed in the depths of Obama’s conscience? How might he have honestly summed up seven years in office, and the state of the country soon to be handed to an unlucky successor? Maybe it would go something like this:
“My fellow Americans,
The state of the Union is, of course, awful. The stock market slide suggests we may be ready to fall back into the depression (it’s all right if I use the d-word down here in the cozy depths between us, isn’t it?) that most people who aren’t bankers or CEOs never actually got out of. Sure, I got the official unemployment rate down to 5 percent by pretending that the millions of people who’ve been unable to find work at decent wages or any wage at all, and who perhaps in their 40s or 50s will never find work again, simply don’t exist. I know a bunch of ‘em myself and I’ll bet you do too—if you aren’t actually one yourself—but, shhh, they’re the disappeared ones, you know, like those folks in Argentina the generals used to drop from airplanes or bury in mass graves under stadiums. Out of sight, out of mind.
For those of you still working, well, you don’t need me to tell you that you’re working longer hours for less in hopes of an eventual pension that will turn out to have been underfunded or never funded at all. No one will ever be held to account for this systemic fraud because, you know, sovereign immunity and all that kind of thing.
If you’re looking to eke out your Golden Years on Social Security, that’ll be a real ha-ha. Sure, your Social was never designed to be a general pension, just your really basic poverty-level stipend, and the cost of living adjustments never covered inflation either—which, by the way, the Federal Reserve and I have managed to pretend doesn’t exist, so that I’ve become the first President since 1935 to decide (three times, no less!) that no cost-of-living adjustment was necessary because the cost of living hadn’t gone up. Yo, seniors, your medical bills aren’t any higher, are they? No increase in premiums and co-pays, right? No higher drug costs, correct? Oh, yeah, that Martin Shkreli guy tried to raise the price of his life-saving drug from $13.50 a pill to $750, but hey, he’s going to jail, right, so you won’t notice that Pfizer just raised the roof on just about every drug they sell.
Well, that was the blessing of Obamacare, which enshrined the corporate monopolies of for-profit medicine forever and kept us the only government in the world that doesn’t do competitive bidding on drug prices. It’s really a gas when the Republicans vote to repeal the Unaffordable Care Act every other day, when it was actually taken right out of the Heritage Foundation’s playbook to begin with. Your tax dollars at work, mainlined from Medicare right into the bottom line of Big Pharma and the Medical-Industrial complex, as we fondly call hospital conglomerates around here.
Pushing a Republican health care bill through Congress without a single Republican vote was certainly my signature accomplishment. It made voters so angry that they promptly voted a Republican majority into Congress so that progressive legislation would be the dead on arrival for the rest of my term, and in gratitude for this they nominated Mitt Romney to run against me in 2012—probably the only guy in the country who couldn’t have beaten me.
What I’m really proudest of, though, is this: not a single banker or corporate executive anywhere in this great nation of ours went to jail for turning the economy into a giant Ponzi scheme and nearly taking it for good. Thanks to the Fed’s version of political correctness, we never even had to call the biggest crash since 1929 an actual depression, and what a whopper of one it was! There’s usually a price to be paid when things mess up that bad, but I made good and sure that John Q. Public picked up the tab. Folks (see, I like to call people “folks,” so maybe they won’t notice they aren’t citizens anymore) got tossed out of their homes and jobs by the millions, but the banks and brokers and insurers and corporations all got recapitalized at the public trough and were raking in more dough than ever before you could say Barack Hussein Obama.
Think they were grateful for that, though? You’ve never met a banker, obviously! They got so snarky when I had to pitch a few pennies to keep the states from going bankrupt that I had to call ‘em into the White House and remind them that I was the only one standing between them and the pitchforks. You remember that line, don’t you? Greatest one of my presidency. And, darn right, I did keep the pitchforks away, but don’t think it was easy. Why, even Reagan had to toss a bunch of bankers into the clink over the savings and loan crisis in the ’80s, and that wasn’t a pimple on the crash of 2008. That’s politics, though. You’re only as good as the last favor you’ve done for the Big Guys, and your favors are never good enough.
Well, I could go on and on! Remember all that transparency I promised you back on the campaign trail in 2008? So, I served up the most secretive government in American history, and the biggest surveillance state anywhere, anytime. When nosy reporters got on my case about it, I whipped out the good old Espionage Act of 1917—you remember, the one designed to ferret out spies and traitors—and threw that book at them. No bankers in jail, thank you, but reporters, definitely yes. State secrets are state secrets, after all, and what you don’t know won’t hurt you—until it does, ha ha!
Not much time to talk about foreign policy, but that always kind of bored me. I did promise to get out of Afghanistan and Iraq, but you know these long imperial wars never end, and no American president ever admits to losing a war, that’s a rule. Iraq was a failed state before I got to it and Afghanistan never had a state to begin with, but I did crash Libya all on my own and they’ll never be able to take that away from me. Oh, and I would have bombed Syria back in 2013 if I could, but no one wanted a piece of that action back then and now the Russians have decided to do it themselves. But I have rented out our air force to the Iranians in Iraq, and between us we managed to level Ramadi—you’ll remember that line from Vietnam about having to destroy a village in order to save it.
You will bring up that promise I made about closing down Guantanamo Bay, won’t you? Well, that was a political hairball, but I found some foot-draggers in the Pentagon who would find a way to keep even prisoners cleared for release just where they were. Don’t blame Barack! Truman had the guts to fire Douglas MacArthur for insubordination, even though all the guy did was to win World War II. But of course I wouldn’t dream of removing some pencil-pusher who gave the lie to a major campaign promise, especially when he was doing just what I really wanted.
I could go on about the reset button with Russia that turned into a new Cold War, or how the Chinese ate our lunch in Asia, or . . . but you get the idea, and, as I said, foreign policy really does bore me.
That leaves climate policy and race relations, I guess, and of course guns. You all remember how I would always make a terrific speech about climate control just before opening up the Atlantic or the Arctic for drilling, or approving the first oil exports in decades. Yes, I killed the Keystone XL pipeline after dithering around long enough so that the Canadians didn’t need it anymore. And I give such tearjerkers about how we have to deal with the gun epidemic that I even make myself cry. That’s my MO: make a speech, and walk away. Then do the opposite, or nothing at all. But you’ve probably noticed that by now.
I could have told you this eight years ago, but electing an African-American president was going to set race relations in this country back a century. Except that it looks more like a hundred and fifty years now—you know, the Civil War.
I guess that’s about it. You know I’m not going to endorse anybody for president during the primaries—how could I hold my nose hard enough, especially for you-know-who? But I will tell you this: You’ll be wishing for the good old days of Barack Obama before the last hanging chad is counted. That’s the way it works. Don’t forget I told you so.”