Our guest blogger is Kenneth R. Bazinet, formerly the White House correspondent for the New York Daily News.
On these nights Presidents love to tell Congress the State of the Union is good, or at least sound. But as many Americans understand, the country is not even close to becoming solvent.
As President Obama stands before Congress and the American people, his mostly inherited federal deficit totals more than $1.3 trillion, while the national debt registers at $14 trillion, according to USdebtclock.org. The five-year freeze on non-discretionary spending he proposes tonight will help reduce the deficit, but the onus of providing revenue to fund the government remains mainly on the backs of the middle class for at least another two years.
A statistical breakdown using government figures indicates about 14 million Americans are out of work, but some economists working with their own models says it is closer to 25 million out-of-work Americans when they take into consideration the workers whose benefits have expired and now find themselves off the grid.
Unemployment and the deficit are “speakable issues,” acceptable conversation topics in either Democratic or Republican ranks. But there are many other topics that are simply unspeakable, even for a President with progressive roots.
There are about 2 million people who are homeless in America, the government has reported, but that is based on the count of those who stay in shelters — leaving those who sleep on the street, in abandoned buildings, under overpasses and in cardboard houses and dumpsters unaccounted for. Some 45 million Americans, some homeless, most not, depend on food stamps to help put food on their tables. Many of those Americans on government assistance work, but cannot make ends meet (that despite the real median household income of $49,777 in 2009, according to the Census Bureau, a clear indication of the difference between the haves and the have-nots). Some 43.6 million people lived below the poverty level in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008, the Census Bureau reported.
Then there are those who serve and are too often forgotten. At least 1,286 servicemen and women gave their lives in the war Afghanistan and another 4,430 U.S. forces have been killed in Iraq, according to the count provided by the Associated Press. Another 37,000 American patriots both have been wounded in those two wars, according to various veteran’s groups.
An administration official, speaking only on the condition of anonymity, tells me this evening that the President has no intention of laundry-listing the woes of the American people, so his report on the State of the Union will be incomplete.
“This is about the future,” the source said. “It’s much more forward-looking and forward-leaning.”
Maybe the State of Union really needs to begin with a pledge to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.