Why Main Street Didn't Watch the State of the Union

Kylie crushed it at Kanye West’s fashion show event. Kourtney is ready to let Scott back into her life, even after all of his shenanigans. Kim’s best friend Jonathan delivered her urine to a lab. Kris’s boyfriend Corey is a fan of Eddie Murphy. That’s what I learned last night. Oh, and President Obama wants us to work together and “fix politics.”

The ratings aren’t in yet, but my prediction is that even fewer people watched last night’s State of the Union Address than last year, which also had dismal ratings. I don’t know a single client of mine or business owner who planned on tuning in. Me? I’m writing this response to the speech, so I had to watch it. But that didn’t stop me from keeping up with the Kardashians. I just flipped between the two – and it was really easy. Particularly because both shows were so predictable.

Every time I watch #KUWTK (and I am manly enough to admit that my wife and I are fans) I know what I’m going to get: sunny LA, yummy food being consumed in mass quantities, appearances surrounded by screaming fans, made up conflicts and Scott Disick crying (is he still on the show?). And, just like the Kardashians, I find that every time I watch the #SOTU it’s also the same: a filled Congressional chamber, standing ovations by half the room, a call-out to inspirational Americans, a plea to do what the President is telling us to do (“because it’s the right thing”), a finger or two wagging in my face and appeals for everyone to work together and “fix politics.”

As business owners we’ve grown used to the rhetoric. The veiled attacks on the 1%. The calls to support the middle class. The assurances that we are safe from those terrorists who threaten our very existence - both in the Middle East and on Wall Street. We are familiar with the plans to spend more money and expand our government. We know what’s going to be said before it’s even been said: “Do I look hot in this?” “My sisters are important to me.” “I can’t believe she said that.” Also: we are the “greatest country.” “Our economy is strong.” “We must work together.”

And we’re also use to the results: more world unrest, more economic uncertainty, more bickering in DC and more selfies. For the past five years, since the Republicans first gained control of the House, we’ve watched an increasingly frustrated President do exactly the opposite of what he’s asking us to do. There hasn’t been much working together or fixing going on. There’s just been fingers pointed, lines drawn in the sand, accusations made, distrust and arguments. At least on the Kardashians, someone changed genders. There’s been nothing going on in DC that even matches that.

By now we know that, whatever the President says in his speech, there will be no significant action coming out of Washington in 2016. How can there be? Congress is only in session for less than four months the whole year. And even when they’re in session, they’ll be less inclined to do deals with a lame duck President. Other than the Pacific Free Trade Agreement, there isn’t a whole lot of legislation on the table that will significantly affect our businesses or the economy anyway. The President plans to spend much of his time abroad. And our legislators plan to spend much of their time at home campaigning. There will be a new President in under a year. And our attention is really focused on what he (or she) will be doing and how their plans will affect our businesses.

Some organizations are frustrated that the President barely mentioned small business in his speech last night. But what is he going to say at this point? That he’s going to lower taxes? Reduce regulation? Repeal the Affordable Care Act? Pull back on his support for increasing the minimum wage, changing overtime rules, supporting paid time off and cutting our national debt? Do we need to hear again how important small businesses are to the U.S. economy? How half the country works for a small business? He knows that. But it doesn’t really matter at this point. He’s done what he’s done and he has little power to do much more that will affect us in the next twelve months. For small businesses like mine, the President has become irrelevant. Kind of like Scott Disick.

So did you watch something else last night other than the State of the Union? Don’t worry. You weren’t alone.