You don't have to make New Year's resolutions.
If you do, you don't have to make them in public.
But governors, presidents and many mayors do make what amounts to New Year's resolutions in State of the State, Union and City speeches.
Gov. Nikki Haley did that annual duty again Wednesday night at the Statehouse with assorted assertions, including:
"Our tax code needs to be simpler, flatter and fairer."
Don't count on that need being met this year.
Still, it's good to have ambitious aims - assuming you aim in the right direction.
It's also worthwhile to publicly state your personal goals.
You could call it a State of the Family, State of the Household or State of the (Your Name Here) speech.
Example: My State of the Frank speech is coming soon.
Finding a big audience for your stated intentions should strengthen your motivation to fulfill them after declaring that you plan to:
Get a job, get a better job, get better grades, work harder, not work so hard, win more friends, lose your bad-influence friends, stop drinking, obey the law, lose weight, make amends, settle scores, stop texting while driving, stop texting at movies lest somebody shoot you, and stop tying your mercurial moods to the fickle outcomes of elections and sports events,
You could even verbally resolve to stop spending so much money that you don't have.
That last overdue change of reckless habit on the colossal fiscal scale occasionally gets State of the Union lip service from U.S. presidents.
President Bill Clinton prematurely proclaimed in his 1996 State of the Union speech: "The era of big government is over."
President George W. Bush told Congress in his 2007 State of the Union speech: "Together, we can restrain the spending appetite of the federal government and we can balance the federal budget."
When Bush left the White House two years later, he also left this then-red-ink-record: The national debt rose by nearly $5 trillion during his eight years in the presidency.
President Barack Obama has already broken that record: More than $6 trillion has been added to the national debt in his first five presidential years.
And in his 2010 State of the Union speech, Obama played this variation on an oft-repeated pitch for his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: "Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan."
OK, so some State of the Whatever goals, like some New Year's resolutions, don't pan out.
However, that doesn't mean elected officials - and the rest of us - shouldn't make them.
It certainly doesn't mean any lawmaker should shout "You lie!" at the president of the United States, as 2nd District Rep. Joe Wilson yelled at Obama on Sept. 9, 2009, while the president pushed his health-care-reform mess in a speech (not a State of the Union one) to Congress.
Presumably, Wilson and all other Republicans will wait until Obama stops talking Tuesday night before making their cases against his State of the Union proposals.
Then a designated Republican will respond to the president's speech. On Tuesday, Politico put Haley on a list of 10 possible choices for that high-profile honor - or is it a lowdown chore?
Then Utah Sen. Mike Lee will offer a tea party response.
Yet before being too hard on Obama, remember, he's not the first president to turn the State of the Union into a rhetorical grab bag of unaffordable government goodies.
Nor is he the first president to warn that he can go a long way alone if the legislative body doesn't get with his program. As Obama put it last week:
"Even without Congress - with or without Congress, I'm going to act on my own. I have got a pen, and I have got a phone, and I can use that pen to sign executive orders."
The path to power
Haley's executive hammer doesn't hit nearly as hard in this legislatively stacked state - though on Wednesday night she hailed the government-restructuring package passed by both chambers Tuesday as "well worth the wait."
But enough about the State of the State and State of the Union speeches.
What about your State of the (Your Name Here) speech?
And how much executive clout can you summon to override budget opposition from your House, er, house's, appropriations committee?
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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