There was a make-believe quality to U.S. President Barack Obama's second inaugural address, as if all that's required to solve serious problems are the intelligence to produce proper policies and the political grit to get them approved. Perish the thought that there are deep conflicts among the things that Americans want, or the possibility that some problems lack easy, obvious and inexpensive remedies. This isn't the vision Obama was peddling.

Take two examples: paying for the retirement of the baby boom, mainly through Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; and responding to climate change.

On the baby boom, Obama said: "We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future."