The President’s State of the Union address was a laudable effort to get the country back on track by outlining agreeable and necessary policy proposals for the following year and resetting the agenda and language with which we debate the issues. He reiterated the need to invest in America’s future and stance in the world economy with an economy built to last. But he also emphasized the need to meet this growing strength with growing standards of fairness and equal opportunity — for citizens and residents of the U.S. to be treated by their government and by each other in a manner becoming of the greatest country in the world.
Like most State of the Union addresses, Obama’s speech was peppered with a list of initiatives designed to keep American manufacturing on top. We saved the domestic car industry in 2009, returning General Motors and other companies to the status of most productive and profitable in the world, and saving a million jobs in the process. It’s time to encourage other industries to stay in the U.S. and create jobs by ending tax breaks for outsourced companies while creating tax incentives for bringing factories and job opportunities back to the States. The president also proposed making it easier to export products to countries with trade agreements and announced a new initiative to fight back against unfair Chinese trade practices, using a new federal investigation agency that will present the strongest cases possible to Chinese diplomats and international arbiters. (Incidentally, his remarks about the unfairness of piracy overseas was not a reference to SOPA, which the administration decidedly opposes; it referred to very real and very prevalent industrial espionage of American companies by potentially government-affiliated actors within China.)
An economy built to last, however, can’t just invest in the present. We’re all familiar with the state of education in the U.S. today. While cutting funding to public education is generally a reprehensible way to limit spending at the expense of underprivileged future leaders, Obama’s ultimatum to halt tuition hikes or face losing federal funding should serve as a powerful incentive to end the overburdening of students. (You can be sure they won’t sacrifice those federal funds for anything.)
It should be clear by now that even if the Occupy movement’s tactics aren’t widely supported, their rhetoric of rising inequality has changed the debate in the U.S. The address made sure to treat on these concerns, emphasizing the need for a tax system that no longer allows Warren Buffett and his peers to pay a lower percentage rate than their secretaries. The administration also rightly highlighted the need for stricter transparency of investment institutions that are likely to make risky decisions and unstable business models like those that led to the financial industry’s 2008 collapse. Big banks and other such institutions will be required to write a “living will” to ensure they’re no longer too big to fail.
Last Tuesday, we saw a new and transformed Obama — one we got a glimpse at late last year during the payroll tax debate and the speech in Osawatomie; a leader who recognizes the value of bipartisanship, but isn’t afraid to use the bully pulpit in the face of obstructionist opponents who refuse to get on board with anything White House-related. The president isn’t interested in being a dictator, still believing “there is no red America, there is no blue America, there is only the United States of America.” But he’s willing to fight when the issues are important enough and the opposition is uncooperative. His call for greater cooperation within government was expressed by the statements that bookended his remarks that night: Our Congress should take a tip from the armed services and put petty differences aside with issues of such immense gravity. That’s not a call for top-down military-style leadership — it’s a call to put country ahead of political positioning.
— Daily Nexus liberal columnist Geoffrey Bell
In Response, Right Said:
The idea that this State of the Union address had any substance whatsoever is absolutely ludicrous. It was a campaign speech, plain and simple, and to think otherwise is foolish.
My counterpart suggests, and I would agree, that the president is the perfect politician — claiming to want compromise yet vigorously fighting for the things he believes in. Sadly, only the latter part of this description bears any truth, as the facts of Obama’s presidency flatly contradict the idea that he wants genuine compromise. When it came to avoiding a government shutdown last year, it was the president’s stubborn insistence that the rich aren’t paying enough in taxes (the top 5 percent pays over half of the nation’s taxes, the top 10 percent approximately 70 percent), not the Republicans’ reasonable requests for actual spending cuts, that scuttled a $4 trillion deficit reduction deal.
During the speech, the president acted as though Republicans aren’t interested in tax reform. Another lie. Several Republican members of Congress, most notably Paul Ryan, have been pushing for pro-growth tax reform for years. During the congressional super committee to reduce the deficit last fall, Sen. Patrick Toomey — a Tea Party favorite — reportedly offered to allow revenue increases to occur so long as tax reform followed the Ryan plan of eliminating loopholes — the very same loopholes the president spoke of eliminating! The president has abdicated his responsibility to lead in favor of his reelection campaign. Sadly, this is not surprising, coming from the man who has crushed so many people’s hope for change.