Tonight’s State of the Union Speech was the first of President Obama's second term. The nation's political tergiversation complete.
So how did the president do? In a confrontational speech, Obama laid out a progressive argument for action on issues that the public clearly back him on.
Obama said that “It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love,” which came towards the beginning of the speech, living up to the Progressive ideals he set out in the inaugural address.
In the SOTU speech, he asked for a $1.75-an-hour hike in the federal minimum wage ($9.00), he wants to expand public preschool education so all children have a chance to have a head start, he wants a $50 billion infrastructure plan, and he facetiously called for climate change legislation that won’t hurt the economy.
Pathetically, the GOP had failed to even clap when Obama mentioned his desire to give each child a chance at attending preschool.
Obama forcefully said that “Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for a private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America. That's something we should be able to do.
The president made clear that he would not allow the middle-class or the poor take the brunt of the burden of dealing with the nation’s staggering debt. Whoever is responsible for Republican optics policy needs to be replaced.
Obama said that “We can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful,” Obama said. “We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters. Most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.”
It’s true, for the vast majority of American people, college cost are growing too fast, increasing the chance that college will be out of reach for their children. As cost go up, the last thing that we should do is make it harder for the poor and middle class. Although the schools are partly to blame for rising tuition, the government cannot cut Pell grants in the hope to force universities to lower cost. Lowering cost must come first. We absolutely cannot allow debt reduction to harm impecunious families.
Obama asked for new tax revenues from corporations and wealthy tax payers.
It is not unreasonable for Obama to offer $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, with $600 billion in new revenues; plus $900 billion in entitlement and budget cuts. However, Republican leadership, McConnell and Boehner, have already shot down the offer.
Obama demanded that a comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform bill make it to his desk so he can sign it.
“Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities -- they all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
“Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration has already made -- putting more boots on the Southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.”
“Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship -- a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.”
Before adding that “Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away. And America will be better for it. Let’s get it done. Let’s get it done.”
Immigration should be a no-brainer for the GOP. The party has all but ruined their chances with Latino voters. This could start a comeback, and they would do well to get behind the Dream Act.
One of the most interesting aspects of the speech I notes is when Obama points out that spending in scientific research is actually profitable for our country.
"if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy -- every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. We need to make those investments."
This is interesting because of this idea that we have to cut spending and lower taxes to grow. If businesses did that alone they would contract, not grow. Wouldn't it make since to think our economy could function on a very similar level. The Battelle Memorial Institute estimates that $3.8 billion in federal investments garnered a estimated $796 billion in economic impact; that's a return of investment of almost $210 per dollar invested.
Its clear the U.S. gained some improvements out of the stimulus, although it does not seem likely it was lasting. Instead of bailouts, we should have invested in things that gave us better returns. The federal government and the private sector can work together to help light a fire under the economy.
Tonight President Obama made clear to the American people, as well as to Congress that the victims of gun violence deserve an up and down vote on gun control measures. One of the most galvanic points in the speech was when Obama demanded an up-or-down vote on new stringent measures that would ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
Conservatives are fond of saying Obama won’t take about Chicago gun violence, but he did tonight.
“Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. Now, if you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun -- more than a thousand.” “One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.”
“Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence.
They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote.”
“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote,” Obama sternly said. “The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.”
"Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun," Obama said.
"Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect," Obama said.
Obama knocked this one out of the park, and you could tell by the clapping you heard during the segment.
This is much better than conservative’s baleful call to develop an army of school guards; even though recent news events have shown that police officers are not immune to life’s stresses and mental challenges.
The Senate is also likely to take up only limited gun regulation requiring universal national background checks on all firearms purchases; but none of the things the president suggested.
As the President entreated, scolded the GOP for its obstruction and reactionary ideas, one cannot help but feel that the GOP is poised to stand in the way and blame the president when changes do not come. Gun control was the tipping point in many Americans minds, and now the pressure is on the GOP to act. Far too many young people are dying, and we have to do something now, even if it won’t have large impacts for decades or longer.