A Few Quick Takes on Obama’s State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address tonight.

There were no surprises in the speech. Most of what the President said has been in the news for a long time now. In fact, several of his major proposals, such as gun control, have been the subject of presidential speeches or press conferences in the past few weeks.

I agree with some of his ideas and disagree with others. Quite a bit of the speech was filler of one sort or the other, either introducing people who the president felt would exemplify the need for his proposals, or in just illustrating and explaining what he wanted.

I’ve attempted to boil it down to a few quick takes to make it easier to see where he wants to take the country. We’ve already discussed several of these proposals quite a bit here on Public Catholic. I expect that we will go over some of them in even greater depth in the future.

In the meantime, here are my quick takes on the President’s speech. If you think I left out something important, feel free to bring it up in the comments section.

Jobs, Taxes and Wages

1. … 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 … we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.

2. I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.

3. Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.

4. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

The Deficit, Health Care & Energy

1. Reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.

2. Save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. 

3. My Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water

Climate Change

1. We must do more to combat climate change. 

2. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.

Home Ownership

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Take a vote, and send me that bill.

Education

1. Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. 

2. I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

Immigration

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.

al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Cyber Terrorism

1. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

2. Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

3. America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

International Trade Agreements 

1. We intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.

2. We will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.

The Military and Defense Spending

1. We will maintain the best military in the world.

2. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight.

3. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.

Long Voting Lines

When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. 

Gun Control 

1. Background checks

2. New laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.

3. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets.

  • Don

    It seems that the biggest difference between what Obama is doing as opposed to what Romney would’ve done is in his approach toward the wealthiest sharing more of the burden of the deficit. I am for that and for stricter gun control.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I think there are other significant differences between what Governor Romney might be doing and how President Obama is approaching things. However, since President Obama won the election, I don’t think that is particularly important.
      What matters is where the president is leading us from here.

  • http://jobowerwrites.wordpress.com Jo Bower

    Thanks for the non-inflammatory summary. Seeing things without the party backlash and emotion is the first step toward dialogue.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Jo.

  • Bill S

    I agree. Great summary. I was at a meeting and didn’t get to see it. I know that Obama wasn’t the one you would have chosen for the job (I have a way of sensing these things), but you were fair and unbiased.

    I see that he takes every opportunity he can to pledge his support for gays, in this case those in the military. He is the first president to do that and I think public support for gays is growing.

    How can any of us think about anything else but the deficit? There are very rich people in this country who can easily afford to pay a bigger share of it. We need their contribution.

  • Kathryn

    One major problem with Obama is that what he says and what he actually does can be two very different things. He is the most public relations-driven president we’ve had in recent history. It seems to be all smoke and mirrors with him. As a side note- no matter how much the “wealthy” Americans are taxed (even at 100%) we will still be in extreme debt as a nation. Maybe people like Warren Buffet (who is very vocal for an increase in income taxes-which hardly affect him due to most of his “income” coming from capital gains) should start making some generous donations in order to reduce the debt. The fact is generational theft is what is driving up the debt. One generation spending another into oblivian.

    • Sagrav

      If a small handful of generous billionaires donate large chunks of their wealth to the federal government, it will have no impact on reducing our debt. Forcing all of the wealthy (even those who don’t feel very generous) to pay a larger amount in taxes will have a significantly larger impact on our debt.

      If we really want to obsess over the national debt while so many people are out of work, then we’re going to have to increase taxes and cut spending. Doing one or the other by themselves will have no impact. Of course, these austerity measures will have a very negative effect on the national job market (just look at how austerity has crippled the economies of Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland), but apparently that is not as important to us as the threat of debt collectors showing up at the nations metaphorical door at some vague time in the future.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    “I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs”

    He must mean those “shovel ready jobs” he said he would create with the 2009 stimulous. Four years later and now it’s urgent? Hahahahaha.

    Jobs is the priority and he wants to raise the minimum wage???? Either he hasn’t clue or he’s the slickest salesman around. You don’t create jobs by raising the min wage. You lose jobs.

    He’s lame duck. Nothing is going to pass except immigration reform and that’s only because the Republicans need to have it go as an issue. His presidency is effectively over.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Manny, I think he’s very powerful right now. Lame-duckism doesn’t take over until much nearer the end of a term, when people don’t think they will have to ask you for anything again.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        Well, here’s how I see it. Republicans have nothing to gain by giving him anything. He’s done everything to aleinate them, so there’s no personal love. How Obama can pass anything through the House or prevent a filabuster in the Senate is beyond me. He only gets through what Republicans want to get through. And the Republican base already had to swallow his tax increase on the rich at the beginning of the year. There will be no more tax increases.

        But didn’t you find it funny he was talking about more shovel ready jobs? ;)

  • rumitoid

    From the few comments from Republicans here we can see why the nation is in its present state. No thoughtful replies to the president’s address, suggestions of where to compromise so that we can move forward as a nation, but the same old personal attacks and insults toward Obama and the same obstructionism. The lowest and deplorable approval rating for Congress, the most do-nothing Congress ever and while America is in deep crisis, is wholly due to the Republicans. Obama has had to appeal to the people (“public relation-driven”) because Congress is unresponsive to the people.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I am allowing this comment, but I am concerned about this discussion degenerating into a verbal trashing contest. This comment comes close, and I am only allowing because some of the others also came close.

      Everyone: Try to talk about these things with intelligence and civility.

  • http://aim.com Mitch

    I kind of chuckled when I heard President Obama say these two statements in back to back paragraphs: “*we can’t ask senior citizens* and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction…Reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and *ask more from the wealthiest seniors*.” Don’t you think you’re kind of contradicting your self there Mr. President.

    I believe people who are anti-firearms are not fully educated in the subject. They don’t seem to realize how many would-be victims prevent crimes from happening with their firearms.

    @rumitoid The Republicans are not against compromise in issues like Immigration and Climate Change”John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together”. Republicans are somewhat open to back round checks when purchasing firearms also. Don’t you think Democrats might have to shift their stances a little also.
    @Manny: I am a teenager looking for a job this summer and I agree that raising minimum wage will only decrease my chances of getting a job.
    @Sagrav and Don: Do you two believe that the wealthiest Americans aren’t “sharing more of the burden of the deficit” and that the government should be “forcing all of the wealthy to pay a larger amount in taxes”. I assume you both a re hardworking how would you feel I President Obama told you that you have to give your hard earned cash up.
    @Kathryn: I love what you said about “generational theft” and that Obama is just “all smoke and mirrors.”

  • http://aim.com Mitch

    This is a great summary! Thank you!


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