Ok, here’s my take on last night’s State of the Union Address.
“Our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.”
This is most certainly true. While Obama has his flaws, his policies have dug us out of the recession the Republicans created – all while being constantly opposed on principle by the Republican party. Regardless of what party you roll with, we should be happy about this outcome. Despite promises from the GOP that Obama’s policies would lead to vast unemployment, the unemployment rate is actually astronomically low (for which the GOP has also criticized Obama…it’s like the guy can’t win no matter what he does).
“Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.”
Well, it’s as over as it can reasonably be. I have no doubt the President will say that’s what he meant, though I also have no doubt viewers were meant to think it was over entirely. We still have thousands of troops in Afghanistan who aren’t coming home anytime soon and who are still charged with continuing to target Al Qaeda. Don’t think we’re out of Afghanistan yet because we’re not, and we won’t be in the foreseeable future. Still, we’ve withdrawn the vast majority of our troops, which is a good thing.
“Our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.”
The most recent numbers I’ve found suggest that we’ve created over 10 million new jobs since Obama took office, and it’s not hard to believe we’ve made up the deficit in the last few months. This has been a hallmark of Obama’s presidency. But Obama actually used a play on words that hid something that should make the Republicans very happy. He said “businesses” have created 11 million new jobs. What he didn’t say is that government employment has actually decreased by about half a million jobs. While the GOP claims to want a smaller government, don’t be surprised if you hear them criticizing Obama for public-sector job loss. Again, the guy can’t win.
“We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.”
This sounded like a flagrant lie when I heard it, but I was wrong. A quick google search confirmed it’s actually true. The bit about solar power is also true. In fact, now there are more jobs in solar power than in coal mining. This is a very good thing for the economy and for the planet.
“We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. More Americans finish college than ever before.”
Obama has been beating the math and reading scores drum for a while now, and it only remains half true. And while it’s true that more Americans finish college than every before, that’s because there are more Americans now. In terms of percentage of our populace graduating college, the numbers are less exciting. We’re way behind other nations that provide education to their citizens like South Korea, Canada, Australia, and even conservative hell-hole Russia. What’s more, how does it look when other nations are willing to educate our citizenry when we’re not? I think Obama lost some ground here. He wants to push the need for education, and the facts demand it. However he also wants to send the message that the nation is improving, which it is. Sadly, he didn’t have to muddy the waters here to achieve that.
Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.
Ironically, Mitch McConnell said in 2010 when these policies were introduced that they would guarantee that we’d bail out banks. He was wrong. And yes, millions more Americans are insured than before, despite constant opposition and the GOP hamstringing those efforts everywhere they can (like in Kansas, where I still can’t get covered). How many more would be insured if the GOP hadn’t been dragging the nation’s heels as a matter of policy? The doom cries were that the price tag was too high, yet the economy is doing far better than when they were in charge. It’s unfathomable that people continue to believe their doom-saying.
We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got to fix a broken system. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it. It will have earned my veto.
Good! And what’s more, the GOP deserves to be dragged through the mud for the shutdown that it orchestrated (I detail much of the GOP’s culpability here).
In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality child care more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have: it’s a must-have. So it’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.
Oh how I wish it were as politically expedient to care for children who are already born as it is to oppose abortion. If we cared as much about actual children as we do about fetuses this wouldn’t even be an issue.
Today, we are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. 43 million workers have no paid sick leave. 43 million. Think about that.
This isn’t entirely true (though it’s mostly true). Paid maternity leave is by no means a guarantee in a few advanced countries. The fact remains that the United States is lagging woefully behind the rest of the civilized world.
And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.
100% true, and the GOP 100% won’t do it. Cynical rich people, the Koch-types who support the current version of the Republican party, want maximum effort from their employees while investing as little into those employees as possible. The people fighting minimum wage increases, do you think for a moment they wouldn’t pay their employees less if they could? I’ve worked shitty restaurant jobs. Those people tend to pay you as little as possible and allow fewer workers, trying to get their employees to do the work of multiple people motivated by some warped sense of pride. It’s really sick and really profitable.
Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.
I’m all for women’s issues, and it worked for Obama in the last election. However, here he’s really stretching. The law already makes this guarantee for women (and has since 1964, see Title VII of the Civil Rights Act). What Obama’s alluding to here is the Paycheck Fairness Act which would allow women to discuss how much they make without fear of reprisal from the company for which they work. There are pros and cons to this. I suspect Obama said what he did (calling for a guarantee that already exists) instead because it would score points for the Democrats with people who would just like to hear it. It turns out the GOP aren’t the only people who do this. Personally, I think it’s insulting to be treated like a bobbing head who won’t fact-check (and I wish Republicans would develop that same instinct).
We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned … and — and everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it.
Minimum wage is a complex issue (that I don’t fully understand). It seems there’s nothing we can do that will produce a perfect outcome, and our politicians seem to use the flaw in each approach to avoid taking any action. This sucks. We let the perfect be the enemy of the good and, in doing so, we don’t look for what is optimal (even if it still has drawbacks). Politifact has covered the issue pretty thoroughly and it boils down to this: raising the minimum wage will cost jobs (about 500,000). This could be fixed with the types of regulation we see in much of the rest of the advanced world, but as it stands jobs will be lost. However, it will also result in about a million Americans subsisting above the poverty line. Obama acknowledged this when he said, “These ideas won’t make everybody rich, won’t relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government.” I’m all for other ideas, but the way things are now it would be a net good to raise the minimum wage. Rich people are getting richer (and are unwilling to be slightly less wealthy on the whole, even though they’re far richer than the wealthy in other nations). The middle/poor class should get a boost as well. Besides, it’s basic economics that it’s good for business when people have money to spend.
That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero.
Ok, let me first say that I am a big proponent of socialized education. In much of the rest of the civilized world the government provides college education, it doesn’t break the bank (that’s our military doing that here), and it’s resulted in a more responsible citizenry with better infrastructure and innovation. We need this here. Desperately. However, rather than pursuing truly free education, I think Obama is going with what he thinks has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting past a Republican party which is apathetic about education at best and (far more consistently) anti-education at worst. It’s resulted in a plan that’s not anywhere close to helpful. Obama wants to give a tax credit for Community College. This doesn’t generally help people who have to pay for the fall semester and spring semester without that financial help only to maybe get it back in March (and that’s a big maybe in this case). If you want to provide education it needs to be in the form of grants and scholarships, otherwise you’re still limiting access to education to people with a great deal of money in the present. Don’t get me wrong: this is a step toward something I really want. But we shouldn’t let wanting this to happen makes us more tolerant when efforts are bumbling, inept, and not particularly helpful. If the GOP weren’t bound to oppose any effort that increased education I think we’d see a more robust plan coming from the President. Of course, I’m speaking in generalities. There will always be exceptions, like…
Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.
The state of Tennessee has a GOP governor and GOP-controlled congress, yet still passed Tennessee Promise last year which covers two years of technical college or community college for high school graduates. It’s certainly an outlier compared to what GOP leaders are doing in other states like Kansas, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, etc., yet the plan in Tennessee is popular with pretty much everybody. This suggests that if the GOP would play ball on education they would, at minimum, survive it with their base (and might even score more points than they’d lose for working with that nasty Communist, Muslim-sympathizer Obama).
Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care, we’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs.
This is the first really untrue thing in his speech. We have actually been abysmal in taking care of our veterans. Obama promised we would do better on this front years ago and we haven’t. Of course, I’m speaking on the whole. There are a few good things toward which he can point (the backlog for benefits has actually been reduced), but on the whole we suck at taking care of our veterans – despite all our talk of loving the troops.
And Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden… thank you, Michelle, thank you, Jill — has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get a new job.
Citation needed. This sounds inflated and I can’t find anything to confirm it. If you do, let me know in the comments and I’ll include it.
…let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline; let’s pass a bipartisan … infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year and make this country stronger for decades to come.
It’s no secret that the USA is lagging behind the rest of the advanced world in terms of infrastructure. An example is that South Korea has internet speeds about 200x faster than ours for half the price. As far as the Keystone Pipeline goes, it’s complex. Both Joni Ernst and President Obama can cite public opinion polls that favor them, but let’s be honest: the average American isn’t exactly politically informed. So what do the facts say? Nobody can argue that there will be environmental impacts for building the pipeline (that’s why the White House has stalled the project awaiting environmental reviews). The extent of those effects is largely unknown, but it won’t be zero if the pipeline gets built. What would we get for that? While Republicans want to push this as a job-creating project (because their voter base loves hearing that almost as much as they love hating the President who has ensured jobs got created for 58 consecutive months), the reality is that it will create about 3,900 temporary construction jobs before creating a total of…wait for it…35 permanent jobs. I didn’t forget to include any zeroes in that number. It will create 35 jobs. 35. If any politician implies that the Keystone Pipeline will create a relevant number of permanent jobs, they are lying to you and expecting you to be an idiot – and you should feel rightly insulted. The project would make some very rich people even more rich, but for the middle class it won’t do shit. If you’re wanting to augment America’s infrastructure (which you should be) and if you’re wanting to focus on making life economically bearable for more Americans (which you should be) then Obama’s right: we need an overarching bill that focuses on building infrastructure.
21st century businesses will rely on American science and technology, research and development. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine: one that delivers the right treatment at the right time.
And it won’t happen without a commitment to education which could easily be achieved if we cut from military spending. Right now we spend more on our military than the world’s next ten biggest militaries combined. If we carve off a chunk of that to educate people we’ll manage. Somehow. And we’ll have smarter citizens which means smarter, more capable soldiers.
I intend to protect a free and open Internet, to extend its reach to every classroom, and every community … and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.
Obama is referring to his support for net neutrality, which is a very, very good thing.
For those unfamiliar with net neutrality, I’ll explain (and, frankly, the Oatmeal explained it way better than I). Right now no matter what web site you visit, whether it’s Patheos, Facebook, ESPN, or streaming movies on netflix, they all load at the same speed. But imagine if your service provider (Comcast, CenturyLink, AT&T, etc.) could vary the speeds at which websites load (which they already can, but are legally prohibited from doing so). In this scenario, Facebook could give your service provider more money (because they have the money to give) to load at regular speeds while a start up social media site (the small business the GOP jerks off during election time) could not. Hell, without net neutrality your service provider could even just block out any website that argues in favor of net neutrality. Without net neutrality, particular web sites could be slowed down to a crawl if they don’t pony up the money or if they piss off the service providers.
But with net neutrality everybody is equal. It’s a free market. All data is treated the same.
I’m happy that the President is standing on the side of net neutrality, even though he has a tendency to appoint telecom lobbyists to the FCC – the organization that’s going to wind up making this decision:
So how wide is the revolving door between the telecommunications giant and the FCC? For Comcast’s in-house lobbyists, it’s significant and still swinging. According to an analysis by OpenSecrets Blog, 18 people have both lobbied for Comcast and spent time in the public sector. Of those, 12 are currently registered lobbyists for Comcast, with five of them having spent time at the FCC.
Of course, the cable companies hate net neutrality. They could make so much more money extorting people for access to the whole internet or for speeds that aren’t insufferable:
The cable and telcoms giants are particularly concerned by Obama’s call for FCC to reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Such a move would reclassify consumer internet as a “common carrier” service – like the telephone – and give the regulator greater power to control prices and services. “We are stunned the president would abandon the longstanding, bipartisan policy of lightly regulating the internet and [call] for extreme Title II regulation,” said Powell.
Again, it’s a collection of buzzwords draped over an argument that actually supports net neutrality. Imagine if the phone company could make it so that your phone calls took five minutes to connect unless you paid way more money for instant connections? Businesses would have to play ball, and it would positively kill any start up companies, effectively handing monopolies to companies that are already established and have shitloads of money. The GOP largely opposes net neutrality, which is strange since they’ve anointed themselves the defenders of small business.
Or what if your phone company could decide it didn’t like you talking to certain people? Without neutrality your phone company could just keep you from connecting to certain people. That’s the glory of services classified under Title II (as utilities). You get the same electricity, phone service, etc. as everybody else, and the company doesn’t have shit to say about what you do with your phone or your electricity. Whether you’re a church or the FFRF headquarters, you both get the same electricity regardless of how the electric company might feel about you. Because the internet has become so essential in people’s lives, it should be treated the same way. You pay for data, and you can use it on whatever you want without the provider dictating how you use your data.
Nobody would even think about not supporting neutrality for phones, and they shouldn’t support it for the internet. But because people largely don’t know what net neutrality is, it’s easy for people like Ted Cruz to slosh some buzzwords on it and have his already piss ignorant voter base be scared to Jeebus.
But the good news is that polling indicates that when people understand net neutrality they largely support it. As usual ignorance is the enemy of the good and the just. When people don’t know what net neutrality is, that’s when they hear “Obamacare for the internet” and shit their paints about Communism, when net neutrality is the exact opposite of Communism and bears absolutely no resemblance to the Affordable Care Act whatsoever.
Anyway, back to the State of the Union Address…
Now, this effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.
I’m torn here. I’m as vocal an opponent to Islamic extremism (and any violent extremism for that matter) as anybody. However, it’s hard to tell what the reaction will be if we go in there. We’re not good at keeping collateral damage to a minimum, and our past military campaigns in the Middle East have created more terrorists than they’ve destroyed.
However, if more people in the Middle East are pissed at ISIL than not (which seems to be the case), intervening could score us points with the citizenry there, which we desperately need if we want to stabilize the region and reduce terrorism. I’m glad we have a coalition (a real one of about 60 nations) working together on this rather than charging in there on our own.
I’m always very reticent to deploy our military. However, this might be one of the times when it’s a good idea. ISIL are some real sick fucks.
Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small by opposing Russian aggression and supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, as we were reinforcing our presence with the frontline states, Mr. Putin’s aggression, it was suggested, was a masterful display of strategy and strength. That’s what I heard from some folks. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.
Fuck the hell yes! EU and the USA working together to sanction Russia has worked. The ruble’s value has plummeted.
As — as his Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of small steps. These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba.
Let’s not defer to the leader of an organization who’s primary message is “believe as we believe and do as we command or you’ll burn for all eternity and deserve it” for tips on diplomacy, hrm? I realize this was in there just to butter up Catholic voters for the Democrat party, but c’mon.
There’re no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress at this moment in time will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails, alienating America from its allies, making it harder to maintain sanctions and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.
We’ve actually made some progress here. British Prime Minister David Cameron agrees with the President here and so do I. Right now Iran is in really bad shape economically. Inflation is insane and around 20% of the country is unemployed. While religious pride factors into our dealings with Iran, their leaders are probably not excited about being sanctioned, which has resulted in Iran halting their nuclear arms program since 2013.
The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.
This is horseshit on its face. Obama has taken us to war with multiple countries and bombed more of them than George W. Bush.
No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. But we are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. That should be a bipartisan effort.
While I laud the sentiment, this is coming from a man who kept an unlawful data mining program alive to spy on Americans. The irony is a bit thick and it’s taking away from the rest of what, up to this point, was a fantastic speech.
And no challenge, no challenge, poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.
But it still snowed a few times during the winter, so what do scientists know? ^^ This. This is why we need to commit more resources to education.
I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists, that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist either. But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA and at NOAA and at our major universities, and the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.
And he’s back on track. There are two ways somebody should behave when assessing scientific data after uttering the phrase “I’m not a scientist.” 1. Ask a scientist. If you’re a member of Congress and can summon eminent scientists at your leisure, this is a pretty simple thing to do. 2. Use that as an excuse to ignore the consensus of scientists. If you’re doing the latter, you’re a liability.
That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.
A friend told me this was flat out untrue and even linked me to the liberal-leaning ThinkProgress (a website I recommend) to prove it. Reports on how much land has been preserved by Obama vary wildly. TP says it’s about 2.6 million acres, less than any of his predecessors. However, the LA Times and The Hill both put the number at 260 million acres, far more than all his predecessors combined. In September of last year the Washington Post put the number at 297 million acres. I think the disparity comes with TP only using land preserved through the Antiquities Act (which allows the President to designate national monuments). But Obama has used a variety of methods. On the whole, Obama has been very good on the environment, so I’m inclined to go along with his statement here.
In Beijing, we made a historic announcement: the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.
Except the deal is not binding and China is lagging behind. Still, we’re doing our part.
As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained.
While Obama has prohibited torture, the only people in jail over torture are the people who blew the whistle on the US torturing people. All the people who orchestrated torture or committed it? They’re walking free with no threat of persecution. This is all due to Obama and the Justice Department. Obama’s record on torture sucks – not as much as Bush’s, but still enough for me to call bullshit on this.
I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal … in states that seven in ten Americans call home.
We are not at all united on that issue, but we should be and polls show slightly more Americans favor same-sex marriage. However, the GOP’s voting base does not. At all. And it’s going to cost them in this next election and the President knows that. He’s using it to drive home the point that the GOP is ethically lagging, and it’s fair game for him to do so since the GOP has spent the last decade enthusiastically setting the stage for this point to be made. Still, praising the other side while strongly implying they suck and setting the stage for them to later disappoint everybody is pretty clever debate/speech.
Understand, a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine; a better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other, where we talk issues and values and principles and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments or trivial gaffes or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.
Beautifully put. The atheist movement would do well to pay attention here.
We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely, we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care that she needs.
Sadly, the GOP has shown time and time again that we cannot agree on that. However, the President is correct to insist that we should.
We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred …that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.
It won’t happen. Voter ID laws are not about stopping voter fraud. That’s a bogus, non–existent problem (and on the rare occasions it pops up, it’s usually Republicans who are responsible). It’s about making it harder for racial minorities to vote because they tend to vote for…not Republicans. Which is why, even though the President is correct about what is fair, the GOP will never go along with it. They have to protect their jobs. And then there was the greatest mic-drop moment of the night. At one point some of the Republicans decided to be petty when Obama alluded to the end of his political career once his second term was up. Obama gave a half smile that said, “Oh, you want to play that way?” before dropping one of the best political one-liners since the famously tense repartees of Winston Churchill and Nancy Astor: Republicans, you dun’ got wrecked on that one. Then, they decided to complain about it:
In the Capitol after the speech, Republicans expressed displeasure at being jabbed by the president in the same speech where he asked for their cooperation.
“Probably not helpful when you rub the other guy’s nose in the dirt a little bit,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a close ally of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), told reporters.
Oh please. If the Republicans hadn’t cheered at the thought of Obama being out of office he wouldn’t have said a damn thing. You can’t get pissed at Obama for firing back after your people threw the first metaphorical punch. It’s not like Obama decided to take a victory lap for no reason. I didn’t hear Boehner getting onto his own people for being petty. Sadly, it will give the GOP something to focus on rather than an entire speech where the President effectively took them to task.
Then there were some platitudes and pump up the crowd paragraphs meant to inspire Americans who aren’t inspired by an entire speech of positive and true facts. Overall I thought it was a great SOTU Address. Obviously I have my grievances with Obama, but on the whole I’m still happy with my vote (both years). I’ll miss him when he leaves office.