(for the other 95% of America)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Obama's Speech: Lot's of Promise, Little Substance

Before I delve into any commentary on the President’s State of the Union Speech, I just want to post two lists I’ve made. One is a Democratic wish list of proposals Obama made to energize the left, and another list is a Republican wish list of proposals offered as an olive branch to the right.

Democrat Wish List

·      Encouraging American innovation (biomedical research, information technology, and green technology funding)
·      Increased education funding
·      Address Immigration
·      Rebuilding America (infrastructure spending, including trains, wireless coverage, roads, airports, construction, etc)
·      Take away oil companies’ tax breaks to use for environmental technology research
·      Bring the troops home from Afghanistan by July of this year.

Republican Wish List

·      Less government regulation of financial markets
·      Reform specific parts of health care reform
·      Reform medical malpractice laws
·      Reduce the deficit by freezing annual spending for 5 years (Obama also mentioned cutting Medicare and Medicaid)

Now, granted, it’s been all over the media for the past few days that Obama’s speech would turn to the center, with one eye on the 2012 elections. But what I was surprised at was at his uncomfortably overt way of doing this. Looking at the lists above, it almost seems like they were made by two separate candidates. Sure there were the lofty remarks, the patriotic rhetoric, the call to set aside our differences and work together to achieve a more perfect union.

What threw me off was this laundry list of totally paradoxical policies. How in the world do we increase spending for education, for infrastructure, for green energy, and at the same time freeze annual spending for 5 years? The answer can be found in the paradoxical beliefs of the American people. Americans overwhelmingly support spending cuts over tax increases, when given the choice. But, when asked about what exactly we would cut out of our budget, Americans are hesitant, and Obama danced along that fine line of “investing” in America’s future, but also not cutting any programs that Americans feel attached too to pay for it.

While Obama made a pot shot at Republicans who are vying for the number one contender’s seat for a chance at the Presidency, saying “At stake right now is not who wins the next election, because didn’t we just have an election?” It was very hard to explain what Obama’s speech was if not a campaign speech; it was very light on policy proposals, and heavy on the rhetoric.  The New York Times deftly noted, “The president who once emphasized the problems he had inherited from his predecessor was instead looking forward and making the case that the nation had a long last emerged from economic crisis.” Perhaps a possible campaign slogan for 2012: There’s still hope!

I have to say even if it was not my favorite campaign speech, especially as a liberal voter, after watching the two Republican responses I was pleasantly surprised by the State of the Union's superiority. I’ll have more on those speeches later today.

Further Reading:

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