Correspondents React to President Obama’s State of the Union
President Barack Obama opened his 2013 State of the Union speech with a quote from John F. Kennedy, and not just because we are nearing the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death, on Nov. 22. It is, after all, flattering for Obama to portray himself as similar to Kennedy. Both have shown an unusual and effective combination of youthful vigor and national security bonafides during their respective administrations.
But it is far from a perfect comparison. JFK is still loved today because of his tremendous national leadership and his willingness to make difficult decisions in the face of impossible odds. Under his leadership, and despite some serious mistakes early in his first term, Kennedy brought the nation through one of the most dangerous periods of the Cold War. Obama has had some laudable successes in his first term, but he has a long way to go before he can expect to foster the kind of enduring memory and legacy that JFK forged before his death.
Obama contiuned the State of the Union with a quick summary of his accomplishments to date—outlining the foundation of what he no doubt hopes will turn into his legacy. And each step of the way, he trumpeted bipartisanship.
When referring to budget cuts already made, he continued to focus on the bipartisan element of their creation. He continued this narrative when he brought up the topic which has kept Washington breathless: the massive, looming, automatic budget cuts if a bipartisan debt reduction deal can’t be reached. Obama said that “Democrats, Republicans, business leaders and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as the sequester, are a bad idea.” He later said that “most Americans—Democrats, Republicans, Independents—understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.”
But it was this continued focus on bipartisanship that frustrated me the most. Obama’s message has always been one of unity, not divisive politics, and in theory this is exactly what America needs. Simply put, it has not worked. The next topic Obama discussed, the ongoing success of healthcare reform, is a perfect example. Here was a program which was fiercely protested by the Republican Party, a bill which brought thousands of protestors to the mall to scream at Obama and vilify him as a socialist, and already it has shown positive signs of success.
Obama discussed alternative energy—a key component of last year’s speech—and the need to combat climate change. Some Republicans vilified his first administration with misleading accusations about Solyndra and supposed poor investments in solar energy.
Obama brought up the Violence Against Women Act, a no-brainer piece of legislation to increase funding for programs which protect vulnerable women, and even this has been opposed by key Republicans in the House. He mentioned expanding voting rights, but even after serious, documented attempts by several Republican governors to keep Democrats off the voting rolls and away from the polls in states like Florida, the focus was on a bipartisan committee.
So, just as Obama gave his message to the nation, this is my message to Obama: take the gloves off. Progressives like me have endured four years of attempts at unity and bipartisanship only to see key Republicans in the House and Senate embark on blatant, stated campaigns of obstruction and divisiveness. Mr. President, you won the election by a resounding margin, and the GOP took a sound beating in both houses. A strong majority of Americans told you they wanted action on gun control, entitlement reform, climate change, and economic inequality. If you want an enduring legacy, you need to keep pushing through the reforms you have promised since 2008. Through strong leadership and determination, JFK was able to prevent a few loudmouth spoilers from ruining his most important plans. If Obama wants to compare himself to Kennedy, that is a good place to start.
In accordance with the U.S. Constitution, President Barack Obama recently delivered his State of the Union speech. This speech acts as a pedestal for the president to present his budget to Congress and shape domestic and international policies. Typically, these speeches offer bold proposals with little specifics, and this was certainly one of those speeches.
Throughout his speech, Obama presented 29 new programs he hopes to enact with the support of Congress or by executive order. While the President offered several proposals both parties could agree on, the majority of the speech was dedicated to expanding government and spending billions of dollars for these new programs though promising that it “won’t add a single dime to the deficit.”
The president began his speech claiming that his administration has created 6 million jobs. According to the independent Congressional Budget Office, which examined the number of jobs lost and created in the past four years, only 1.2 million jobs have been created. Keep in mind, the majority of these jobs are in government and only part-time, requiring many people to find another job just to make ends meet.
The president wants to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour, but history demonstrates that doing so has compelled businesses to hire less and transition workers from full to part-time, leading to increased unemployment.Adjusting the minimum wage to match rising inflation is economically sound, but leading economists argue that raising wage is not the answer during these turbulent economic times and with no specifics on how to pay for it.
America deserves clean and affordable energy, but the president’s energy policies have largely failed. Seventy-three percent of stimulus funds allocated for green energy projects have gone overseas, and the solar energy company Solyndra went bankrupt after it received $535 million. A simple look at the gas pump further demonstrates the President’s energy disappointments; gas prices have risen 46 cents, or 14 percent, in the past month.
Moreover, the president claimed “We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas.” This is quite presumptuous considering the President’s plan forces only the average of a manufacturers’ vehicle fleet to get 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, twice the average fuel economy today. Most of these automobile manufacturers have declared that they will not begin to implement these changes until 2017.
The President offers several superb ideas but few specifics. He rightly wants to improve America’s infrastructure, ensure high quality education for all Americans, and provide new refinancing options for homeowners, but he has not shown how he will pay for these endeavors. He is right to push for an improved voting experience but has rejected common-sense calls for voter identification cards. Obama also demands that Congress votes on new gun control measures, despite the fact that the majority of Americans despise these proposals. The President understands that immigration must be reformed, and he mentioned the bipartisan views of many who are currently drafting such bills in both houses of Congress.
While the president’s speech addressed a plethora of issues, his views support more government intervention, more regulation, and more spending. My Republican colleagues rightly refute a number of the president’s proposals because we understand that government often perpetuates problems, it does not solve them.
Despite the President’s abysmal record and questionable plans ranging from job creation to energy, America should remain optimistic. The problems of this country are plenty, but the future of this country is bright. It is bright not because of the President’s plans to expand government and increase spending but because of the fathers and mothers who instill morals in their children, the teachers who go above and beyond to prepare their students for the future, and the hardworking laborers who continue to make America the greatest nation the world has ever seen.
These factors contributed to America’s greatness, and they will ensure the incredible future of our country.