As my wife and I sat down to watch the State of the Union speech last night, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. Would Obama come across strong and principled, or appear like he planned to appease the Repukes? Recall that earlier in the day, at a breakfast, Bonehead John Boehner declared that Obama “doesn’t have the guts to do the heavy lifting” regarding the economy.
But as Obama waded into the most masterful State of the Union I’ve ever heard, one could assess his success and hitting the right notes by the somber visage of Boehner seated on the dais to one side. As my wife put it: “He looks like a constipated Gnome that’s just been seized by a combination of brain fart and freeze.” And so he did!
Obama singled out attention in a way that challenged his obstructionist opposition to find their own national conscience and place their future actions above spiteful reproach and party lines. The themes included:
- The Sequester. Obama vowed to continue to fight for the middle class, protecting “entitlements” from the Repug rapists who he noted actually wanted to preserve the defense budget at the expense of cutting Social Security and Medicare. Obama advanced more cost saving ways to help Medicare, though I’d have liked to see included in his prescriptions the ability to bargain for lowest prescription drug prices like Medicare. This alone would save $100b a year.
- Obama made a powerful push to help the poor by demanding the minimum wage be increased to $9 an hour. He correctly argued that NO one in the wealthiest nation on Earth, who works 40 hours (or often more) per week should be living below the poverty line. That must mean increasing the federal minimum wage to at least the liveable minimum. Obama observed that this increase will: 1) mean more customers for businesses since people will now have more $$$ to spend, 2) will mean fewer people dependent on government for food stamps since they will now have the wage support to reduce that dependency.
- Infrastructure: Obama called eloquent attention to our crumbling infrastructure, which is now approaching the level of a third world nation. The crumbling roads, bridges, sewer and water mains are now estimated (by the American Society of Civil Engineers) to need $1.7 trillion in maintenance just to bring them back to serviceable standards. This means money needs to be forthcoming by which to hire hundreds of thousands of people to assist in this national effort. But this means the Repukes will have to cease with their military welfare state, or using defense spending to the tune of $1 trillion a year (according to David Cay Johnston on Chris Hayes last Saturday) as their own military jobs program. We need now domestic jobs, not millions of military jobs which only serve to keep the funders looking for more wars or occupations!
- Energy. Obama correctly noted we are nearly energy independent but that we also need to look at alternative energy sources. He made it clear that it’s not good enough to have the Chinese going all in for solar, for example, while we sit on the sidelines with fossil fuels. Solar IS the way of the future – at least one major form – and we need to get all hands on board in a national initiative.
- Guns: Alluding to more than two dozen – the families of gun victims – in attendance, Obama made an eloquent plea for a vote to be taken to pass common sense gun legislation, including a universal background check that could eliminate felons from gun purchases. Obama repeated the clarion call of ‘Let us bring it to a vote’ over and over as the families clapped and cheered. Will the Repukes do it, or as more likely, will the cowards punk out and let the bill rot unattended, as they’ve done so many others?
- Global warming: Obama referenced superstorm Sandy and that we can no longer look the other way as global warming-climate change devastates nation after nation. Obama references that 12 of the past 15 years have been the hottest on record, and clearly, only an imbecile would deny global warming, especially after the events of 2012. (See my earlier blog on ‘Puhleeze tell me people can’t be this stupid’)
But despite Obama’s masterpiece SOTU speech, make no mistake that the braying Neoliberal enclaves will be pushing at him to make a “grand deal” that will include serious social insurance cuts. Already Neolib hack Fareed Zakaria has written a column (‘Will He Fight or Compromise?’, TIME, Feb. 18, p.20) that opines Obama has already disclosed himself to be a “centrist searching for compromise”. But this would be a tragic error, given the mandate Obama received in the recent election. Also, I believe this is at least on his political radar after the SOTU.
In terms of “entitlement reforms” which Zakaria claims Obama is still eyeing, he writes:
“Obama might be doing this because he wants to notch some legislative accomplishments and leave a legacy”.
But make no mistake that any “legacy” which includes putative cuts such as a chained CPI for Social Security would be a severely tarnished one. It would perhaps grant Obama a lasting “ Neoliberal legacy” in the minds of the corrupted corporate media and the wealthy Washington Elites, but at the cost of destroying the Democratic Party brand in perpetuity. Rather than Repukes undermining Social security a Dem – one of their own – would have done it. Sorry, this can’t wash all of Zakaria’s bellyaching (at the prospect of Obama fighting) to the contrary.
At least for the moment, nerves are calmed after the SOTU. But we still have to see how Obama deals with the upcoming Sequester (March 1) and the ensuing 27 days before the government account runs dry. Will be blink and surrender to the Repuke terrorists, or fight? The whole world is watching.
We will see. If he fights, then in retrospect the SOTU speech will have been the war cry from a guy who’s finally found his spine. A guy no longer interested in making nicey with Repuglicans or appeasing the Neoliberal media bastions.