Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union

The State of the Union can be found here and the response here.

"To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills. (Applause.) And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town -- a supermajority -- then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well."
- President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address, calling on his former colleagues on Capitol Hill to govern.

"Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions -– our corporations, our media, and, yes, our government –- still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people's doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away."
- President Barack Obama on why the public lost faith in our isntitutions

Initial reaction: President Barack Obama sounded very presidential. He definitely set up himself above Congress, spoke to the mixed feelings of anger and fear that we have and shifted his emphasis back to the jobs issue without giving up on health care.

Now - as to what he said on specific issues:

(*) Jobs and financial reform: He promised a major jobs bill and financial reform. I wish he specifically cited what his financial reform agenda would include. I agree with proposal to impose banker fees to pay for the new jobs bill and for his proposal to loan to smaller banks.

(1) on education reform: Agree with his race to the top program, particularly with its emphasis on encouraging reforms.

(2) college loans: Agree with his expressed plan to remove the banks as the middlemen and have the government provide the loans directly. Thinks he promised college the students the world by forgiving student debt of those who go into public service.

(3) House refinancing to be stepped up: sounds good but need more details.

(4) Tax Cuts: the emphasis is on targeted tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses as opposed to tax cuts that generally benefit those who need them the least (the rich). This too is good.

(5) Health care: Non-apologetic and as committed to reforming our health insurance industry. My problem: the loop holes in the senate bill allow the "worst practices" by the health insurance industries to continue.

(6) "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": He promised to work with Congress and the Defense Department to eliminate it. Nice to see he added one line to his speech to address it but I'll believe it when I see it.

(7) Campaign Finance: Glad he took on the Supreme Court on its horrible decision to count corporate and union spending as political speech. This court decision legalized bribery and corruption on a massive scale. Laws barring foreign companies from donating and requiring forcing the CEO's of these companies to disclose their support should pass through Congress and withstand Supreme Court challenges easily. Congress should attempt, however to discourage companies from endorsing candidates by conditioning aid on their refusal to do so.

I do not believe for a minute, however, that his administration has been anymore successful than his predecessors in isolating North Korea, or Iran.

(8) The War Against Al Qaeda: The president re-hashed the decisions he made to fight the war against this terrorist group, vaguely referring to our operations in Yemen and Pakistan and specifically, his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.

(9): On Human Rights: some glaring omissions - Uganda's anti-gay religious cleaning campaign.

(10) Civil Rights At home: he promised to vigorously enforce gender pay laws (like the one he signed into law last year), and noted one gay accomplishment - Hate Crimes Legislation. Glaring omission: no vow to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

The Republican offered the typical, bland Republican platitudes that did not save the US economy from the recession. Basically, the Republicans have, for all intents and purposes, rendered themselves obsolete in so far as they promise to be a party that merely rejects what the president offers and not as a party that offers an alternative agenda for solving the problems we face.

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