My Initial State of the Union Reaction

Obama Sunset : White House Flickr : Pete Souza“These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government.”

Interesting words to hear from President Obama during his State of the Union address Tuesday night, soon after he pledged the government to “helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, [and] retirement.”

Though the president spoke against “handouts,” he talked about government-provided “worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid” and “schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet.”

The president urged Congress to pass “child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage.” He referenced his new plans to provide free community college, second-earner tax credits, child tax credits, and a “Precision Medicine Initiative.”

After running through this list of programs, the president took an interesting turn – he claimed that we should make America the “most competitive economy everywhere.” One way to do that, an idea the president failed to mention, would be to lower the country’s corporate tax rate, which is currently the highest in the world.

“Let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline,” said Obama, advocating for a larger infrastructure plan. But if the only problem with the Keystone XL pipeline is that it simply doesn’t go far enough, why has the president pledged to veto it?

The president pledged to keep fighting to close Guantanamo Bay. “I will not relent in my determination to shut it down,” he said.

Obama dedicated two large paragraphs to climate change, citing data from NASA that this year was the warmest on record. He referred to the Pentagon’s claiming that climate change posed “immediate risks to our national security” and that we must “act forcefully.”

But he went one step further when he said “no challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” Not terrorism, not an $18 trillion national debt – but climate change.

The president wrapped up his 6th State of the Union speech with another attempt to build unity, defending himself against attacks that his presidency has actually created more division in America. “A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other,” he said. (This from a president who never ceases to lambast Republicans for opposing his ideas.)

“I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger,” said Obama. This, after releasing a plan to increase both taxes and government spending without consulting Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee.

“It’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants,” said the president, even though he pledged to veto any bill that would “fight past battles on immigration” earlier in the speech.

“We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter – together – and let’s start the work right now,” the president concluded.

But with a Congress that reflects a resounding defeat of the Democratic policies the president is pushing for, that may be difficult.

Published on Opportunity Lives

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10 responses to “My Initial State of the Union Reaction

  1. Why do you dismiss the notion that climate change is the biggest threat to this generation so quickly? Worldwide terrorism caused 17,891 deaths in 2013. According to the WHO (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs266/en/), Climate change will cause 250,000 deaths annually by 2030. The national debt is not nearly as important as conservative pundits portray it to be (As a percent of GDP, the US is in much better shape than Japan and most of the Euro-zone). I think that tackling climate change is easily more important than either of these issues.

    If conservatives continue to ignore the real and demonstrable effects of climate change we will fail to steward the only planet that we’ve ever called home. Climate change is an existential threat in a way that terrorism and the national debt never will be.

    • I think the climate change lobby has a colored history of making poor predictions and refusing to own up to them. http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/09/24/president-obama-reveals-americas-greatest-threat-climate-change/

      I’m also curious how you envision we fight so-called climate change (though it used to be “global warming” when I was in high school). By many accounts, the EPA regulations make almost no impact- and one of the primary contributors to reducing emissions was fracking, an industry that many Democrats oppose. We could get into discussions of how almost $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities is a severe problem, but maybe I’ll leave it at the climate change discussion for now.

      • Dan-ny! Dan-ny! Dan-ny! Dan-ny! =D hahaha

        On a side note, before global warming, it was global cooling. “Global Cooling” –> “Global Warming” –> “Climate Change” –> What’s next? If that political betting site has a place where I can bet they’ll change the name again once people figure out their colored history, again, sign me up!!!

      • Thanks for the responses. The Fox article was a little hard to stomach after it cited the over-sensationalized Daily Mail article in an attempt to claim that sea ice isn’t declining (they magnify a small uptick in the downward trend). NASA’s climate portal has a lot of great articles about the decrease in polar ice (http://climate.nasa.gov/). Beyond that, claims about the geopolitical situation with Russia were reminiscent of Cold War scare tactics, and the continuing claims about the dangers of government spending were typical.

        That being said, the indictment of the WHO study is fair, and it doesn’t surprise me that numbers would be overblown. The Fox article and your last link, however, made a very valid point that Obama is doing lip service to climate change while playing into normal crony-capitalist politics. Interestingly enough, the article by Lehrer (which was extremely palatable) made no attempts to doubt either the anthropogenic nature of climate change or the potential long-term harms. As for policy options, the IPCC has made it clear over the course of their five reports for policymakers that we need both adaptation and mitigation strategies.

        Of the mitigation policies, I agree with Lehrer that a carbon tax is a viable alternative to current policies, and would me more fair/equitable.

        Either way, I think my original point stands (even with the support of your own sources) that climate change is a real issue. The problem with the environmentalist approach is that it relies on sensationalized figures and doomsday scenarios. But, those same tactics were used in the counterterrorism efforts that led to NSA mass-surveillance and an unproductive War in Iraq.

        Obama isn’t right to use scare tactics to justify bad policy-making, but that doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t one of the most important issues for our generation.

        NOTE (Feel free to skip): I didn’t want to include this in the body of my response, but the global warming v. climate change claim is a bad straw man for a decent argument. The term climate change is preferred because, although the globe is warming, the warming isn’t uniform. A single cold winter won’t disprove the trend of warming temperatures, but an uneducated person would be more apt to say “it’s snowing therefore global warming isn’t real”. Climate change is a broader and more accurate description.

        TL;DR Sensationalism leads to bad policy. Climate change is a serious problem.

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