At State of the Union, stage is set for a political sideshow

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 intriguing facts about the State of the Union’s history.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Key elements of the economic proposals President Barack Obama will outline in his State of the Union address Tuesday appear to be aimed at driving the debate in the 2016 election on income inequality and middle-class economic issues, rather than setting a realistic agenda for Congress. Obama’s calls for increasing taxes on the wealthy, making community college free for many students and expanding paid leave for workers stand little chance of winning approval from the new Republican majority on Capitol Hill. The anticipated speech couldn’t come at a better time: low gas prices are expected to help grow consumer spending, the stock market hit historic highs this winter and unemployment is at its lowest point since the president took office.

President Barack Obama’s administration announced on Saturday the President will pitch a new tax plan that would raise taxes on capital gains and limit tax breaks for the wealthy, and then use this freed up revenue to fund education, family and retirement benefits for the lower classes. Yet many of its features that we take for granted today were in fact added by innovative presidents who decided to shake things up — sometimes for very idiosyncratic reasons. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake reports on an ad running in the Washington area during Obama’s speech that likens “climate change deniers to other science deniers who turned out to be very wrong.” Read about it here. What’s more is that Americans are finally seeing the economy’s good form: More Americans are satisfied with the economy than at any point in the past 10 years and the president’s job approval is on the rise, according to the latest NBC/WSJ poll. “We’ve got a little momentum behind this economic resurgence that we can actually start having a serious discussion about what our tax policies should look like and whether or not we can close things like the trust fund loophole and use the revenue to benefit middle class families,” White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said on “Morning Joe” Tuesday.

The biggest blow to the wealthy in the President’s proposal is his intention to kick-up the top tax rate from 25 percent to 28 percent, and end what they consider the stepped up basis “loophole”. Bobby Jindal delivered the Republican response to Obama’s first-term speech; his wooden performance all but killed his 2012 presidential aspirations.

It was perhaps the most memorable of flops in a speech intended to showcase rising GOP stars but instead revealed some not-ready-for-prime-time players. So while Obama prepares for a familiar routine — standing in front of John Boehner and Joe Biden to offer his take on the state of America — here’s a rundown of five big historical moments for the speech that show how much it’s changed over time. White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, appearing in a nationally broadcast interview Tuesday, said Obama is determined to improve the lives of middle-class Americans. “His mindset is to keep doing everything he can for the middle class,” McDonough said on “CBS This Morning.” The president’s advisers argue that the debate over income equality is one that Democrats have won previously, including in Obama’s victory over Romney in 2012 and the fiscal cliff fight with Congress that led to the raising of George W. But the Obama administration’s big plans show little promise of progressing in the current political environment: a polarized, combative Republican majority was just sworn into both chambers of the legislature. The banks responded to the White House’s crack-down on taking on copious amounts of leverage quickly, with the American Bankers Association, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, and the Financial Services Forum calling the plan a bad idea. “We’re disappointed that the administration is once again proposing a tax that harms consumers,” American Bankers Association President Frank Keating said in a statement. “A tax on banks is a tax on bank borrowers — from individuals to businesses large and small.

The party has vowed not to hike taxes, too – even if they pay for other tax credits – and have already come out strong against the president’s community college plan. President Obama will ask for little from Congress, and that’s about all he’ll get, given that both the Senate and House are controlled by Republicans. Publicly, he said that such a change would take up less of the legislators’ time, and prevent them from feeling pressured to come up with their own response.

But the overall theme will come into focus: Obama’s proposals are intended to help the still-struggling middle class, and draw a bright line between Democrats and Republicans ahead of 2016. The spectacle of a president addressing Congress had also seemed to some Republicans “altogether too reminiscent of the monarch’s speech from the throne at the opening of Parliament,” wrote historian Daniel Walker Howe.

Thomas Picketty Would Abide: There’ll be one area of Obama’s speech that will, however, draw a lot of attention: his proposal for tax hikes on the rich. However, a 1995 article by Gerhard Casper, then president of Stanford University, argues that Jefferson may have had a more personal reason to make the change — his shyness. The president and GOP leaders have spoken about their desire to compromise, but the opening weeks of the new Congress have offered few glimpses of where both sides plan to find common ground. On Facebook, in the week before the address, Americans are talking about jobs, immigration, the economy, and taxes, indicating that the White House has effectively promoted their agenda leading up to the address.

A few lawmakers will make a fuss about “bipartisanship” and “trying to work with the other side.” That’s why in recent years there’s been a spate of declarations about lawmakers from opposite parties sitting with one another. Orrin Hatch was especially up in arms about the proposal saying the tax hikes “only negates the benefits of the tax policies that have been successful in helping to expand the economy, promote savings, and create jobs”. The desired effect – reverse the widening divide between haves and have-nots and level the economic playing field for working families – has the left cheering, but the idea’s pretty much DOA in the new Republican-majority Congress. Casper writes: “By forgoing the theatrics of the presidential address, Jefferson incidentally avoided the personal embarrassment of suffering his notorious stage fright. The data indicates that those challenges are at the forefront of Americans’ minds: last week, Facebook users in the U.S. talked about terrorism the most of any political issue, more than twice as much as the next big talker, Obamacare.

Jefferson was ‘an anxious orator,’ guttural and inarticulate, whose first inaugural address was delivered ‘at such a whisper that most in attendance could not hear a world he said.'” Casper concludes that Jefferson’s decision was probably partly based on a genuine desire for reform “that was aligned with self-interested desire to avoid public speaking.” For over a century, every president would follow Jefferson’s example, and send only a written annual message to Congress. Fear of terrorism was renewed across the world this month when Muslim jihadists massacred the Paris magazine office of Charlie Hebdo, kicking off a three day hunt for three suspects who ultimately killed 17 people, including four at a kosher supermarket. The tax code doesn’t let companies write off costs they incur for creating internal software “primarily” used by employees of the company, such as a system that tracks employee sick days or vacation use. Not So Much: Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere thinks Obama’s speech tonight also has another purpose: remind everyone who’s all excited about the 2016 presidential election that he’s still in charge and the lame-duck label doesn’t fit. The attacks in and around Paris stoked fears of groups like al Qaida and the newer, even more brutal Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a jihadist group that controls large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and has vowed to carry out similar attacks on the West.

But “primarily” was never defined, leading some companies — particularly small- and medium-size businesses without a mass of tax lawyers — to shy away from claiming the credit for computer systems they create. It could be, as Ronald Reagan liked to say, “morning in America,” except that Reagan actually increased the federal workforce and tripled the federal debt during his eight years in office. Poll Position: As if to prove the point, a new Washington Post poll shows the president’s approval rating continues to tick upwards, reaching 50 percent — the highest it’s been in nearly two years. Wilson had long been interested in how presidential rhetoric could be more effectively used, and in 1889, Wilson wrote that Jefferson should never have made the switch, since an oral presidential message could have allowed a “more public and responsible interchange of opinion between the Executive and Congress.” When Wilson himself became president in 1913, he had the opportunity to put his ideas into action.

The shooter in the supermarket in Paris credited ISIS as inspirational, but the group did not take credit for the incident as al Qaida did with the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The Motor City Madman had declared the president a “subhuman mongrel” and said other things so-threatening that the rock star received a visit from the Secret Service.

The new rules narrow the definition of “primarily” and says that money spent on software that is also commercially sold, leased, licensed or used by third parties will indeed qualify for the credit. Respondents credit the improving economy for improving their view of Obama, who just four months ago was considered such a drag on his party that he was persona non grata during the midterm elections. As a special session of Congress was about to begin that April, Wilson decided that he’d address them personally to promote his agenda. “The announcement stunned official Washington,” Robert Kraig wrote in a book on Wilson.

But the president, whose own approval stands at an 18-month high (though still well below 50%) still won’t ask for much from lawmakers — it’s just a waste of time. Kraig writes that a contemporary press account portrayed Congress as “astonished,” and that even members of Wilson’s Cabinet were doubted the wisdom of the move. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the White House’s tax proposal “the same old top-down approach we’ve come to expect from President Obama that hasn’t worked.” And Florida Sen. President Reagan launched this practice of stocking the gallery in the House chamber with notable people, sometimes as props, to emphasize a political point or salute American values. Two weeks before Reagan’s address, Skutnik bounded into the freezing Potomac River near the 14th Street Bridge to save passenger Priscilla Tirado bobbing in the ice-clogged water.

Presidents Coolidge and Hoover would revert to mostly written messages, but FDR would make an in-person — and nationally broadcast — speech the norm. Ernst, an Iraq vet and the Hawkeye State’s first female senator, is pretty much a national unknown for the moment, but she turned heads, raised eyebrows (and made men cross their legs) for a campaign ad reminding voters she has, um, unique experience as the daughter of a hog farmer: No-Go’s a No-Go: Louisiana Gov. Global tax issues were in an uproar too, kicking-off Friday when the European Union released details of its probe examining whether Amazon was given a “sweetheart” tax deal in Luxembourg. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office claims as of 2012, it cut the unemployment rate between 0.1 and 0.6 percentage points. • In 2009, Obama said big banks would be held accountable for their “reckless decisions” that helped spark the economic collapse. Bobby Jindal broke some news during his big overseas foreign policy speech to British conservatives: Islamic radicalism, he says, has become so bad in some European cities that there are “no-go” neighborhoods where non-Muslims are beaten and killed just for wandering in the area.

Among the guests are Alan Gross, who was released from a Cuban prison last month as part of Obama’s decision to normalize relations with the communist island nation; Chelsey Davis, a student from Tennessee who plans to graduate from community college in May; and Dr. The European Commission letter sent to Luxembourg described two Amazon entities that worked out a deal to license intellectual property for a royalty fee based on Amazon’s EU profits, but it was agreed that the fee “not be less than 0.45% of EU Revenue, nor greater than 0.55% of EU Revenue.” The commission argues that the rate violates the standard arm’s-length principle that requires companies to conduct transactions with internal subsidiaries as if both parties were unrelated — no cutting special deals just because both parties report profits to the same parent, according to PRO TAX’s Kelsey Snell.

Presidents stretching back to Ronald Reagan have invited special guests to attend the address to prominently reinforce their messages — health care recipients, service members and the like. Speaking of No-Go: If Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney thought their “I’m running (sort of)!” announcements would generate excitement, they probably weren’t including the electorate in their calculations. Morgan and 10 other banks settled with the feds for $9.3 billion; In 2012: Wells Fargo, Citigroup and three others agreed to pay $25 billion; and two years ago, J.P.

Last year, a GOP congressman invited rocker Ted Nugent, who has referred to Obama’s administration as “evil, America-hating.” And another congressman brought Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson. Reagan and future presidents would soon expand this practice to include not just heroes, but ordinary Americans whose stories (and faces) could help illustrate one of the speech’s points. That prompted catcalls from Democrats and a glare which could have killed corn from then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sitting directly behind Obama.

Happy Birthday, Capricorns: Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin (85), filmmaker David Lynch (69), Paul Stanley of KISS will rock and roll all night (63), comedian Bill Maher (59), actor Rainn Wilson — Dwight from TV’s “The Office” (49), actress Stacey Dash (48), actor Skeet Ulrich (45), seminal hip-hop musician and “Tonight Show” bandleader QuestLove (44). But the Allies adopted them as their war aims, and after the war, Eleanor Roosevelt worked to ensure the new United Nations would voice support for the freedoms. But talk about the fox guarding the hen house: parts of it were written with the help of financial industry lobbyists, and some critics say Dodd-Frank actually failed to address the true causes of the financial crisis. He instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (began by a Republican President, Richard Nixon, by the way) to cut greenhouse gas emissions on its own. •In 2011, Obama called for a sweeping immigration reform bill. Three years later, with no bill ever sent to him (the Senate passed one, but not the House), he used his executive authority to shield as many as five million illegal immigrants from deportation and to make other changes to the system.

In the news release, Grimm boasted that he “verbally took the reporter to task and told him off, because I expect a certain level of professionalism.” Grimm concluded in saying, “I doubt that I am the first Member of Congress to tell off a reporter and I am sure I won’t be the last.” Grimm is the last in something these days. Since most of the ideas Obama will discuss tonight will be received by Republicans as they have for several years now —with silence and inaction — Obama will continue, if not step up, his use of executive power.

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