In State of the Union Speech, Obama Is to Urge a Skeptical Congress to Back …
DONALD LAMBRO: Obama’s tax-and-spend agenda holding back recovery.
As President Obama prepares to deliver his seventh annual address to Congress, a new notion is floating around politics: that the State of the Union is “dead.” “Obama killed it,” reported Politico.
Reports of its demise, to paraphrase Mark Twain, have been “greatly exaggerated.” Start with the idea that “only” thirty million people will watch it. He is expected to call on Republicans to work with him on potential areas of consensus, including a new push to approve far-reaching trade deals in Europe and Asia. But the president will also use the annual primetime address to sketch an activist vision for his final two years in office and to set the terms of a debate that will sharpen the distinctions between the two parties in advance of the 2016 elections. Obama faces far more competition for the public’s eyeballs than any previous president—from more programming choices on cable TV to other streaming video options and the Internet.
Obama will call on Congress to join him in enacting new initiatives to make community college free and to enhance tax credits for education and child care, financed by new taxes and fees on high-income earners and large financial institutions. The plan, unveiled by the White House over the weekend, indicates that the president — bracing for a season of conflict and compromise with Republicans on Capitol Hill — is nonetheless determined to have a loud voice in defining the choices at hand. Obama’s own secretary of labor, Thomas Perez, publicly complained that the administration needed to get busy to “address the business of stubbornly low real wage growth.” Life has gotten much worse under Mr. Republicans, who tapped Joni Ernst, the newly elected senator from Iowa, to give their official response to the speech, are grappling to have their say as well.
The president came out of his party’s midterm election losses with a surprising burst of activity, but there are big questions about whether he will be able to sustain that momentum in the face of opposition from the new Republican-controlled Congress. A recent study by the Southern Education Foundation said that for the first time in a half-century, a majority (51 percent) of public school students are living beneath the poverty income line.
McConnell said in a statement before the speech. “They said they’re ready to see more constructive cooperation, especially on bipartisan jobs initiatives.” Even as Mr. Obama addresses a newly-empowered Republican majority, his standing in the country is improving in the wake of several aggressive moves he has made in the wake of the 2014 midterm elections, including executive action on immigration and a move to normalize relations with Cuba. When you dig down deep into the state-by-state jobs data, nearly half the states, plus the District of Columbia, still have high jobless rates between 6 and 7.4 percent. Obama’s incomprehensible solution to all of this: Raise taxes on business investors and other upper-income Americans, plus the banks and big financial institutions, who are, after all, employers and the people who provide the capital for new start-up businesses that in turn create the jobs.
The bump in popular support comes as the economy continues to improve, with unemployment sinking to 5.6 percent and the pace of job growth accelerating. He would boost the tax on capital gains and dividends to 28 percent, which would stymie job-creating investment in an economy that desperately needs a great deal more capital to bankroll new business expansion.
Obama’s plans to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans and use the money to pay for new tax breaks for the middle class already have been dismissed by House Speaker John Boehner’s office as the same old tax-and-spend “approach we’ve come to expect from President Obama that hasn’t worked.” What may be more telling is how Democrats react to Obama’s address. Among his new entitlement, proposals: free tuition at community colleges, and new federal requirements for employers to broaden retirement plans for full- and-part-time workers. Now he wants to impose more regulations on them, in addition to a higher minimum wage, mandated health benefits, mandatory sick leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. Obama has unveiled this month are efforts to widen the availability and affordability of broadband Internet access, and legislation to allow employees to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave.
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. They need higher incomes and better-paying jobs, both of which have been in short supply under his administration. “This is not a serious proposal,” says Brendan Buck, chief spokesman for the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Wisconsin Rep.
Tuesday’s congressional guests include Cuban activists, celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, and former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease. 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. First and foremost is tax reform to cleanse the tax code of corporate welfare and loopholes — using the increased revenue to lower the tax rates for both corporations and individuals. In so doing, too, he will have the ability to make broad public arguments in the context of a real debate—on the economy, on the role of government, on contentious long-term issues such as climate change. Obama has given lip service to tax reform, but hasn’t led on the issue, except to focus solely on corporate tax reform — demanding that some of the revenue be spent on infrastructure projects.
After last year’s jittery succession of crises, from Ebola to Ferguson, the public could use some reminding that things are actually getting better. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, wants to cut both corporate and individual rates — building on the sweeping reforms being worked on in the House. “Addressing both will allow America’s businesses to expand and create millions of new jobs,” says former Rep. In a recent letter applauding Republican House and Senate leaders, he urged that “tax reform should stand on its own and not include extraneous new spending.” This, along with expanding trade and other pro-growth initiatives, will dominate the new Congress’ work this year.
Supreme Court upended campaign finance laws in the Citizens United decision, Obama scorched the ruling. “Last week,” he thundered, “the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.” Justice Samuel Alito mouthed “not true” from the front row. Ken Vogel in Politico reported the top 100 donors to political committees in the 2014 election gave almost as much as 4.75 million small donors combined.
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