Obama follows through on State of the Union previews

19 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 goals from Obama’s 2014 State of the Union: Yay or Nay?.

In this Jan. 28, 2014, photo, Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens as President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington.Let’s imagine you were a Democratic president who just lost control of Congress to the Republicans, and you wanted to make it really, really clear that you are not serious about governing.

Faced with a hostile, Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a capital seized by inertia, he often seemed more interested in golf than governing. White House efforts to control media spin, audience reaction and the Democratic “brand” could backfire as a certain annual speech looms over the nation. “Are we ready for a big, noisy, overhyped prime-time production that has outgrown its simple origins and usually leaves us feeling both gorged and disappointed? The president has said his prime time speech Tuesday will focus on what he calls the resurgence of the American economy, and how to build on the momentum in terms of higher wages and salaries. “And I’ll call on this new Congress to join me in putting aside the political games and finding areas where we agree so we can deliver for the American people,” Obama said during his Saturday radio address. Chapman – adding that two previous presidents skipped the January rite, which was historically intended to be a simple affair rather than an imitation of the grand “Speech from the Throne” delivered by the British monarchy of yore. The speech will include a revenue plan designed to generate $320 billion over 10 years from wealthy taxpayers, via the closing of loopholes and an increase in the top rate of the capital gains tax.

That’s because while he was able to check off most of what he promised to do through executive action in last year’s speech, Obama was unable in the bitterly partisan election year to get Congress to go along with the bigger plans he had for the country that required their approval. The president will also discuss newly released plans that would expand tax credits for child care and second earners in working families, and finance two years of community college for qualified students. With less than two years to go in his mandate, no need to get himself re-elected and a public holding few expectations, Obama is unleashing his inner liberal. As Obama prepares to make that annual trek up Pennsylvania Avenue to address Congress once again, here’s a look back a year later at five of the promises he made — and which got fulfilled and denied. “Let’s get immigration reform done this year,” Obama declared to a Congress that had long blocked his efforts. And so he did, although it was not the broad plan he envisioned that would have allowed a path to citizenship for more than 11 immigrants illegally in the United States.

Republicans who now control both the House and Senate are already taking aim at the tax-and-spending package, saying Obama is relying too much on tax hikes and government regulations. Instead, Obama took executive action to make more than 4 million of those immigrants eligible for protection from deportation and eligible for work permits.

The White House estimated it would directly help a few hundred people, but argues the bigger impact has been that several states and localities raised their minimum wage last year after Obama raised the debate. A sampling from the collection accruing under the hashtag #StateoftheUnioninThreeWords: “I am ironman” (conservative strategist Keith Appell), “Gimme your money” (Fox News host Jebediah Bila), “Tax, spend, repeat” (columnist Michelle Malkin), “Don’t blame Islam” (Media Research Center analyst Dan Gainor. For years, Obama has been asking Congress to encourage more Americans to grow a retirement nest egg by allowing all workers to be automatically enrolled in IRAs unless they specifically opt out. Also on Obama’s schedule for Thursday: An interview with content creators at YouTube, part of the administration’s effort to promote the speech via social media. The Treasury Department has set up a new security as the basis for the investment and for the past month has been running a pilot program with a small group of employers, with plans to expand the program by the end of 2015.

White House officials, according to Politico, “aren’t holding their breath that Obama’s new proposals will pass Congress now that Republicans control both chambers.” (Which raises the question why, if Obama were serious, didn’t he propose them when Democrats controlled both chambers?) The goal is for “Obama to position himself as a defender of the middle class” and put Republicans in the “politically awkward” position of resisting tax increases on the rich to pay for programs that benefit the middle class. While most of Obama’s proposals last year were positions he had long advocated, one of the few new proposals he offered was extension of the earned-income tax credit, which helps boost the wages of low-income families through tax refunds. Obama wanted it broadened to provide more help to workers without children, a view embraced by some Republicans and conservative economists. “Let’s work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, and help more Americans get ahead,” Obama said optimistically — too optimistically, it turned out. He knows Republicans have been working to shed their image as the party of the rich and powerful, with a new focus on helping the poor and the working class.

Obama said the goal of his energy policy is to create jobs and a cleaner planet and announced that he wanted to set higher fuel economy standards for trucks. That was made evident by his decision to implement a series of executive orders — which allow him to bypass Congress — on the environment, on immigration and, most spectacularly, on a rapprochement with Cuba after more than 50 years of a U.S. embargo. The wave of orders infuriated Republicans, who accuse him of acting outside the Constitution, and showing contempt for the voters who filled Congress with GOP members.

His message is meant for Democrats, and especially those Democrats who felt disappointed and betrayed by an administration that achieved so little after promising so much. They should move forward with serious plans to help those who are struggling in the Obama recovery that do not involve massive new taxes or massive new spending — and then dare Obama and the Democrats to oppose them. U.S. pundits have established a cottage industry in tracking the president’s lengthy list of broken promises, many of them on issues dear to Democrat hearts. Other good ideas include my American Enterprise Institute colleague Michael Strain’s proposals to create relocation vouchers for the long-term unemployed, which would help those in high-unemployment areas move to states where jobs are abundant, as well as a lower minimum wage that would encourage firms to hire the long-term unemployed while supplementing their income with an EITC-like payment. So few Americans expect big things from the President that he’s free to return to the days when he could spend his time expounding on ways America could be a better place.

In the Senate, Mike Lee (R-Utah) has put forward proposals of his own that include criminal justice reform, education reform and policies to strengthen families. He can devote the next 23 months to proposing populist measures he can’t get approved, perhaps burnishing his legacy and regaining some of the admiration of left-wing supporters he lost during the six years he’s spent in the Oval Office.

If he’s lucky, historians may look back with admiration at his revised agenda, ignoring the fact he threw himself into it only when there was no longer a political penalty to be paid. It also allows him to try and set the parameters of the debate for the 2016 election, establishing an agenda he was unable to fulfill himself but would like to establish for his successor. He is proclaiming, in essence: “Here are all the things I didn’t do while in office, but which the next president should.” Whether the Democratic candidate appreciates the effort is an open question.

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