Obama takes State of the Union agenda on the road

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Analysis: Obama seizes on recovery, bets on staying power.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address marked a sweet spot in his presidency when economic signs and his own personal approval are on the rise. On Tuesday night, president Barack Obama appeared before the American people and again acknowledged digital data theft and data destruction as one of the most important issues facing the nation. “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids.WASHINGTON — The morning after major Democratic losses in last year’s midterm elections, President Obama walked into the Roosevelt Room with a message for his despondent staff: I’m not done yet.

Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. As predicted, Republican responses to the speech ranged from dismissal to anger—or rather, mock anger; since it has always been clear that Republicans would reject anything Mr Obama were to offer up, their condemnations of his failure to reach out were pantomime too.

For one thing, Obama upstaged what passed for news with advance notice of proposals for expanded family leave, free community college and a variety of tax cuts and increases. Tuesday’s speech capped a remarkably activist 11 weeks since Obama suffered the humiliation of Democratic losses that gave Republicans control of both chambers of Congress. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.” It was a rallying cry for greater “cyber security.” But according to many security experts, “security” and the specific cyber-security proposal the president unveiled last week could be a pretext for expanded, unchecked surveillance that may not actually make the nation safer. Mike Lee, a Republican senator from Utah, inadvertently captured the circular logic of the situation: “For him, it’s all 2016 partisan politics now, and Republicans shouldn’t waste time debating the merits of the president’s political talking points.” Of course, if Republicans are unwilling to debate the merits of Mr Obama’s proposals, one can hardly expect him to deliver anything other than political talking points. It was clear even before Mr Obama made the short trip up to Capitol Hill that the proposals at the heart of his speech – to raise taxation levels on the wealthiest Americans and impose new fees on the biggest financial institutions to help out the middle class – would be a non-starter with the Republicans and would never, ever become law.

He made no remarks on protecting Social Security and Medicare — just as Republicans have hinted at a coming battle over welfare reform — and only passing reference to the crowning achievement of his first term, Obamacare, just as it’s beginning to bear fruit for many Americans. For another, a presidency’s seventh year is less the time for groundbreaking initiatives than for extending and defending its principal prior policies. The ideas in the proposal face no strong political resistance especially since the information collection organism would not be the government itself but rather private companies reporting user information to the government.

And he didn’t mention the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline by name, which Republicans favor as a job-creation opportunity but the White House has said Obama would veto. Indeed, Obama’s main purpose Tuesday night was much broader: to define the landscape both for the next two years of dealing with the newly installed Republican congressional majority and for the 2016 debate leading to the election of his successor.

Obama lives in an alternate reality, divorced from their belief that voters repudiated the president’s agenda last year, inside the West Wing, there was relief that the sometimes brooding leader of the past year was gone. He set an optimistic tone — perhaps unduly so — in describing events both domestic and international, arguing that the “middle-class economics” underlying his presidency have enabled “the shadow of crisis” to pass, at a time when statistics and polls both reflect growing acceptance of that.

And while he offered a nod to bipartisanship on issues such as trade, he pushed a traditional Democratic economic agenda of tax increases for the rich, expanded paid leave for workers and increased aid for education. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

The president has been restrained in his discussions of what some consider to be the most significant cyber attack on a US entity in recent memory, the Sony hack. (Sony Pictures is a sub unit of Sony America and is still ultimately part of the Sony parent company, which is Japanese.) Obama called the hack an act of “cyber vandalism” not tantamount to war. It was light, however, on policy details. “I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals,” the president said, “and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.” He offered name checks of cherished Democratic chestnuts — universal child care, paid sick and maternity leave, government guarantees of equal pay for women, and a higher minimum wage. He castigated Republicans as still refighting an agenda of “taking away … health insurance or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street or refighting past battles on immigration,” while assuming an economically hurting country still yearns for their trickle-down prescriptions. But the omissions were a reminder that, though the President’s popularity is on an upswing, his legacy remains unclear and his final two years in office will still be full of challenges.

The key component of the proposal is, indeed, “integration.” Specifically, it affords private companies liability protection to share information with the Homeland Security Department’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. The stretching of the rubber band between the super-rich and the rest of us was highlighted in this week’s Oxfam report which claimed that, if current trends continue globally, the 1pc will own more wealth than the 99pc by next year. Joni Ernst of Iowa, confirmed his portrayal by decrying “stagnant wages and lost jobs” and declaring that, among other things, Republicans would “repeal and replace a health care law that’s hurt so many hardworking families.” Most Obama domestic proposals, such as increasing taxes on the wealthy to finance needed infrastructure improvements or raising the minimum wage, are as unlikely to pass as Republican bills repealing Obamacare. By laying credit at the doorstep of his own administration, Obama is looking to gain leverage over Republicans and weaken their resolve to undo his go-it-alone initiatives on immigration, climate change and Cuba. The specifics were rather light, particularly on his extensive array of tax proposals, which will raise a significant amount of money with some rather sweeping changes to the way we tax educational savings, capital gains and estates.

It was, in popular if clichéd Washington, DC parlance, “a game changer.” Joyce was not alone in that assessment. “We had seen cyber attacks but we’ve never seen a nation-state…destroy data,” former Rep. But the US, as it emerges from the Great Recession, may be the perfect model for what’s at stake. “It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years and for decades to come. But the president was able, as is usually the case with these annual addresses, to make his case to a national audience that almost certainly is more sympathetic to his agenda than Washington’s partisan battles would have one believe. So far this year, Obama has stiffed the GOP agenda.”) Those of us sick of all this talk of empathetic nods and inches given or stiffed would prefer to find some way to talk about the content of governance.

In part, that’s because his aggressive post-election policy initiatives have not only spurred a modest uptick in his personal job approval but have focused on areas where he and the Democrats have the upper hand, both politically and substantively. At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” On his way to Davos, the former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers unpacked one statistical nugget in a column for the ‘Financial Times’ that gave some perspective on the problem. “If the US had the same income distribution it had in 1979,” he wrote, “the bottom 80pc of the population would have $1trn – or $11,000 per family – more. They would probably be considerably less excited to hear that Obama wants to tax the earnings on educational savings accounts, or that any assets they inherit from their parents would be subject to a capital gains tax. Last year, Obama used a sizable chunk of his SOTU to highlight the benefits Americans would receive from the Affordable Care act, even as the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov drew months of negative headlines and created headaches for vulnerable Democrats on the campaign trail.

One obvious example is immigration reform, where the Republican-controlled House last week enacted a package of mean-spirited measures aimed at curbing the benefits Obama unilaterally gave millions of undocumented workers, including young people brought here illegally by their parents. He felt constrained from forcefully promoting his policies, like his plans to overhaul the nation’s immigration system and fight climate change, for fear of undermining Democratic Senate candidates in conservative states. But during his tenure, where he served as the head of the House Intelligence Committee, he earned a reputation as one the National Security Agency’s most stalwart allies at the agency’s moment of greatest shame.

But one can look at its political reception to gauge whether this is an issue that effectively advances the Democrats’ attempts to force Republicans to take unpopular stances. Steve King of Iowa as “a deportable.” A second area was his surprise initiative to restore U.S. relations with Cuba, which Republicans still oppose though polls show the country agrees with Obama that, “when what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new.” A third was the joint effort with China on climate change. The bill that perhaps best characterized that reputation, House Resolution 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, never actually became law, having stalled in the Senate after passing the House.

In September, realizing the elections would go badly for Democrats, Denis McDonough, the president’s chief of staff, began a series of White House meetings, many of them with the president, aimed at determining how Mr. With GOP attention focused elsewhere, the best course for the President on that issue may be to let sleeping dogs lie — especially as many Americans may face penalties when they file their taxes this year because of the law.

Since the only hope of getting significant legislation passed in America now seems to be winning an electoral trifecta and gaining control over the presidency and both houses of Congress, the first key question to ask about any proposed legislation is whether it furthers that goal for the party that proposed it. Another Democratic President said the same in his address in 1952. “I think everybody knows that social insurance and better schools and health services are not frills, but necessities in helping all Americans to be useful and productive citizens.” That was Harry Truman. (© Independent News Service) Estates get what’s known as a “stepped-up basis” on assets — meaning that when you inherit a house from Mom and Dad and later sell it, you’re taxed on the difference between the value at the time you inherited it (your basis) and the value at the time you sell it. And though the speech came on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens’ United decision, which opened the floodgates for big-money donors to influence elections, Obama didn’t talk about super PACs or public financing for campaigns. On virtually every one of these issues, the political divisions in Congress were exemplified by Vice President Joe Biden leading enthusiastic response from his fellow Democrats while House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP majority sat uncomfortably silent.

It was an idea that predates Rogers and CISPA—in 2008, the Bush White House put out National Security Presidential Directive – 54 that outlined the US interest in information sharing in the name of cybersecurity. Obama proposes to use the price your parents paid as the basis, though the first $200,000 is exempted, and there’s an additional $500,000 exemption for homes. The most graphic evidence came when Obama launched an appeal for bipartisan cooperation by declaring, “I have no more campaigns to run,” prompting a loud burst of applause from Republicans. “I know, ’cause I won both of them,” the president ad-libbed, drawing laughter and applause from fellow Democrats. Tuesday night’s battle lines will recur repeatedly as Obama and his critics maneuver to sway the public on whether the current Congress and the next administration should revise and extend his agenda or repeal and replace it.

CISPA would give companies the freedom to share user data with DHS where the info could then go to virtually any other law enforcement agency for use in any investigation related to crimes from drug trafficking to copyright infringement. It sent a clear message to some of America’s biggest companies: “We need you to do our spying for us.” Privacy advocates argued that the bill’s language was too broad. And they decided that nothing in the president’s relationship with Republican lawmakers suggested that a speech filled with offers of compromise would lead to a surge of legislative successes.

But the Post-ABC poll shows that Obama’s better standing is largely the result of support coalescing among the groups that backed his presidential campaigns in the first place — Democrats, moderates, Hispanics and younger people. Moreover, information sharing, while an essential component of comprehensive legislation, is not alone enough to protect the Nation’s core critical infrastructure from cyber threats.

For example, is the Earned Income Tax Credit still the best way to address inequality, or does it fail to reach the poorest because they are unemployed? The president is seeking “trade promotion authority,” or the ability to negotiate trade deals that Congress can either approve or reject but not change. The key, though, is to look at policy proposals not in isolation, but as moves in a long game that gradually determine the shape of policy proposals on each side.

The slightly less pithy summary of Obama’s speech is that he’s back in his element: campaigning as the Bipartisan Voice of Reasonable America, rather than trying to govern. Shareable information does include anything that falls under the category of cyber threat indicator, which includes any data relating to “malicious reconnaissance, including communications that reasonably appear to be transmitted for the purpose of gathering technical information related to a cyber threat,” which could mean everything from attempting to access restricted files to—possibly—asking fairly routine questions about how a site runs or what a company does with user data. “The White House proposal relies heavily on privacy guidelines that are currently unwritten. He entered the House chamber Tuesday night with a “spring in his step,” one adviser said, believing that his economic policies were finally taking hold. “Sometimes, a speech like that looks like he’s being provocative,” said Phil Schiliro, who was Mr. Privacy protections and use restrictions must be in effect before information sharing occurs,” Harley Geiger, the senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology said in a press release following the announcement. Ben is back in construction – and home for dinner every night. “It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.” America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story.

More disturbing for many in the technology community was a provision in the legislation to amend RICO laws in a way that could charge hackers, computer scientists, or just curious users with felonies just for finding—or searching for—security errors in web sites or services. But it’s a pantomime of actions and attitudes that are real, or may eventually become real if one side amasses the power to push legislation through America’s hopelessly creaky, antiquated, broke-down political system. Obama delivered on that cold morning in 2013 were designed as a forceful statement of liberal principles in the face of near-certain Republican opposition. “The president was thinking, ‘I don’t want to shrink from the big challenges,’ ” recalled Jon Favreau, the president’s former speechwriter, who wrote Mr. You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. In that case there probably isn’t much point paying attention to American democratic politics at all, and I recommend switching to a good hockey match.

Unless there is a carve out for research, the liability for clicking on links to security tools alone is worrying…even more so if RICO style laws are applied due to their broad nature and potential for abuse by aggressive prosecutors. Obama failed to enact much of his ambitious agenda: gun control, an immigration overhaul, climate change legislation, a bipartisan budget deal and a minimum-wage increase.

We have had many decades to get used to prosecuting organized crime, but prosecuting technical computer crime is newer and harder to explain to juries. The lesson may be that even a powerful speech is no guarantee of success in a political environment where the opposition party controls Congress and a volatile world regularly surprises. Hidalgo, discuss an experiment where they took a random sample of 1.5 million cell users over 15 months and found that, when locational cell phone data is anonymized, just four data points—information created by the anonymous user—was enough to effectively reveal the users identity for 95% of all users. “I agree, 100%. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices.

Moreover, the information that the public shares with DHS, if it is in fact related to some future cybersecurity event, would likely be shared with the NSA. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years. That’s what allowed the United States to so quickly attribute the attacks to North Korea, though many still claim the US is overlooking evidence of an inside job. Zoe Lofgren, D-California, who represents parts of San Jose (Silicon Valley) told The Hill: “I fear we may have taken the wrong lesson from these recent high-profile attacks.

Both political and public concerns about privacy and overreaching agencies have given way to worries about lost data and remotely hijacked infrastructure. “We are entering the post-Snowden era,” he claimed. Rogers himself was more cautious but he acknowledged that the involvement of the president in passing cyber-sharing legislation was a “significant change,” possibly enough to push something through. Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead. In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. This is one of those areas where reasonable people can be reasonable people.” Following the event at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Rogers loitered for a bit to glad-hand friends and fans who wished him well in his new career.

As he got on to an elevator, Defense One asked him if he felt at all validated that the president’s proposal so closely resembled Rogers’s bill, the one that the president had vowed to veto. That’s what middle-class economics is – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority – so this country provided universal childcare. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.

America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world. Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics.

Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships – opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education. We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs. But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago – jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.

Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine – one that delivers the right treatment at the right time. I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world. I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs – converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford.

When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military – then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents.

We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies. Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition. Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small – by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies.

Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba. Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back Ebola – saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease. In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules – in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief.

And no challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice – so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws – of which there are many – but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.

I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California; and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and New London. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for – arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision. A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.

We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs. Because I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth – that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, and help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.

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