Poll: Rising economy boosts Obama’s standing on eve of the State of the Union

19 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 main goals from Obama’s 2014 State of the Union.

In this Jan. 28, 2014 file 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. | AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama used his last State of the Union to declare 2014 a “Year of Action,” and he can claim credit for accomplishing several of the goals he laid out. 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.A White House tax plan released over the weekend promises to rekindle a long-simmering debate over how to use the tax code to close income gaps between the wealthy and the middle class.WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican lawmakers are already signaling they will do what they can to block President Barack Obama’s pitch for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.‘If Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six-month phase, we will turn off the [sanctions] relief and ratchet up the pressure.” That was President Obama in November 2013, pledging he would not allow an interim nuclear deal with Tehran to become an opportunity for the mullahs to play for time while wringing economic concessions from the West.

Faced with a hostile, Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a capital seized by inertia, he often seemed more interested in golf than governing. Obama is making that pitch to a huge television audience in hopes of putting the new Republican Congress in the position of defending top income earners over the middle class. 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. 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. Along party lines, the public is sharply at odds about whether the country should go in the direction Obama wants to lead or where Republicans prefer to go.

Obama warned he would veto any Congressional attempt to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic if the latest round of negotiations fail. “My main message to Congress at this point is just hold your fire,” he said in a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron , who seconded the President’s plea and admits to personally lobbying U.S. 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. Despite the partisan divisions on most issues, a substantial majority of Americans continue to see political dysfunction in Washington as a big problem.

Tax increases are rarely welcomed by congressional Republicans, who now hold majorities in the House and the Senate for the first time in Obama’s presidency. Instead, Obama took executive action to make more than 4 million of those immigrants eligible for protection from deportation and eligible for work permits. 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.

His standing is nine points higher than in December and seven points higher than in October, just before Republicans captured control of the Senate, increased their House majority to its highest level in eight decades and recorded advances in the states. 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. Obama as a liberal outlier among Democrats, saying that he was seeking to overturn tax-rate policies of the Clinton era in the name of boosting taxes on the wealthy to pay for new middle-class wage supplements. But he said on ABC’s “This Week” that the president has fallen short by failing to establish close ties to Congress. “Slapping American small businesses, savers and investors with more 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,” Sen.

Watching him speak to a packed Congress was like watching Barbra Streisand sing, Michael Jackson moonwalk, Tiger Woods golf, or Steve Jobs pitch a product. The Administration’s latest argument is that a sanctions bill would be interpreted as a hostile act by Tehran, potentially provoking retaliation while spoiling the diplomatic mood.

People who rate the economy positively are vastly more likely than others to approve of the president’s performance and the country’s direction alike. 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.

The Administration also frets that it would disrupt unity among the so-called P5+1, referring to the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, while the West would be blamed if negotiations fail. He will also recommend increasing the capital gains tax from 23.8% to 28%, and impose a new fee on big financial firms with assets over $50 billion, based on the amount of money they borrow. A Washington Post analysis estimates that those plummeting prices put an extra $7.50 into the wallets of average Americans during the first week of this year, compared with the same week last year.

The plan also would create or expand a range of tax breaks aimed at boosting incomes for low- and middle-income earners, including a new $500 tax credit for two-earner households. The bill that is likely to emerge after the Senate Banking Committee holds hearings Tuesday will be a revised version of last year’s bipartisan Kirk-Menendez bill, named after sponsors Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois and Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey. 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—who succeeded in forcing significant increases in taxes on high-income households just after his 2012 re-election—still hopes to find common ground with GOP lawmakers on a comprehensive rewrite of the much-maligned U.S. tax code, for both individuals and businesses. 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.

Roughly 6 in 10 Americans describe the economy as “not so good” or “poor,” and about the same percentage says that things have gotten pretty seriously off-track when it comes to the overall direction of the nation. Obama suspended when he signed the interim deal, impose visa bans and asset blocks on top Iranian officials, and further tighten oil and financial sanctions. Obama also wants to close what the administration is calling the “trust fund loophole,” a change that would require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they’re inherited. Both position paper and performance piece, the Address must pitch policies in proportion while showcasing the president in a way that entrances 535 Members of Congress in person and millions watching it at home. 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.

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. As for Western unity, it must not be all that firm if it would collapse following a display of Congressional support for the very goal the P5+1 claims to favor.

The sanctions Tehran really fears—on the purchase of its energy, on its banks, and restrictions on its international financial transactions—depend on action by Washington and its European allies. 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. Greater optimism also is reflected in Obama’s economic approval ratings, which now stand even, with 48 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving. After Clinton so carefully crafted a role as America’s “Good Father” in 1996, Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr was now investigating Clinton’s weaknesses as a bad husband. 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.

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. 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. 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. Congressional analysts say raising capital gains rates comes with some economic downside. “By lowering the after-tax return on investments, the increased tax rates would reduce the incentive to invest in businesses,” the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office wrote in 2013, while acknowledging some advantages to the idea, such as increased fairness and reduced incentives to cheat.

The morning of the speech, Day 7 of the scandal, the newspapers featured Clinton’s passionate denial: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” On NBC’s “Today” Show, Hillary Clinton counterattacked against the “vast right wing conspiracy” targeting her husband since 1992. 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. Congressional Republicans favor legislation that would change the new health-care law to say that companies with 50 or more employees must provide health insurance to anyone who works 40 hours or more, rather than the 30-hour threshold that currently exists. Obama contends that at least one of his capital-gains proposals—imposing gains tax on inherited assets—would actually contribute to economic efficiency by removing an incentive for wealthy people to hold on to their investments for tax purposes rather than investing them back into the economy.

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. 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. Democrats also contend that their ideas for middle-class tax benefits would add to economic growth, and note that some are drawn from GOP ideas, such as the second-earner break.

It’s never easy to oppose the foreign policy of a sitting President from your own party, especially on a deal that Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes recently called the foreign-policy equivalent of the Affordable Care Act. 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. Americans are almost evenly divided over who is taking a stronger leadership role in Washington, with 42 percent saying Obama and 40 percent citing congressional Republicans.

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. Let’s give them a hand.” As the Democrats applauded the squirming Republicans, he beamed: “That’s great.” With that mischievous maneuver, Clinton spoke over the Republicans’ heads directly to the American people, emphasizing the bipartisanship most Americans want but both parties frequently fail to provide.

While again calling for “a government that is a progressive instrument of the common good, rooted in our oldest values of opportunity, responsibility and community,” Clinton tried mobilizing support for Social Security reform. But if the president takes some confidence from that, another set of findings signal the depth of the divisions that have led to gridlock in recent years. Obama chose to focus on individual taxes, as opposed to the corporate tax code, at a time when broader consensus exists on the problems and the solutions of the latter.

But many Republicans are wary of pursuing a business-only rewrite, in part because it could leave them vulnerable to charges that they are catering to big businesses and the wealthy. Bush marveled, “Now I understand why he’s inside looking out, and I’m outside looking in.” Since his first inaugural address, Obama has failed to wow Americans with his speeches, as he did so effectively during his 2008 campaign. Obama can flummox Republicans and appeal to the public by seizing the center rather than lurching left, acting as president of all the people, not a partisan leader of the opposition-to-the-opposition.

Since December, his numbers have increased by 10 points among Democrats and moderates, by 22 points among Hispanics and by 19 points among those ages 18 to 29. He might even integrate it all into a coherent, comprehensible, and accessible vision such as Clinton’s opportunity-responsibility-community mantra, so Americans have a sense of forward momentum. But Clinton also conveyed an intense, authentic, infectious love of the people, the policies, and the politics that disarmed many Republicans, thrilled many Democrats, and wooed many independents.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted Jan. 12 to 15 among a random national sample of 1,003 adults interviewed by telephone, including 311 cellphone-only respondents.

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