State of the Union: ‘Shadow of crisis has passed’

21 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

6 big topics left out of the State of the Union.

President Obama talked about a lot of things in his State of the Union message on Tuesday night, but what was striking was what he didn’t mention — at least in the education world. The big debate at the moment in education centers around No Child Left Behind and how Congress, which is taking up a rewrite of the law, will address growing concerns about annual standardized testing that the law requires in Grades 3 – 8, and once in high school. But the first tech moment of the address came before he had even taken the stage, when the White House released the prepared remarks on blogging platform Medium.

Here were a few of the biggest omissions from the speech: The Affordable Care Act — Obama’s defining policy accomplishment — was never mentioned by name during the speech. 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. The administration posted the speech directly online and shared links through social media a few minutes before the speech was scheduled — roughly the same time it shared it with reporters.

Lamar Alexander, the Republican from Tennessee who has taken over leadership of the Senate education committee, is holding his first hearing on NCLB on Wednesday. Thousands of foreign fighters have joined with Muslim extremists in Syria and Iraq, and their fanatical cause has inspired sympathizers across the globe: 17 killed by terrorists in Paris; terrorism raids and a shootout in Belgium; a hunt for sleeper cells across Europe; a gunman attacking the Canadian Parliament; an Ohio man arrested after buying guns and ammunition, allegedly with plans to attack the Capitol. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.” Obama told Congress that “we can choose who we want to be over the next 15 years, and for decades to come” by implementing policies that ensure income equality and “expanding opportunity” for all Americans.

The implementation of the Common Core State Standards and Common Core testing is also a hot education topic, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to Obama. American leadership, Obama asserted before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, has been crucial to thwarting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, inflicting economic pain on Putin’s Russia, thawing relations with Cuba and averting potential war with Iran.

There were a couple oblique references to the falling uninsured rate and the health cost slowdown, and to a new “Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes,” but that was it. He did push his new plan for the federal government to provide free tuition for students to attend two-year community colleges, and said he wants to make it easier for families to pay for high-quality child care. That is comeuppance, he said, for Republican critics who say the man who declined to bomb Syria or arm the Ukrainians is too timid in the face of foreign adversaries: “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,” Obama said. “That’s what our enemies want us to do.” Obama was particularly boastful — cocky, even — about the dismal state of Putin’s economy. “Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Obama touched on childcare and on expanding access to higher education, but on K-12 he just mentioned the rising high school graduation rate and improving test scores. And it’s not just unemployment: the economy grew last quarter at a 5 percent annualized rate, and a gallon of gas is less than $2 in much of the country.

Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort? … The policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way.” Yet Obama, sounding more like the Democratic candidate championing “Hope” and “Change” who campaigned for the highest office in the land years ago, set an ambitious domestic agenda that includes a wide range of domestic reforms on issues such as immigration that Republicans have already indicated they are resistant to. The reporters then start sending it around town to folks on Capitol Hill to get their reaction, then those people send it to all their friends, and eventually everyone in Washington can read along, but the public remains in the dark. But tonight, we turn the page.” Obama, full of swagger, turned the page — several pages — from the start of his address, when he assured Americans that “the shadow of crisis has passed,” before arriving at his discussion of national security. Similarly, Obama cast his international coalition against ISIL as a diplomatic effort as much as a military one, contrasting it with the major ground wars launched by his Republican predecessor in Iraq and Afghanistan. “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,” Obama said. While he alluded to the shootings in Tucson and Newtown, Obama did not mention or call for measures to restrict access to high-ammunition guns, or improve background checks.

Seeking explicit buy-in from a Congress that has often criticized his ISIL policy from the sidelines, Obama issued his most direct call yet for Congress to formally authorize the aerial campaign he began in August. It’s been huge plans to rescue the financial sector or pump stimulus into a failing economy or deal with an unemployment crisis or beat back a rising tide of red ink. 7) But not this time. Throughout Obama’s entire presidency, whenever he’s discussed immigration — even when taking massive steps on his own to change immigration policy through executive actions — he’s asked Congress to pass a permanent, comprehensive immigration reform bill. It’s a plan, and an agenda, that would have fit neatly into Bill Clinton’s presidency — which is to say, it’s the kind of plan Democrats offer when the economy is doing well rather than when it’s doing poorly. 8) If there is a deeper crisis that the Obama administration is responding to, it’s the crisis of labor-force participation.

Meanwhile, Republicans in both chambers are preparing for a showdown with Obama next month — and a possible shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security — as they attempt to de-fund his executive orders on immigration. One reason unemployment is down to 5.6 percent is that millions of people have dropped out of the labor force — they’ve stopped looking for work, at least so far as the government can tell. Republicans in Congress, backed by many Democrats, are set to push legislation imposing new sanctions on Tehran if a nuclear deal isn’t reached by the current deadline of June 30, or if Iran abandons the talks.

He made a backhanded response to “past debates” and promised to veto any bill that killed his executive actions, but didn’t ask Congress to find a permanent solution. With national leaders averting their gaze from terrorism, only 2 percent of the American public says terrorism is the top problem facing the nation, according to a Gallup poll this month.

That may be because they can’t find it, or it may be because the work they can find simply doesn’t pay enough. 9) The particular tax cuts Obama’s proposing make work pay more. Obama has said that sanctions would fracture the delicate international coalition pressuring Tehran — “will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails,” as he put it Tuesday, promising to veto new sanctions legislation. Obama, who said he believes “we lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy,” again used his speech to suggest that North Korea was responsible for the devastating hack against Sony Pictures, even though the integrity of the government’s evidence has been called into question. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that a small plurality of Americans thought such programs would go too far; until the past couple of years, Americans were more concerned such efforts wouldn’t go far enough. 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.” Invoking the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the choking death of Eric Garner in New York City — both at the hands of police — Obama called on Democrats and Republicans to “reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.” The president said the United States respects “human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained.” That’s not entirely true.

Last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a scathing report that laid bare the brutality of the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program, for which no one was held accountable. A president who has sought to move America from what he has called a “permanent war footing” spent more time touting his diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba (“new hope for the future”) and his October climate deal with China (“offering hope”) than he did the fight against radical Islam.

The absence of any serious discussion of Obamacare was clearly intentional — and fit a speech in which Obama seemed intent on looking forward to new problems and policies rather than backwards to older ones. 11) Even on foreign policy, Obama seemed freed from the shackles of past emergencies. Moreover, human rights groups and journalists have documented that the US use of drones for the purposes of targeted killings have resulted in the deaths of more civilians than combatants.

Russia’s currency has collapsed, allowing Obama to declare a kind of victory against Vladimir Putin’s various provocations in 2014, and Ebola has been beaten back from America’s shores. His administration turned the policy of indefinite detention into the law of the land, but Obama said the reason Guantanamo needs to be shut down is because the US has a “profound commitment to justice.” “So it makes no sense to spend $3 million per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit,” Obama said, adding that he “will not relent in [his] determination” to close it.

But he faces fierce opposition from Republicans who introduced legislation last week to block his efforts to transfer detainees and permanently close the prison. But doing would be contingent on unraveling what Obama has long considered the centerpiece of his domestic agenda: healthcare reform. “We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs,” said Ernst, a combat veteran. “We see the hurt caused by canceled health care plans and higher monthly insurance bills. Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.” Ernst also called for lower tax rates and more jobs and less government spending.

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