What midterms? Obama treats State of the Union as a victory lap. | us news

What midterms? Obama treats State of the Union as a victory lap.

21 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Biden: Nobody Thinks Tax Increases Would Damage the Wealthy.

“So the verdict is clear. In the State of the Union address tonight, President Obama spoke briefly about cybersecurity, giving a nod to the high-profile hacks that have increasingly plagued both private companies and the government.“Passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child.” Obama said that Congress cannot afford to be “refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix.” If such a bill comes to his desk, “it will earn my veto,” he said.

This year will be a contentious one for tech policy, as policymakers continue debating net neutrality, cybersecurity and limits on government surveillance. And twice Obama referenced keeping American children safe from cyber-threats. “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,” he said. “I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyberattacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.” It seems Obama was trying to do two things. That’s a subtle reference to a brewing fight between the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. One, laying out President Obama’s domestic policy initiatives, was detailed, specific, fact-filled, forward-looking, ambitious and replete with a certain swagger.

Biden is optimistic Republicans and Democrats can work together to make “this recovery good for everyone.” Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that Republican lawmakers will be motivated to work with Democrats on efforts to bolster middle-class families because the GOP wants to prove they can govern. But Obama’s emphasis on kids also reflects the complicated and diverse problems associated with protecting children online as their lives are increasingly digital. That’s a reference to language in the House-passed DHS spending bill that would end a 2012 program granting temporary legal protection to hundreds of thousands of children of illegal immigrants.

Obama and his advisers clearly believe they have the wind at their back, with the president’s approval numbers finally rising as the economic recovery gains steam. The president also wants Congress to adopt legislation requiring employers to help workers establish individual retirement accounts if they do not already have 401(k) plans. It was almost as if the Republicans’ crushing victory in last November’s midterm elections – a sharp repudiation of Obama and the Democrats – never happened.

The list of worker-friendly economic goals Obama recited Tuesday night, then, was ambitious enough to taunt his enemies: a higher federal minimum wage, a week of paid sick leave, subsidized childcare, a tax plan that would raise taxes for the rich and fees on banks, free community college education, investment in infrastructure, paid apprenticeships to train workers, authority to strike new trade deals, even sending astronauts to Mars. The president didn’t utter the term in so many words — which leaves this pre-SOTU chart largely unchanged — but he repeated his vow to preserve an open Internet and linked the nation’s information networks to more traditional examples of infrastructure such as bridges, ports and oil pipelines. “Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet,” he said. “I intend to protect a free and open Internet,” Obama added, “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.” The rhetorical move comes as the Federal Communications Commission weighs adopting stricter rules on Internet providers and knocking down state barriers that make it harder or illegal for cities to build competitors to the likes of Comcast and Verizon.

The president would raise the capital gains tax rate to 28 percent for wealthy Americans and require people to pay a capital gains tax on the gain in value of inherited assets. Justine Drennan of Foreign Policy also noted that Obama may have been referencing threats made by hackers during the recent CENTCOM Twitter hack; the perpetrators wrote on Pastebin, “We won’t stop! But the reality of Obama’s final two years in office sat squarely before him in the Capitol Monday night: the largest Republican majority in Congress in decades. Under current law, people who inherit wealth pay taxes on a “stepped-up basis,” meaning only on gains made after the death of a relative or friend. We know everything about you, your wives and children.” Here at the FTC, you’ve pushed back on companies and apps that collect information on our kids without permission … we need a structure that ensures that information is not being gathered without us as parents or the kids knowing it.

And in a remarkable piece of political showmanship, Obama by turns yearned for “a better politics” of bipartisan cooperation even as he promised sharp contrasts with his Republican foes through vetoes and executive action. “At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious, that we would crush jobs and explode deficits,” Obama said, reviewing the course of his presidency to date. “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 50 years. One investment bank, KBW, baldly told clients on Tuesday that it views a bank tax “as political posturing and not a serious policy proposal.” Conservative and libertarian thinktank Generation Opportunity scoffed that the community college plan would involve raising “taxes on 529 savings plans to fund his unaffordable government policies” which would in turn hurt middle-class families. The president, at times, also managed to recapture the soaring lyricism of his campaign speeches and some of the brio of the days when his party controlled Congress. But more than anything, the speech was a consummate display of political bravado, best captured in an off-the-cuff remark after he reminded his audience that he had no more campaigns to run – eliciting derisive applause from some Republicans. State-sponsored hackers probably have more pressing targets than American fourth-graders, but that doesn’t mean that their information, like everyone’s, shouldn’t be protected.

With his job approval ratings ticking upward toward 50 percent – and reaching that benchmark in some polls – perhaps Obama can get away with that little poke in the GOP’s eye. The cost of modernizing the country’s crumbling infrastructure, a favorite Obama issue, starts at $2.4tn, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The White House’s plans include new spending on tax breaks aimed at working families, which would be funded through an increase on top capital-gains tax rates and new taxes on many inheritances. “Do you want to continue to help trust-fund babies?” Mr. Obama would use the money to expand middle-class tax credits that he said would help give poor and middle-class people the tools to get ahead and better compete in a modern economy.

He even requested that astronaut Scott Kelly, who will spend a year in space, “Instagram it!” So far, Kelly’s not on Instagram—but he’ll probably be signed up soon. Practically speaking, both sides are right where they were before the address – suiting up for combat on issues where they disagree, and prepared to work together in the few areas where they agree, such as international trade and prison sentencing reform. “Finding common ground is what the American people sent us here to do, but you wouldn’t know it from the president’s speech tonight,” Speaker Boehner said in a statement. “While veto threats and unserious proposals may make for good political theater, they will not distract this new American Congress from our focus on the people’s priorities.” The official Republican response to the address, delivered by the newly installed Sen. A $3,000 tax break for childcare would seem like to run into the same shoals as Obama’s doomed tax proposal to raise fees on high earners again: this Congress cannot agree on taxes.

That’s not a pejorative term … The last thing they need is another $210 billion tax cut.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has said the president’s plan to raise taxes on high-income Americans—$320 billion over 10 years—undercuts hopes for reaching agreement on an overhaul of the tax code. Joni Ernst (R) of Iowa, also struck a populist note as she described her humble roots and her party’s desire to help “hardworking families.” But it was both Obama’s and Senator Ernst’s treatment of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that perhaps best telegraphed the politics of the next two years: Obama didn’t even dignify the proposed project – which would deliver Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico and which environmentalists oppose – by using its name. Millions of Americans were affected by a spree of breaches at retailers over the past year, while fallout from the explosive Sony Pictures hack kept cybersecurity at the forefront of the policy conversation in 2014 — but cybersecurity got much more attention from the president before addressing Congress than during it. At a speech at the Federal Trade Commission on Jan. 12, the president announced a set of data privacy proposals — including a notification standard for federal data breaches and a student data privacy plan.

The next day, he announced a slew of cybersecurity proposals, including a threat intelligence sharing plan and new authorities for law enforcement to use in investigating and prosecuting cybercrime. He was right to call for Congress to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force against the Islamic State, but said nothing specific about what that legislation should say. What’s clear is that Obama, though finished with his own campaigns, will keep himself at the center of debate as long as he can, even as the 2016 presidential race comes to dominate national politics. These rifts reinforced a sense of structural injustice that fed into the Occupy movement and then, later, a fascination with the work of Thomas Piketty, who Obama himself termed an inspiration. 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 means, he said, “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.” Middle-class economics serves several important purposes. 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. And Obama’s middle-class economics reflects, almost exactly, the Center’s project on middle-out economics, from apprenticeships to tax breaks to student debt relief. Much scrutiny has been focused on U.S. companies — particularly tech companies, such as Apple — that pay lower taxes by keeping their money abroad.

While Obama started his speech by saying the shadows had passed and the economy is strong, it’s clear that’s only a short-term reprieve from much larger economic forces favoring corporations and working against the middle class. In the long term, there are fundamental obstacles in our policy and financial system that will hinder the financial progress of those who can’t fall back on inherited wealth.

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