We live in a world of counter-vailing pressures. We are pulled in many different directions. We must evaluate decisions taking into consideration such things as personal goals, family security, financial impact, etc. This is made all the more difficult when that unknown, unpredictable and unexpected variable can pop up at any moment, changing the equation on which we based our decisions. Trying to take all of this in to consideration when making a decision can lead to frustration, equivocation or paralysis. While this world makes our own personal decisions complex and difficult, imagine how it impacts on Presidential decision-making. During 2013 the President seemed to be caught in a web that prevented him from making the kinds of decisions that would move America forward. However, in last night’s State of the Union Address he broke out of the equivocation and paralysis that marked 2013 and stated in clear terms that he is moving this country ahead with or without the aid of Congress. Most importantly, President Obama provided the Democrats a platform on which to run in 2014. His stated goals are not only achievable, but targeted at that part of the electorate that has been most severely impacted by the economic catastrophe brought on us by years of Republican irresponsibility and greed. While the prevailing Republican narrative is that the economy has not improved over the Obama Presidency, the facts tell another story. We are seeing the lowest unemployment rate in five years. We have a manufacturing sector that is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990’s. Our deficits have been cut by more than half. By the way, those are the deficits created by the Bush Presidency after he inherited a surplus from the Clinton Presidency. While the facts refute the Republican narrative, the nation seems to remain unconvinced by this progress. Perhaps it is the toxic political atmosphere created by the Tea Party and GOP that clouds our ability to see this real progress. To counter this GOP narrative, the President left no doubt that he is done waiting for Congress to find its way. He described his path forward and invited Congressional companionship on this journey. But, at the same time emphatically stated that he is not waiting for Congress.
The President highlighted issues that touch us all. He maintained his push for “equal pay for equal work” for women, an extension of unemployment insurance, an increase in the minimum wage and, of course, encouraged those who need it to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act by March 31. He also discussed capping student loan payments to 10% of annual income per year and starting a program of personal 401K’s called MyRAs. He called for improvements in education, and encouraged the business community to connect with educational institutions to design training programs that would lead to those jobs that are necessary in the workplace. He called for universal early childhood education and applauded individual states that had worked toward this without Congressional approval. He discussed public-private partnerships in the energy and high tech industries and called for tax laws that reflect those priorities.
While I won’t go through his entire laundry list, which also included voting rights, gun control and immigration reform, I will say that all of his objectives are achievable and beneficial to our economy and the stability and safety of the middle class. Most of all, as I stated earlier, they provide a Democratic agenda for the coming mid-term election. It takes the focus off of the ACA and provides a broader perspective of what the Party stands for. It also puts the GOP in a box. To run against the programs outlined last night places them at odds with women, the middle class, students, Latinos and African-Americans. It forces them to go after their traditional supporters who push them further to the right. In this situation they are going after a demographically diminishing group and furthering their own demise.
The President spoke with energy and vision last night. The State of the Union Address was not only a brilliant speech oratorically, but strategically as well. It will make the upcoming election challenging for the GOP and hopeful for the nation.