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The Telegram
  • Editorial: Obama’s America, from ‘stronger’ to strong?

  • "It’s the economy, stupid.”


    It took four full years for President Obama to take that Clinton-era mantra fully to heart, but he finally got around to it in his State of the Union Address Tuesday night, making economic progress for the middle class the centerpiece of his second-term agenda.

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  • "It’s the economy, stupid.”
    It took four full years for President Obama to take that Clinton-era mantra fully to heart, but he finally got around to it in his State of the Union Address Tuesday night, making economic progress for the middle class the centerpiece of his second-term agenda.
    He emphasized that some of that had been achieved in his first term -- 6 million new jobs, an increase in the sale of American cars, a housing market rebound, a stock market that on Tuesday reached its highest point in more than five years -- but acknowledged it was not enough for a certain segment of the populace that shared in the pain of the recession of a lifetime but not much or at all in the gain of the modest recovery. “Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.” That’s stronger -- a relative term -- not strong.
    Toward that latter goal, he appealed for bipartisanship -- “The American people ... don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party” -- in tackling the federal government’s budget challenges. That begins, the president said, with trying to avoid the cuts mandated by sequestration, which he labeled “sudden, harsh, arbitrary.” Given their insignificant size as a percentage of the budget, the deficits and the economy, and the length of time we’ve known they were coming, one would suggest that none of those adjectives is accurate.
    Again Obama put the onus on Republicans to come up with revenue increases -- “by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected” -- as opposed to forwarding budget cuts of his own in order to get to $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade, while simultaneously arguing that “deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.” Perhaps not, but it’s the start of one, for U.S. job creators who want greater long-term certainty about where Uncle Sam is headed before they begin hiring again, and for those kids and grandkids who appreciate that their economic security will not be enhanced by getting stuck with the bill. In his one concession on entitlements, the president did open the door to “modest reforms” of Medicare, conceding that the “biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population.
    In an apparent attempt at silencing his critics, Obama noted that “it’s not bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.” Well, it may be smarter, but it sounds bigger, too. In any case, toward that end he’d back “a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America.” The devil is always in the details, but it’s hard to be opposed to that outcome. This page certainly doesn’t expect Congressman Aaron Schock to have much objection to the president’s promised infrastructure investments, including to “nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country” -- nor Caterpillar, for that matter, which got a shout-out from the president. As Obama indicated -- to laughter -- there’s hardly a politician in America of any stripe who doesn’t show up at the ribbon cuttings. He wants more free trade agreements with Asia and the European Union, which also must be music to a certain local manufacturer’s ears. He’d dust off his American Jobs Act.
    Page 2 of 2 - Beyond that, the president’s desire to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour is likely to hit a wall, particularly with unemployment still relatively high. There are always tradeoffs, and while that may put a little more coin in people’s pockets it could also empty them if they lose their jobs because of it, or it raises consumer prices. He’s feeling his oats on his green agenda, which he threatened to impose by executive order if Congress is not of like mind. This is a man who clearly believes in the “judgment of science.” And he’s also a president, not a king.
    Economics was not the only subject on Obama’s mind. Immigration reform is near the top of his list; given political realities, one predicts he’ll get it. He wants policies to “encourage fatherhood -- because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.” Hear, hear. He plans on bringing 34,000 U.S. soldiers home from Afghanistan in the coming year, with the war “over” next year. It’s time. Mentioning North Korea, he wants to “prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons,” which also begs the question: Does that include our own drones?
    Finally, he wants a vote on his gun control package, which may have been an acknowledgment that is all he’ll get. Frankly, this page would like to see every member of Congress on the record on this issue, as well.
    Frequently in the hour-long address, one could not escape the sense that we’ve heard all this before -- on the campaign stump, in his inaugural address. MSNBC and the New York Times will love it; Fox News and the Wall Street Journal will hate it. We’ll see if such redundancy yields different results.
    - Peoria Journal Star
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