COLUMN: State of the Union has good, bad, no ugly
President Obama's State of the Union address was uplifting and progressive at some points, disappointing at others, but perhaps most important was what he left out.
First, the good. The president asked our country to come together as the American family that we are. He made sure to include Muslim Americans as well as gay Americans, who will soon be able to openly serve in the military. In these times of divisiveness and partisanship, it was refreshing for the president to appeal to our better angles.
He used strong words to support those immigrants whose parents brought them here illegally, which in practice means he is supporting the DREAM Act. He rightfully attacked giant oil companies, who get billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies while making many more billions in profit.
Secondly, the bad. President Obama came out in support of a five-year government spending freeze. It would seem as though the economic lessons learned from the Great Depression have been lost on President Obama. When the economy contracts there is a gap between what the economy could potentially produce and what it is actually producing.
To fill this demand-based gap, the government must temporarily step in and increase spending.
President Obama also seems to have stepped into the Republican trap of thinking that any regulation kills jobs. Granted, he threw a bone and mentioned that certain regulations are fine, such as child labor laws, but he seems to be under the impression that regulations from many decades ago are somehow stopping job creation right now.
Lack of regulation enforcement is what caused the banking crisis as well as the BP oil spill, but hopefully President Obama does not need reminding of that.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, President Obama managed to avoid the truly ugly. There was much hand-wringing in the lead up to the State of the Union speech that President Obama was going to come out in favor of cuts to Social Security.
Any cuts to Social Security are wildly unpopular politically but, more importantly, any cuts would be a violation of the public's trust in the “security” portion of Social Security.
Instead of coming out in favor of cuts to Social Security, President Obama reasserted his stance that no cuts, including raising the retirement age, are acceptable. It is comforting to know we have a president who is willing to protect and strengthen such a critical social safety net.
Politically it is good to know that it was Democrats who created Social Security, and it is Democrats who are willing to fight to protect and strengthen it.
The 2011 State of the Union address was a fantastic and centrist speech given by a centrist president. President Obama asserted himself as a leader, and sent strong signals that he intends to fight for his core beliefs. It will be interesting to see how such a visionary president deals with a divided Congress.