February 13, 2013

It was a speech with same issues that dominated his campaign for reelection. In his first State of the Union Address since his return to the White House, Obama reminded American people of the need to do more to fix the economy. He called on Congress to join him in taking on “our generation’s task” to ignite the growth of a rising, thriving middle class.” The President admitted that while the economy is adding jobs, there are still many that can’t find employment.

Obama touched on economic growth and job creation as major areas where the government must act. He reiterated on the need for a balanced approach to deficit reduction, rather than the deep cut some in Congress especially GOP members, are seeking. His focus on the economy and unemployment reflects the numbers which shows unemployment rate at 7.9 percent, the level it was when he took office first time in 2008.

“It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country… the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love,” he said. The President’s emphasis on race, sexual orientation and migration, meant to boost people’s morale at a time when the American dream is becoming difficult to realize. While the President was not direct on these issues, he seized the opportunity to call on Congress, to work together for the good of America by putting interests of the nation before the party.

Since taking office, the President saw many of his plans hit the roadblock, due to partisan politics and gridlock reminiscent of way things get done in Washington. This time, he came out as more confident in calling for agreement between both parties as the only way forward, to resolving major economic and fiscal issues. The President asked for a comprehensive deficit reduction that would include new tax revenue coupled with spending cut. A balanced approach that would not only focus on major cuts, but also raise revenue through tax increase on the affluent.

“Let’s set party’s interest aside and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in the future.” “And let’s do it without brinkmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors.” “The greatest nation on earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. We can’t do it. Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, and pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” he said.

It was an attack on Conservative bickering and refusal to quickly answer his call for a debt ceiling increase. It took series of debates before Congressional GOP approved a temporary increase to pay the nation’s debt, despite his appeal for Congress to act timely after his reelection. The President made it clear in his Union Address that “deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.” Only solution is budget cuts with revenue increase.

Obama asked Congress to act on immigration reform, a sensitive issue Congress had failed to act on in the past. He called for increased minimum wage and faster troop’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. The need for equal opportunity for women through the Paycheck Fairness Act, an initiative Vice President Biden helped put in place, to make it easier for women to contest salary discrimination without forfeiting their jobs.

On foreign policy, the President mentioned North Korea’s recent underground nuclear tests, which the State Department called “provocative” and “regrettable.” The decision by Pyongyang, to carry out tests generated outrage worldwide and prompted the UN to meet about possible sanctions on the rogue States. In his Union address, Obama said North Korea can only make economic growth and prosperity by carrying out its international obligation.

Gun violence was part of the President’s speech. Victims of gun violence were in the audience to remind people of the havoc of a difficult war inside. Among them former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who got shot by Jared Laughner, while attending a political event. The recent killing of Hadiya, the 15-year-old from Chicago, killed a week after her performance at the President inaugural, was a reminder why Congress must address gun violence. The President did what he had done in the past by calling for tighter gun laws and a ban on assault rifles, which still face opposition by the NRA.

In his response to the President’s Union Address, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising star within the Republican Party and Tea Party favorite, criticized the Obama administration for what he called a bigger government. He said more government will hurt the Middle Class and blamed the President for creating more debts in four years, than his predecessor did while in office. “Grow the economy to create new taxpayers not new taxes,” he said.

Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available at Follow on Twitter @san0670.

Categories: Politics, U.S. Economy and Policies

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