2013 State of the Union: Leaving crisis mode, laying a strong foundation


The State of the Union address is Washingtoon pomp at its finest. Everyone makes sure they have the right special guest and place near the teevee cameras to scene and be seen. But this year it’s also an important event because the newly elected President tells the nation what his last term will be all about. This is my rough “live blog” of the big show.

Obama opened with the progress that’s been made, and there has some. “We have cleared away the rubble of crisis” was a bit over-stating it, but things certainly could be worse. Pledging to increase opportunity is great, but I can’t help but think the Middle Class is something like the weather – everyone talks about it but no one does anything about it.

Hitting up the Fiscal Cliff early on was a good move, but avoiding sequestration is going to be a lot more than talk. To lay out Medicare reforms as part of the package was the first olive branch, and that will probably be the talk of the Left after this. A partial embrace of Simpson-Bowles was also nice in that it stakes out the middle ground for Obama.

Comprehensive tax reform – more than just closing loopholes – is a good thing that Obama and Boehner alike are in favor of, so it seems as though Obama is willing to support the beleaguered Speaker a bit. That’s good news for moving something forward through the House. It’s also just a damned good idea.

“The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.” I liked this section a lot, and it’s worth highlighting.

Obama talked about more manufacturing jobs, like a good Democrat, but his proposals seem pretty weak all around. Manufacturing hubs are not bad, and could have long-term payoff, but the structural problems of high employee overhead and a strong dollar didn’t get any mention. Tech investments are helpful, but outside of energy and environment there doesn’t seem to any strategic focus.

Between that and the infrastructure development pledge, Obama does have a solid growth agenda. It’s a good balance with the austerity of spending cuts and tax increases that he opened with.

Preschool, aka early child education, is one of those things everyone agrees is a great investment, but somehow we’ve never gotten around to funding. I hope Obama can be the one who finally makes this universal. Calling for real technical skills that lead to a job right out of High School is very important, and also something that is long overdue. The college scorecard is something I’ll have an opinion of when I see it.

On to comprehensive immigration reform – something the Republicans have decided they don’t want to be on the wrong end of. However, the number of people crossing from the South is really more of a function of how things are going in the economy than anything else. The real bipartisan standing ovation came when talking about skilled workers, so let’s see if that can happen. It should be a gimmee.

Raise the minimum wage? I wonder where he’s been with this the last four years, but let’s welcome the prodigal president. Tying it to the poverty line is very important, and I hope we can get it. I hope it also ties back to his call for a simpler tax code, too.

It seems funny to hear Obama talk about war and al Qaeda. This Democrat has a pretty strong record of success on this front, facing far more criticism from the Left. His promise to have a more transparent legal framework is good, but another one I’ll believe only when I see it.

Being the beacon of hope and freedom around the world is easy stuff, and it sounds more like a campaign speech than anything else. I really hope support for the Veteran’s Administration is also bipartisan.

And there was “common sense” gun reform. Hadiya featured prominently, as well she should. That was a terrible tragedy. The call, “They deserve a vote” is a strong one, and it should be clear that something will happen.

Did we learn anything new here? Perhaps not, but the commitment to solid growth and equal opportunity did seem to me like a president leaving crisis mode and seeing a strong foundation to build on. That’s been my theme as well, and it seems very appropriate. It seems like what 2013 will indeed be all about, and I hope we can carry it forward. This was a Democrat speech with a lot of initiatives, but I believe that is what the times demand.

What are your thoughts on the State of the Union?