Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SOTU 2011

Last night's State of the Union address was rather more subdued than in previous years. What struck me most, however, was that Obama was still very eloquent, direct, and specific about the direction that the government will be taking. I'm taking it as a good sign that Obama was able to outline specific decisions and positions that he hopes to pursue in the coming weeks and months.

The overall tone of the speech was on of reserved optimism, and the general theme was coming together to earn the future. It was a bold and timely speech, considering the recent partisan politics that have plagued the House, particularly over health care reform. Obama made some very startling promises and plans in the speech, one of which was the promise to veto any bill that had pet project spending slipped in. This may mean a mass increase in vetoed bills, but if Obama can stomach that, so should we.

I felt that the speech was well-prepared, and deliberately skirted around various topics in favor of more pressing matters. The President didn't talk about gun control, for example, because it has little to do with our current national issues. Similarly, the President did not mention abortion rights or anything surrounding the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice debate. Again, this was a deliberate tactic used to focus people on the major problems that are affecting us.

Perhaps the most moving part of the speech, IMHO, was Obama's discussion of green-energy jobs, using a revamp of our infrastructure and a new focus on green and renewable energy to boost job growth and bring our dependence on foreign oil to an end. What struck me most about this was that these plans seem very reasonable considering the new advances in technology, make sense on paper as well as in practice, and will likely pay for themselves in a matter of years, yet there are undoubtedly those who will oppose these plans.

The response by the GOP was equally interesting. It focused primarily on the elimination of debt by cutting spending in our government, reducing the size of programs, or eliminating programs altogether. These are good ideas, but I hope that Congress can use good judgment when they decide where to cut and how deep. The President talked about investing in ourselves, keeping education funding and health care up while trying to shave wasteful spending wherever possible. If that is how this will go, then I'm all for it. But I am concerned that programs such as education, a constant punching bag for the GOP, will suffer greatly when these cuts are proposed. The President also talked about cutting money out of the defense budget, citing the Secretary of Defense who said that some money could be cut out without infringing on our national security. It's a great plan because the DOD takes up more than 50% of our annual domestic spending, but it is also the place where GOPers fight tooth and nail for every cent. It is going to be a tough fight, either way.

My final point on the SOTU is that Obama failed to mention very much about taxation, other than to discuss reworking the tax codes for all income levels. This might be a good idea, but he also failed to mention the fact that many upper-class individuals have come out and asked for a tax increase to help offset the deficit. I was hoping that Obama would touch on this and explain that taxation of the wealthy is more fiscally responsible than cutting programs to their bare bones to offset our deficit. It was left by the wayside due to the recent vote to keep taxes at their current level, but I was hoping to hear more about it.

Overall, I felt it was a passionate, well-written, and well-received speech. We have at least two more to hear before Obama is up for reelection, and I am very hopeful that we will be seeing great success in the months to come.

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