State of the Union: Obama’s hollow speech

By IndepthAfrica
In Uncategorized
Feb 13th, 2013
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President Barack Obama makes a statement on Libya, Friday, March 18, 2011, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo)

President Barack Obama makes a statement on Libya, Friday, March 18, 2011, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo)

By Matt Miller,

At times like these, I wish I wasn’t a policy wonk. Or at least not one who can’t help asking if the reality of a president’ proposals come close to the rhetoric they’re couched in. I want to believe. I thought the president looked great up there. It’s exciting to see man in full enjoying his moment. I’m inspired by a vision of America in which every child has access to high quality preschool, hard work earns a living wage, and manufacturing jobs come roaring back. I loved the “they deserve a vote” refrain on gun reform. And who couldn’t love that 102 year old woman who’d waited hours on her aching feet to vote? What better symbol could you find of the need for change?

And yet. People say when they read a story in the newspapers that they actually know something about, they can’t believe how wrong the papers get it. Watching a State of the Union is a little like that for wonks. Obama’s framework was exactly right: “How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?” But when you look at the details the White House put out on the president’s proposals, it’s less clear that he’s offering real answers.

Take the minimum wage. I ought to be thrilled. My column last week argued that a minimum wage hike should be part of Obama’s State of the Union, and there it was! It doesn’t get much better than that for a columnist, to feel like you’re a small part of the stream of argument helping nudge policy in the right direction.

And yet, Obama wants to take the minimum from $7.25 to $9, “in phases.” If he gets it – a big “if,” because of senseless Republican opposition – it would mean that when our community-organizer president leaves office, the minimum wage would be worth 15% less in real terms than it was in 1968. Would it be a life-enhancing boost for millions of Americans? For sure. Is it what a decent minimum in America ought to be? No. Read More

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