Prior to last night's State of the Union address, there were hints that President Obama was going to go a more populist route. He did just that, as well as jab the Republicans with some velvet-tipped spears to prod them into doing more than just disagreeing with whatever he proposed. It was entertaining to watch, but will likely not inspire them to do anything different, especially since they all seemed glued to their seats, with what must have been lemons in their mouths.
He opened with a salvo of good economic news, obviously targeted at Republicans who have tried to paint the economy with bleak colors despite the rosy reality. He then mentioned he wanted to talk more about values than specific items (this is where he pivoted into populist mode), but he still mentioned numerous specific program ideas along the way, covering numerous topics.Economics:
- He focused on economic fairness (pay, school loans, etc.)
- He mentioned the phrase "Middle Class Economics", so look for that to become a familiar talking point.
- Speaker Boehner didn't even clap when Obama said he would lower taxes for "working families". Aren't the Republicans big on lowering taxes for "hard working American families"?
- He also once again advocated for raising the minimum wage, saying "If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15K/yr - go for it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise". Mic drop!
- He advocated for affordable childcare, saying it affected large numbers of working families. Republicans will reflexively be against this because SOCIALISM!
- He asked for guaranteed sick leave & maternity leave, saying we are the only advanced nation not doing it. Once again - America isn't some damn socialist European country - we were born with bootstraps and we know how to use them!
- He promoted equal pay for women for the umpteenth time. Once again, the Republicans stayed in their seats and did not applaud. Think about that next election day, all you Republican women.
- President Obama recently promoted the idea of free community college. Considering that Germany and other countries with whom we compete on the the global marketplace provide completely free secondary education, this seems like a no-brainer (pun intended). Naturally, Republicans will hate it.
- Student loan payments are killing graduates, who often owe more than they borrowed after paying on their loans for years. This is a real problem for the economy, sucking "disposable income" that might be spent on consumer goods and services down into a black hole instead.
- It wasn't until President Obama recognized the service and sacrifices of military veterans did Republicans finally stand up and applaud. I had predicted this earlier in the day, and was sadly correct.
- He stated that for America to compete globally, and attract businesses and jobs to locate in America, we need a 21st centure infrastructure. That included solar energy and faster internet. He also took a jab at the Keystone XL pipeline, saying "let's set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let's pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come". Mic drop!
- He requested Congress approve trade deals to help bolster exports.
- He announced a Healthcare research initiative to work towards eliminating deadly diseases.
- He asked for Congress to close tax loopholes to pay for the things needed to help working Americans.
- He started out the Foreign Policy section of his speech with some sadly jingoistic applause lines referencing terrorism, and asking for more power to act unilaterally (yes - that's scary).
- He pointed out that the use of military AND diplomacy works better than bluster and knee-jerk reactions. Republicans hate that, because all they know is bluster and knee-jerk reactions.
- He mentioned his recent change to Cuba relations, calling it an "expired policy" from the Cold war.
- He touted advances made in discussions with Iran to de-nuke, saying he would veto any bill from Congress that proposed new sanctions. Meanwhile, McCain could be heard humming "bomb-bomb... bomb-bomb Iran" (just kidding).
He touched on internet security, and why it's so important. He also called out the science-deniers who are fighting any changes to policy or law that might alleviate climate change. Who ya gonna believe? Most scientists, or your elected Congressman who starts every discussion about climate change with "I'm no scientist, but..."?
He wrapped it all up by saying he wanted to mention American "values". Among those:
- Close Gitmo - we spend too much money keeping that hellhole afloat.
- He appealed to Congress to lead and find common ground, not fight. The Republicans all looked dour and did not applaud. Sigh...
- He said nothing is more American than protecting voters' rights.
- He asked for an update to the criminal justice system that protects the public AND the officers, returning to their ostensible raison d'être of "protect and serve".
It was fairly exhaustive. What most people will be talking about, though is when he said all this had nothing to do with running for office: "I have no more campaigns to run... I know, because I won both of them". Mic drop!
The Republican "rebuttal" from Jodi Ernst was just - odd. It started off by her saying she wasn't going to do a rebuttal, then continued with her talking about bread bags on her feet. The entire time she wore the same fake plastered on grin (which matched her equally plastered on hair) and spoke about nothing specific, except to say that ISIL is very bad and we should react with fear.
In other words - it was everything you'd expect from a Republican politician in this day and age. At least she didn't reach for a water bottle.