With last night’s State of the Union, President Obama showed that he does indeed have his campaign swagger back. The president has had to sit through EIGHTEEN (!) Republican presidential debates where the GOP contenders lied and called him names like the “food stamp president” and last night was his first chance to really rebut directly and forcefully.
President Obama spoke with a level confidence and command I haven’t seen in a long while. It seems that this speech marks the official start to his 2012 re-election campaign. As far as the tone and messaging of the speech it was strong and unifying with a clear signal that President Obama wants to get things done but the Republicans Congress is in the way. (Hint: Vote them out!).
Clearly, the Obama administration thinks Mitt Romney will be the nominee: last night’s speech reflected extensive preparation and framing around why President Obama should be re-elected and why Mitt Romney should go back to doing what he was doing before to (not) earn $21 million dollars a year as an unemployed presidential candidate.
Here are some of the big policy details from the speech for my fellow wonks:
Rich people need to pay their fair share in taxes. 30% to be exact.
This was the biggest proposal directly targeted at the forehead of Mitt Romney. Romney’s campaign, having the worst week ever, released his tax returns the morning of a State of the Union full of populist messages promoting fairness and income equality. Romney who made $21 million doing nothing has a 13.9% tax rate. Most normal people with regular jobs that give you direct deposit every two weeks have a rate of about 28% or above. President Obama isn’t having any of this rich guys paying more than their secretaries business and is focused on leveling the playing field for the bottom 99% (*waves at Occupy Wall Street*).
The “Buffett Rule” which should really just be renamed the “Romney Rule” is welcome news just as the Republican party’s maybe inevitable nominee is Mr. 1%. Romney who has whined that Democrats are using the “politics of envy” and President Obama came back to counter that exact point with, “When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich,” Obama retorted. “It’s because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference – like a senior on a fixed income; or a student trying to get through school; or a family trying to make ends meet.”
Law & Order: FCU (Financial Crimes Unit)
President Obama wants to investigate Wall Street. He is enlisting the help of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as well as attorneys general from other states to work together with the Department of Justice “investigat[e] abusive mortgage lending and the packaging of risky mortgages that contributed to the financial crisis.”
The president said in his speech, “If you’re a big bank or financial institution, you are no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits,” he said. “You’re required to write out a ‘living will’ that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail — because the rest of us aren’t bailing you out ever again.”
Then came a shout out to his brand new Consumer Protection Bureau chief Richard Cordray which is an important detail in the speech not only to highlight his administration’s work to prevent another financial collapse but also to highlight partisan obstruction that forced him to recess appoint Cordray instead of the normal process of Senate confirmation.
I killed Osama Bin Laden and ended the War in Iraq
President Obama highlighted the fact that he killed Osama Bin Laden twice in his State of the Union. Why? Well, first to start off strong and be like “See what I can do when Congress let’s me werk!” and then at the end to highlight what can be done if people work together like the Navy Seals did. I can’t say for sure if everyone can relate to that message of team work to kill Osama but they sure can relate to the relief that he’s no longer a threat.
Lastly, there was a shout out to the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform (which won’t happen but sounds wonderful) as well as reminders that he saved the auto-industry,and wants Americans to go to college so that they can be better prepared for the workforce.
It’s unlikely that any of the proposals outlined in last night’s speech, however admirable, will pass the Republican House in this contentious election year. Last night’s speech serves as a good marker for the American public to watch the video and then think back to the myriad GOP debates in order to do a mental comparison. That is the choice we face in the coming months and the two visions for the future of the country couldn’t be more distinct.