Politics Straight No Chaser: State of the Union address
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
Last Tuesday marked President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address of his second term. Like most, it was not terribly exciting and included bold policy talk, a call to work across the aisle to get movements accomplished and a notion that the state of the nation is strong. Obama said, “…with renewed confidence that the State of our Union is stronger,” which is unusual phrasing for a State of the Union address. Normally, saying something along the lines of how the state of the union is strong suffices, but this address was different.
Obama went back into presidential campaign mode at times throughout the speech. The policy promises he made during the State of the Union sounded like he was still trying to get elected. He took this opportunity to discuss issues on the fringe during the fall campaign. He talked about education at length and lamented the importance of preschool access across the country. He attacked Republican lawmakers for their inaction in strengthening education, infrastructure, and called for Congress to vote on a housing bill, something Rep. John Boenher (R-Ohio) seemed to get a chuckle out of.
The President discussed the failing infrastructure in the United States as well, citing that there are almost 70,000 “structurally deficient” bridges in the country that need to be renovated. In doing so, he called for a private capital to be invested alongside public funds in such things as schools, ports, and oil and gas pipelines. High-speed rail was another topic discussion point and echoed his past State of the Union addresses.
As expected, the address from the President wasn’t much different than any stump speech he gave during the campaign. One major policy proposal getting the most interest in the wake of the speech was raising the national minimum wage up to $9 per hour from its current $7.25. The goal is to get any family making the minimum wage to be able to stay above the poverty line. The underlying problem is the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation, therefore Obama promised to tie the minimum wage to the rate of inflation. There isn’t a good chance of it passing. There won’t be enough enthusiasm in the capital to get it done.
After the address, the opposition party gets a chance to rebut the President. The speaker Republican leaders tapped for the rebuttal was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). An up-and-comer in the party, Rubio possesses what the party needs; he is a good speaker, his policies match up fairly well with the party’s platform, he is intelligent and, to be frank, he’s Hispanic and from a swing state. It seemed like the right decision to let him rebut Obama. His speech at the Republican National Convention went well, so why not give him more time under the bright and apparently moisture sucking lights?
While the rebuttal is just a formality for the opposing party, this one turned into a story of its own. He did not come across as a smart, well-spoken politician. He falsely called out Obama for not addressing certain issues in his speech that were most certainly addressed by the President. Rubio claimed, “Instead of playing politics with Medicare, when is the President going to offer his plan to save it? Tonight would have been a good time for him to do it.” Well Rubio, did you read the speech? Apparently not, because this is what Pres. Obama said: “On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.” He offered a plan, and Rubio chose to ignore it and blindly attack.
Senator Rubio demonstrated his ability to contradict himself. He talked about his love for the neighborhood in which he grew up in and in which he still lives (omitting the fact he is moving out of it). He mentioned how Obama has created more debt in four years than former President George W. Bush did in eight. This claim is simply false. The five trillion dollar number the Republicans cite is a result of Bush. He expressed how grateful he was to have been assisted in his education by financial aid programs like student loans. He claimed that we need to make them easier to understand and work better for students. If that’s how you feel Senator, why did you support for the Ryan Budget, which would have slashed education spending? Why did you vote against extending lower student loan rates? You said it yourself Senator, you just paid off your student loans recently, thought you would understand. Don’t say you support reducing the burden on college students when you have been voting against their best interests. They know you’re lying. Lastly, a tip for you Senator, when you need female voters, it isn’t a very good idea to vote against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.