Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address: Tragedy Has Many Faces

 by Dr. Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

On February 12, 2013, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address. He concluded with an emotional appeal for gun control, repeating a call for Congress to at least put the matter of gun control to a vote after referencing the Newtown, Ct., tragic massacre of 26 children and other recent acts of gun violence in the US. It was an emotional high point of his address, and a very moving moment.

But there was another reference in his speech that also addressed life and death matters, potentially impacting not 26 but hundreds of thousands of those other of America’s most vulnerable—our senior population.

Earlier in his address, Obama declared “the biggest cause of the nation’s long term debt” was “medical for the aged”, in other words, Medicare. Saying this, Obama repeated his remarks of January 1, 2013, when he publicly declared on TV, while supporting the agreement in Congress to raise token taxes on the wealthiest 1%, that Medicare was the biggest contributing source to the deficit and debt.

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Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on President Obama’s State of the Union Address

by Richard Trumka

Richard Trumka

Richard Trumka

(Jan 12, 2013) Tonight President Obama sent a clear message to the world that he will stand and fight for working America’s values and priorities. And with the foundation he laid, working families will fight by his side to build an economy that works for all.

President Obama rightly put rising wages and good jobs as his top priority, and we fully support him. We applaud the President for expressing support for raising the minimum wage and tying it to the cost of living, ensuring the right to vote and promoting early childhood education. President Obama – and the Congress – need to end the destructive obstructionism and wrong-headed austerity that weaken our economic recovery. As the President said tonight, creating good jobs requires a deep commitment to building our economy for the next generation, including investments in infrastructure, manufacturing and high-quality education and public services.

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Incomes, Jobs, and the 2013 State of Union

By Dr. Jack Rasmus

 

Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

(Feb 11) On Tuesday, February 12, 2013, President Obama will give his State of the Union address. Previews from the media in recent days indicate he will talk about job creation and the problem of income stagnation for the middle class. Neither of these issues—jobs and income—have been seriously addressed for more than five years since the start of the recent recession in December 2007. More than 20 million workers remain jobless and real income for middle class families has fallen, and continues to fall, for the past five years according various measures.

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Obama’s State of the Union: No Jobs but More Business Tax Cuts

by Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

Not a word about the 25 million still jobless. Nothing about how to help the more than 7 million homeowners who have, or the additional 4 million who will soon, face foreclosures and evictions. Absolute silence about the dozens of states and hundreds of local governments in deepening fiscal crisis and approaching bankruptcy–and the hundreds of thousands of public employees who will pay for that bankruptcy with their jobs, wages, pensions, and health benefits. OK, some vague references to infrastructure and alternative energy jobs-over the next 25 years. Paid for by Obama’s explicit reference to cut Medicare and Medicaid benefits for tens of millions. But the most disturbing element of Obama’s State of the Union address last Tuesday night was his firm commitment to cut corporate taxes even further, and thereafter to move on to ‘simplify’ the US tax code in general–i.e. a code word in policy circles for further reducing top tax brackets which always results in tax cuts for the wealthiest households.

What Obama proposed in his address on Tuesday was a classic continuation of a supply side, ideological program focusing on business tax reduction, supplemented by various other measures to reduce business costs at the expense of consumers, workers, and others. But the problem today is not excessively high business costs. It’s not a supply side problem. Business has been cutting costs to the bone the past three years with massive layoffs, wage reductions, employee benefit cuts, hiring part time and temp workers, and implementing various productivity boosting measures. Obama and Congress have further lavished tax cuts and subsidies on business at historic levels the past two years. The Federal Reserve in turn has reduced business costs still further by reducing interest rates to record low levels. The result of all this business cost reduction has been a rapid return to pre-crisis levels of business profits and an accumulated corporate cash hoard of more than $2 trillion. And none of this $2 trillion has been spent by business thus far to create jobs to any reasonable extent.
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After the SOTU What We Want to Hear Next: The Fight for a Fairer Economy

By Amy Dean

Amy B. Dean

While I admired so much of what I heard from the President last night; after the applause dies away, we have to face the next difficult stage of this national conversation.  It’s the kind of conversation that gets to the tough decisions and real problems only alluded to last night.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama explained that in the past two years we have faced “the worst recession most of us have ever known.”  Historians and economists might differ in how they compare the recent economic crisis to the Great Depression. Nevertheless, Obama’s descriptions of our economic difficulties have a political effect. They lead people to liken him to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president who dealt with the last century’s most profound economic downturn.

Yet, as the State of the Union made clear, there is a critical difference between the two presidents. While both have similarly spoken of the gravity of unemployment and economic stagnation, we need to hear next if President Obama will follow FDR’s lead in highlighting the institutions that can bring about middle class prosperity in America. We need to know how the broad vision President Obama outlined last night will become a concrete plan to strengthen the government’s role in creating greater fairness in our economy.

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