State of the Union Address Barely Mentions Unions

by Mike Elk

Mike Elk

WASHINGTON. D.C.—Last night, President Obama gave his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress—but barely mentioned unions. The president did touch on a number of issues important to workers—such as increasing manufacturing in America, taxing the rich more equitably, increasing education funding and increasing enforcement of trade laws—but said nothing about increased attacks on workers’ rights around the country during the last 12 months.

This despite 2011 being the a year in which unions (especially those representing public-sector workers) have been under unprecedented attacks in places like Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana.

The only time Obama explicitly mentioned a union was in reference to  “Master Lock’s unionized plant” in Milwaukee, which he said is now running at “full capacity” because the company brought back jobs from overseas.

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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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Dean Baker on Obama’s State of the Union Speech

Center for Economic and Policy Research Co- Director Dean Baker issued the following statement following President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address:

“President Obama resisted the immense pressure from the financial industry and other opponents of Social Security and Medicare by refusing to call for large cuts in these programs in his State of the Union Address. Given the power of these groups, this would have been the easiest path for him to take. However, he instead insisted on the need to protect Social Security and to ensure that future generations of workers can also depend on it.

“In reference to Medicare and Medicaid, President Obama stuck to the facts and pointed out that the problem is the broken U.S. health care system, not inefficiencies in these programs. He noted the progress made in controlling health care costs in the Affordable Care Act, but acknowledged the need to go much further in containing costs.
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