President Obama gave his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, highlighting, among other things, the need to work together and build for the future. As these things tend to go, much of his speech was filled with “feel good” platitudes and buzz words. However, when one cuts through the political speak, there is information to be gleaned about President Obama’s plans for the future.
For one thing, Obama touched on the need for cooperation and the avoidance of gridlock. This idea is not without merit, since congressional approval rating is incredibly low, according to some sources. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, only 13 percent of the people surveyed approved of the job Congress is doing. Of course, the reasons for disapproval can be complex, and are not necessarily due to lack of cooperation.
Another point that Obama made was the complexity of the tax code in relation to businesses. He spoke of the need to eliminate loopholes in the tax code and make it more profitable for businesses to stay in the United States, rather than to outsource. It is safe to say that this statement was met with more bipartisan support from the crowd. Many conservative people have long said that it is things like complex taxes and regulations that drive businesses away. To them, a serious revamping of the tax code would be a significant building block toward a better future.
Next, Obama talked about improving infrastructure and enabling small business owners and entrepreneurs. He made the point that more and better jobs will require better infrastructure to support them. He even claimed that he would act on his own to “slash bureaucracy” in order to improve infrastructure. Obama talked about the need to invest in and enable small business owners and pointed out that China and Europe are not idle in building businesses. However, many libertarians would say that the government can do the most good for small businesses simply by staying out of their way.
Obama also spoke of becoming more energy independent, citing the use of natural gas and how it is apparent in helping to fight climate change. He talked about the need for America to become less dependent on foreign oil for our energy needs and instead rely on alternative energy like natural gas and solar power. The droughts and floods that some people have to deal with were linked by Obama to climate change. He cited this as a reason for urgency in regulating the amount of carbon pollution that power plants are allowed to produce. Whether or not carbon emissions have anything to do with inclement weather is debatable, but it should at least be pointed out that not every scientist agrees with this sort of idea.
One of the major themes throughout the President’s address was his willingness to take actions on his own if Congress does not cooperate. This brings up the issue of where authority actually lies in the federal government and how much power the office of the President is supposed to hold. Some on the political right, especially libertarians, have been warning that Congress has been lax in carrying out its responsibilities and is ceding too much of its authority to the President. The President does have the power under the Constitution to issue executive orders. For most of the country’s early years, executive orders were relatively few. The first President to really change that trend was Theodore Roosevelt, who issued 1,081. The problem is, the line between a President using executive orders to help enforce laws, as opposed to making his own law, can get blurry. It can sometimes be difficult to know how much to take at face value in a speech like this.
Obama’s vision of the future was fairly optimistic and hopeful, which is good. However it seemed that he glossed over or ignored a lot of major issues. Whether the future that America has to look forward to is really as bright a President Obama suggests remains to be seen.
By Zach Kirkman