State of What Union?

I was with a group of Obama volunteers and Neighborhood Network members Tuesday night gathered to hear the State of the Union. My first impressions were positive. Obama recognized the country needs investments in infrastructure to move forward. He pledged clearly that gays would be openly serving in the military this year. He refused to commit to any cutbacks in social security. He called for eliminating stupid subsidies to the oil industry and for cutting back other corporate tax breaks. And he renewed his call for ratcheting up the taxes of the rich and super-rich.

Most satisfying of all, the uplifting, optimistic sweep of the speech made the Republicans, and their efforts to induce panic from the mere existence of government, look like the delusional nitwits that they are. This was reinforced by Republican reactions to the speech in which they could really say nothing except: CUT THE BUDGET. It doesn’t matter what the program is, or its purpose, it should be cut, with the exception of the corporate welfare scheme otherwise known as the defense budget. It’s a boring act, one that has captivated a portion of the population looking for an easy way to rationalize their hatred of this President, but it’s ultimately a loser.

And that fact is why 24 hours later, Obama’s speech now feels somewhat disappointing. He had no reason to bend so far in the Republicans’ direction. The across the board spending freeze he pledged takes stimulus out of the economy, wins him no Republican votes because it doesn’t cut enough, and deflates the enthusiasm of his backers. Worse, from the standpoint of those of us who live in cities and states – in other words, all of us – it leaves the services provided by the governments of those places dangling in the wind. The state of this union depends on strong local governments. They are the service providers of first resort. And they employ tens of thousands of middle class people doing important work, many of whom have recently lost, or may be on the verge of losing, their livelihoods, their pensions and possibly their homes. Many of these local governments are on the verge of collapse.

Philadelphia’s situation is probably not quite that dire, but it may yet get there. With no love lost from the new regime in Harrisburg, the City’s social service safety net may get torn to shreds from state budget cuts. Any shifting of resources to replace those cuts from City tax generated funds will jeopardize other vital services. Across the river in Camden, we see an extreme case of how little anyone seems to care about cities and the people who live in them and it is not a pretty picture.
This is a crisis now, which makes meaningless the hopeful scenarios the President laid out for us of what will come when we can finally say that we have beat back the Chinese threat to our being No. 1 in . . . whatever. The President should have noted the crisis and told Ben Bernanke that his statement the other day ruling out loans to distressed cities and states is unacceptable. We all know the Fed can just print money, and will do so when the President demands it. They sent trillions in the direction of Wall Street and it’s scandalous that just a trickle was sent to cities and states, now leaving them to their own devices.

None of this means that I won’t work hard to re-elect Obama. The political system, awash in corporate money, has devolved to a place where neither Party can articulate a program that fully puts people before profits. But the Republicans are a serious, immediate menace on every front. We cannot give them, or any of their representatives more power anywhere, but certainly not the Presidency of the United States. And we especially can’t do that when the Supreme Court is so finely split between conservatives and liberals that a few more Republican appointments could literally result in delegitimization of the New Deal.

So as progressives we’re going to have to find a way to walk a fine line over the next couple of years. To just loudly criticize Obama would enable and invigorate his, and our own enemies, with the appearance of our weakness and division. But to laud him uncritically will mean that he has no one demanding that he do the right thing, portending an urban crisis of perhaps unprecedented dimensions.

Walking this fine line will be incredibly difficult. Some of us are going to tilt over the line one way or another to a greater or lesser extent. What is key to any chance to move ahead, however, is that we respect each other however much we disapprove of our particular way of walking that line. If we don’t, all the gains of the last century and this one, are at risk.

That’s my opinion. What’s yours?


I don't think there's any fine line to walk, Stan. I think we make ourselves crazy and let all the silly Communications Directors of the world contort our thinking too much when we worry about that kind of stuff.

We say Obama's dumb when he's being dumb (on dirty coal, on extending tax breaks to the rich, on bailing out Big Auto)
We say he's good when he's good (Getting serious about the deficit, talking tough on taxes)
Say he's awesome when he's awesome (On pushing renewable energy, On civil liberties and rights)

Anyway: we have to win the future!

God -- communication directors.

Stupid meaningless phrase aside; I think Obama was trying to set up a series of ways in which he can be bi-partisan. It's not entirely stupid as he has a divided Congress and Boehner is really feeling his oats right now, but he's being altogether too subtle about it. The man is too subtle. The age of subtlety is over.

so, I don't know... it was a cute speech, but it lacked any sort of overall focus. He doesn't seem to have any other agenda other than to convince Republicans that he's moved a little so they should move a little. We'll see how well that works out for him.

I was annoyed by all the anxiety about China. Guess what: China is going to get bigger than us. If it doesn't, that's pretty messed up. There are too many people in China. For it's economy not to outgrow ours, it's people would have to stay much too poor for anyone to be happy about. that's messed up. Let's all just deal with it and move on.

But when the President talked about the need for innovation he really lost me. I was watching the White House's Enhanced Version of the Speech. to illustrate the point about innovative business, they showed a photo of the President at a GM plant.


If the president things the innovations that are going to move this country forward are going to come out Detroit, he's nuts. He wouldn't have had to save the Company if they had any sense left in them for where cars are moving.

Anyway... I wouldn't worry about walking any fine line. The President usually controls the talking points in the newspapers. when he's on one we like: say it's great. When he's on one we hate: say it's stupid. Vote for him in 2012 and try to make sure everyone who turned out in 2008 does it again and maybe he'll make us glad we kept him. Shrug?

P.S. The man cannot tell a joke. It's just embarassing.

This Too Will Pass, adventures by the season.

State Of The Union

I cant believe I missed the State Of The Union but from the looks of it I didnt miss anything worth hearing.

Junior Williams

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