Tuesday night, in his State of the Union speech, President Obama drew a hard line in the sand by saying he will oppose anyone who stands in the way of the progress and momentum that the economy and nation has shown in the recent months.
This is heartwarming news to his faithful supporters who have seen him, time after time, try to build consensus in Washington, only to be left at the altar again and again. Obama is, after all, a consensus builder, that’s just the sort of man he is. It’s a character trait, an honorable one in a town full of less than honorable people.
This nation has seen a record number of filibusters in the Senate, where scores of Obama appointees are still waiting to be confirmed so that they can start doing their jobs for the people, but they languish because of a dysfunctional congress, unable to confirm them because of petty party politics. Indeed, Obama called out congress saying they were out of step with an America that wants cooperation between congress and the executive branch of government.
As a matter of fact, it seems that Obama made a definitive election year statement last night: He is going to run against congress as an institution and its morality. The President said something last night completely out of the blue. It was about Insider Trading. You could hear a pin drop when he said it. It stemmed from a 60 minutes piece a while back, which found that members of congress are using their status to personally profit on their portfolios. After the report, lawmakers rushed to introduce bills saying they could not trade financial products based on private information they learned while a member of congress. Financial regulators have told members they are not exempt from insider trading laws but no member has ever been prosecuted. The STOCK Act, introduced by Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Timothy Walz (D-Minn.) would ban members from insider trading, and has garnered almost 250 cosponsors in the House. Similar bills have been introduced in the Senate. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has recently put the brakes on the legislation, saying he thought it was proceeding to quickly.
The President also spoke about economic fairness. Not class warfare or envy, just fairness. He spoke of the Buffet rule, named after Warren Buffet, billionaire investor and among the world’s richest individuals. The rule is simple-if a person earns more than a million per year, he or she pays 30 percent in federal income taxes. Obama sees what is happening across America as the middle class is in grave danger. The disparity between the wealthy and the rest of us is alarming. In fact, if the middle class goes, then our democracy will fall, there is no doubt about that. The top 400 wealth holders in this country currently own as much as the bottom half of all Americans. Imagine that! And what do the Republicans say? Well, they have another word for economic fairness, socialism. It’s make or break time for the middle class. job training, energy, manufacturing will all play a big role.
Speaking of manufacturing, Obama told us about GM. It’s an amazing story. GM is number 1 again, the top automaker in the world. Pulled from the brink of collapse by our President and his team, GM has made it back. Congratulations are due the President for this because his faith saved millions of jobs. He received an ovation from the Democrats during the speech when he spoke of this news but to my dismay, the Republicans just sat on their hands. It was an incredible sight to watch. Not hard to guess who Michigan and Ohio, among others, are going to vote for in the election. Especially since Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
In his 6 months prior to taking office, 4 million American jobs were lost. Another 4 million jobs were lost before his policies went into effect. However, in the past 22 months, 3 million jobs have been created in the private sector. There is no doubt that we are on the road to recovery.
President Obama gave us his road map to the future last night. It’s not an easy road. Here’s the question: Can we cut military spending, ask the wealthy to pay their fair share, cut corporate loopholes, pay down our public debt, and repair our infrastructure?
Ultimately, the voters must decide. But we need teamwork in Washington and the Republicans just don’t seem to want to be part of the team. That’s a shame.