By MAX REINHARDT
On Tuesday night, primetime television viewers were forced to watch President Barack Obama deliver his annual string of banalities. College students often watch a politician’s speech and turn it into a drinking game. If average-student Joe had to take a swig every time Obama said “middle class,” “nation before party” or “let’s get this done” then he would have to be rushed to the hospital halfway through the president’s speech. But, hey, maybe Obama is creating jobs for ambulance drivers and EMTs.
People lambasted President George W. Bush for dealing in absolutes such as, “You are either with us or with the terrorists.”
Obama is a much cannier wordsmith. Congressional opponents of the president’s agenda will surely be cast as enemies of a strong middle class, higher wages, affordable health care and American jobs. This subtle division does nothing to ease partisan divides or bring Americans closer together.
The president’s speech included few surprises, fewer new ideas and no specifics. Obama said he wants to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but he failed to go beyond calls for enhanced border security and a pathway to citizenship. He said he wants to overhaul the tax code, but he gave no hints about what the new tax code would look like. He did not even mention his previous plans to lower the corporate tax rate, the highest in the world at 39.2 percent, according to the Tax Foundation.
Obama also announced his intention to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. However, all this will do is increase the price of goods and services by raising the cost of labor. He wants to help the poor, but this policy will make food, clothing and other essentials more expensive for those people. Such a change would also make it harder for younger people to find work. Many teenagers and college students take jobs that pay close to the minimum wage and if it is raised, employers will be forced to hire fewer workers to make up the cost.
However, family policy is one area where I can fully concur with the president. Obama stated he will work with Congress to “strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood–because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.”
This is fantastic. Increasing marriage rates, decreasing out-of-wedlock births and sanctioning stable families via statute would do a great deal to heal the American middle class and sway the economy in a more egalitarian direction. Unfortunately, this only won a brief mention in the most important political spectacle of the year.
Overall, the president’s address to the union was a disappointment. It was filled with platitudes and retreads and devoid of any sustentative solutions to the problems facing American families and businesses. Hopefully in the coming months, we will see a less combative, more cooperative presence in the White House.
Max Reinhardt is the News and Issues Chair and Secretary of the UMW College Republicans.