(ALSO KNOWN AS TWO SEATS ON THE AISLE)
According to CNN, Americans love optimism. They don't want to hear bad news or pessimism. They want us all to get along and it was such a nice image to see members of Congress sitting together during the State of the Union. Americans want leaders who will tell them things are going to bet better and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of opining the light might be a train or that the state of the union is broken, leveraged, captive of the richest 1%, nor did he say unless the nation spends on education, infrastructure and innovation we will be in deep trouble. His speech was a jumble of calls for investment, but he didn't call out the regressives and tell America to choose between going back and making progress. It was a soft focus speech lacking force or inspiration. Yet, he did lay out some important issues for debate.
The President wants to spend more money on education. He wants improved K-12 and expanded community colleges. He understands fewer Americans are graduating from college at a time when their counterparts in India and China and the European Union are flocking to higher education. He didn't address the cost nor did he take the bold step of setting a goal of free university education for anyone who qualifies. It would immediately stimulate the economy, put money in the pocket of the middle class and allow students more flexibility in choice of profession.
The President wants Americans to ride high-speed rails. He failed, however, to explain how to stimulate American technology to fit this need. Right now, his call for high-speed rail would create jobs in China. The same is true with wind power and other alternative energy industries. We need a Manhattan project for manufacturing. Make grants available to start-ups all over the nation and see what sprouts up.
All Americans need access to high-speed wireless technology at real high speeds, not the phony speeds currently being touted. We need a totally new electrical grid and our roads and bridges are falling down or crumbling. Jobs would be created and the economy improved by better transportation. IN China, they are building huge highways with few cars to use them along with new airports and entire cities for manufacturing. What are we doing?
Most of what the President called for he has proposed before. Unfortunately, there was no urgency and there was no listing the consequences of failing to move ahead on this agenda. Maybe moving to the center means losing all energy and oratorical panache.
The Regressive response was predictable. They rejected any talk of investment. They rattled the skeleton of massive deficits and calls for shrinking the government and cutting spending. Of course they said nothing about the huge deficit a tax cut for the rich creates nor the $250 billion, which would be added to the debt if they repealed the healthcare reform legislation. They ignored the reality if they had gotten their way in 2004 and privatized Social Security, Americans would have lost between 40%-60% of the value of their retirement accounts. Republican Paul Ryan gave their response and decided on the tried and true method of argumentation...lie. He claimed the economic stimulus package was a failure. (Even acolytes of Milton Friedman admit Obama kept the recession from being much deeper and longer) He says his party wants smaller government even as they support new laws in states across the country to restrict a woman's right to choose. He mentioned nothing about tens of thousands of subpoenas issued by the federal government to Twitter, Facebook, Google and others to obtain information about our online activity. As he made Cassandra-like noise about deficits, he did not propose any tax he might support increasing and regressives rejected any attempt to end subsidies for the oil industry.
The regressives don’t want to shrink government. They want to use it to erode the 4th amendment, control what people do in their bedrooms, stop states from easing criminal sanctions on marijuana, impose on families the type of planning they can have, maintain two wars and protect the interests of oil and coal corporations from the wrath of a public fed up with their destruction of the environment.
President Obama didn't draw any lines in the sand, but the feint outline is there to see. Do we progress, expand education, rebuild the nation, create new industries and manufacturing and give our people the tools they need to compete or do we watch the dismemberment of regulations and oversight; the expansion of the hyper-rich at the expense of the middle class; end the social safety net and unleash a social Darwinism unseen since the early part of the 20th century? Regressive will "invest" in the richest 1%, cut corporate taxes, expand the oil and gas industries, reduce access to education and information and claim it's all in our best interest.
I wish Obama had called them out, warned America what the real stakes are and called for 2012 to be a referendum on whether America is for everyone or just for the elite few. He didn't. However, he was right and his direction is accurate and he knows if the regressives win, this nation will see the sun rise on prosperity in Asia and the Far East and set on the American dream.