Obama right on income inequality
John Nichols in the Nation : President Barack Obama wants 2014 to be a “year of action” in which the country finally begins to address a wealth gap that has made the term “income inequality” the catchphrase of the moment. And he framed the crisis well in his fifth State of the Union address:
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by — let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.
But Tuesday night was not the first time that he explained the problem in the right way.
He did precisely that six years ago — speaking specifically about inequality and declaring that government had an ability and a responsibility to address it aggressively and unapologetically.
Obama’s ability to identify the crisis, and his willingness to speak in blunter terms than his political opponents about its repercussions, got him elected president. By a landslide.
But can this speech restore the political fortunes of Obama and his party?
It’s going to be difficult, not just because second terms are always challenging, and not just because his political foes have no qualms about gridlocking government if they think it will benefit their electoral ambitions.
What Obama should have said
John Stossel in Reason : President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday wasn’t what I wanted to hear. This is what the president should have said:
On immigration: “Conservatives worry that people will come here to mooch off the welfare state or commit crimes. So how about letting people in with quick and simple procedures focused on checking for crime and terrorism, but saying no immigrant is eligible for welfare? That compromise makes sense.”
On National Security Agency surveillance: “After all the outrage over the Patriot Act, you must have been surprised, America, to discover that the NSA does even more snooping under my presidency. I will not abandon the basic governmental duty to keep citizens safe, but we should limit snooping to people whom we have probable cause to suspect might be terrorists.”
On climate change: “Climate: I think the greenhouse effect is real, but the evidence that humanity’s contribution to it will cause dire problems is debatable. Better to reduce Environmental Protection Agency micromanagement and let America get as rich as possible. This will help us cope with environmental side effects and afford the research necessary to find better sources of energy.”
On drugs: “I used marijuana and cocaine, and I understand that some people are harmed by drugs. But adults should have the right to decide what to put in their own bodies. If people struggle with addiction — as I’ve struggled to give up cigarettes — putting them in prison isn’t a smart way to help. Let’s legalize all drugs. End the futile and violent drug war.
“After all, you own your own body and mind. If more of our policies respected that fact, our union truly would be strong.”