Watching the video above, it's hard not feel nostalgia about the hopefulness and inspiration we all felt during the Obama campaign. He promised to be an advocate for LGBT Americans and LGBT Americans came out in droves to support him. We all believed he would be different.
And tonight, during the State of the Union Address, we saw the first tiny step in the grand direction promised over a year ago. Barack Obama did, in fact, call for an end to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy that keeps so many Americans, upwards of 60,000, in the closet for fear of losing their jobs. He was an advocate for gay rights tonight, albeit in a tiny way on a tiny issue, but an advocate nonetheless.
This is what we expected, what we hoped for when we listened to inspiring speeches on the campaign trail. We just wanted a little of that inspiration working on our side.
But the truly amazing part of the State of the Union was not the first ever mention of gay rights in such a speech. Gay rights in the military seemed like child's play compared to the radical ideas Obama threw around over the last hour.
First, Obama has proposed to put thirty million dollars recovered from the much hated bank bailout back into the banking system. Sounds crazy? It just might be. He states that it will be for community banks, but distinguishing a community bank from a big bank is often harder than it looks. Who or what exactly qualifies for this money has yet to be seen. I, for one, am skeptical of funneling more government money into private banking institutions when we are working so hard to keep the budget down on real initiatives that change lives, like health care reform.
Second, Obama proposes eliminating capital gains taxes on small businesses. This is one the most radical tax plans I've ever heard of. Many countries have capital gains exemptions for small businesses, but those are often capped at a certain number. The cap means that truly profitable institutions that illustrate no more need for protection from taxation are held accountable for their share of the money made. Eliminating capital gains altogether for small businesses will not distinguish between the money makers and the vulnerable institutions in need of a little assistance. This will only encourage corporate organization and re-organization to take advantage of this blanket exception.
In a time of great debt, we should be encouraging smarter taxation, more pointed taxation, not an elimination of taxation. The government is potentially cutting off an important revenue source with this initiative.
Third, Obama called for more offshore drilling as part of a green clean energy plan. He actually included opening new offshore sites in his list of ways the United States would take the lead in environmentally friendly energy production. This turn of events, the adoption of Palin's "Drill baby drill," now, a year after the campaign, astounds me.
Finally -- and this was shocking, but also warmed my heart - Obama openly chastised the Supreme Court for their decision in Citizens United to open up corporate campaign funding. He actually called their decision a problem that needed correcting. The Justices looked displeased, to say the least. Surprisingly, Obama's "with all due respect to the separation of powers" introduction, did little to soften the blow of his remarks. I hope, and perhaps this is my most fervent hope for the fallout of this great speech, that the House and the Senate come together to override the Supreme Court's decision in this case and re-implement caps and transparency requirements for corporate interference in the democratic system.
At the end of the night, there are a lot of details that still must be disclosed. Viewers are left wondering about the content of many of these broad initiatives. Still, State of the Union addresses are often vague. They demand vagueness, really. And this particular address set out incredibly ambitious goals, tread new ground, especially on LGBT issues, and might just have given the President the boost he needs to actually get something done.
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