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Martha Burk Headshot

How Long Must We Wait for Leadership?

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Leaks and pre-releases abound on tonight's State of the Union address, but from what the White House has already divulged, one thing is clear. Our president can't see the proverbial forest for the trees. While giving lip service to "jobs" as the most important issue on his mind, the list of initiatives makes our esteemed leader look like he's wearing blinders:

- Nearly doubling the child care tax credit for families making under $85,000, and increasing the federal fund to help parents pay for child care. Nothing wrong with that - except for one thing. Families needing child care are families that have jobs. Strike one.

-Capping college loan repayments at 10% of borrower's discretionary income to make payments more affordable. Economics 101 would tell us that if you don't have a job, you don't have any discretionary income. Strike two.

- Requiring employers who don't offer 401(k) retirement plans to offer direct-deposit IRAs for their workers. That's a great one - if you have a job. Strike three.

At a time when the country is bleeding jobs and that ever-hyped "hope" of just a year ago, the administration is burying its head in the sand and pretending that promises will substitute for action. Tax credits don't mean anything if you're not paying taxes because you aren't getting paycheck. And rhetoric promising to "fight" for jobs doesn't match reality unless so-called employment initiatives actually put people to work.

Are these small-bore and relatively meaningless gestures all we can now expect? Not quite. They're being paired with a government spending freeze on domestic agencies. That will be a pittance in comparison to the deficit, but it's clearly designed to appeal to the Tea-Partiers who turned out to turn over a Democratic Senate seat in Massachusetts last week. The fact that those folks wouldn't vote for Obama under any circumstance seems lost in the administration's muddle.

Where are the bold steps? Where are the big ideas? I've cycled through many opinions and feelings about the president since I watched him take the oath of office last January. Hope first. A little nagging doubt next, as he pandered to Republicans with no intention of cooperating. Distrust when Wall Street marched on while Main Street crumbled. Now despair.

To paraphrase the suffragists who picketed the White House in 1917asking "How long must women wait for liberty?" we must now ask: Mr. President - How long must we wait for leadership?