Looking forward to Tuesday's State of the Union address, we are seeing a somewhat bolder Barack Obama. The White House has already pre-announced or leaked several "fourth-quarter initiatives," in the president's words. Some of these can be accomplished by executive order; most will require legislation. The measures that can be achieved by presidential order include reducing the down-payment or interest on federally insured mortgages to stimulate home ownership. Among the measures requiring legislation is a tax plan that would increase taxes on the wealthiest in order to finance the tuition help for community college students and more generous child tax credits for working families. Obama also wants an excise tax on large banks and he is calling on Congress to pass a law giving all workers seven days of annual sick leave. All this amounts to a salutary whiff of class warfare, of the sort that identifies the president with most Americans, against the one percent. And there will probably be a few more surprises in the actual address that have not yet been leaked.
If President Obama talks about his Cuba policy on Tuesday night, his State of the Union Address could be unlike any our nation has experienced. Tuesday night offers Obama a unique platform for giving power and voice to the new ways in which Cuba and the United States can engage with and relate to each other respectfully.
The fact is all of us depend on healthy natural systems for our prosperity, our progress, our very existence. The state of those systems is imperiled. We need our political leaders in Washington to help create a more promising future for our children, not put it at greater risk.
The President has introduced only the grand idea of providing tuition-free education for all students attending community colleges, an idea which, at first glance, seems to have great merit. But at this point we know very few details.
This was a busy week in politics, as the Republicans in the new Congress began a bout of legislating and President Obama ramped up his agenda in preparation for next Tuesday's big speech to Congress and the country.
The scene is a familiar one: Gettysburg, November 1863. Almost five months after one of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War, a crowd gathered for the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery. One of America's finest speechmakers gave the oration. President Lincoln also spoke.
We've finally emerged from the crash of 2008. We've had 58 consecutive quarters of job growth. Unemployment is declining. Productivity is up. Yet, most Americans aren't exactly high-fiving each other. Never mind the state of the union; the state of their households isn't great.
In his recent words on the issue, Obama is dead right. But having spent the past decade focusing on these issues, I'm not ready to take a "Birdman" victory lap through the canyons of midtown Manhattan just yet.
There are many positive signs in the US. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the 3rd quarter was up 5% on an annualized basis compared to the 2nd quarter (adjusted for inflation).
Free, high-quality public higher education. Expanded apprenticeship programs. Jobs that pay living wages. Workplaces that are free of discrimination. Strong union rights. Don't those sound great?
All in all, ever since his forceful response to the midterm elections, Obama seems to be getting more and more popular. In absolute numbers, of course, Obama still has a long way to go.
It's no secret President Obama is a sports-minded individual; video of him playing golf and basketball are ample proof. So from the moment the president enters the House chambers on January 20, he needs to talk tough, he needs to talk frank and he needs to talk sports.
I recently got an email invitation from a Democratic congressional office to come to a "watch party" to view President Obama's State of the Union address. His "fourth-quarter priorities," according to the White House-inspired talking points of the message, are "home ownership, free community college, and high-paying jobs." That sounds pretty good. But if you unpack the specifics, the president is offering pretty weak tea. Obama proposes to have the federal government cover 75 percent of the cost, if states will participate. This could save students an average of over $3,000 a year. By contrast, the original G.I. Bill of Rights of 1944 covered living expenses as well as tuition. The point is that this Obama proposal is not going to be passed by the Republican Congress in any case, so why not think big and act bold? Why not propose something that would make a major difference in the lives of millions of moderate income Americans and dare the Republicans to oppose it?
Je suis Charlie Hebdo. In fact, let's go even further: Nous sommes Charlie Hebdo. Because we are all Charlie, this week. However, most of the American media cravenly allowed the terrorists to dictate their editorial policy this week, which is truly disappointing.
As President Obama puts the final touches on his State of the Union address, there is one topic he should add to his checklist, or more accurately perhaps, his bucket list. No State of the Union report can be complete these days without addressing the state of the union's environment, and especially our vulnerability to climate change.
Surging stock prices will likely increase rather than decrease the costs of saving for retirement for most folks. Why? Because most people, including baby boomers who are inching closer to "retirement age", remain vastly underprepared for retirement.