President Obama's State of the Union speech was clean and simple but compelling for those like me who are partisan Democrats. It was a speech mainly geared to the base of the party and reinforced the reasons many of us believe it is crucial that we elect more Democrats. But it was also a speech to the middle class about moderation and how the government can help people. When compared to the official Republican response presented by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) it made incredible sense.
The president spoke about all the things I care about and did so in a very understandable way. He included references to developing national policy to combat the growing income inequality in the nation; support for universal Pre-K schooling; securing equal pay for equal work for women; continuing unemployment compensation for those who are still struggling to find a job; rebuilding the infrastructure of the nation; making sure we keep our promises to our veterans; guaranteeing quality healthcare for all; raising the minimum wage; guaranteeing voting rights and working to ensure civil and human rights for all people. It really was a speech about fairness.
Then I listened to the official Republican response from Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). We were also given the opportunity, I can't figure out why, to hear from the Tea Party, and Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY). My better judgment prevailed and I didn't take that opportunity. I instead listened to Ms. Rodgers. Rather than a five-term Congresswoman she came across sounding more like my kindergarten teacher. She spoke about picking apples on her parents' farm. It was a good presentation but seemed to leave out any real policy considerations that would make a difference to the majority of the people. She spoke movingly about her son with Down syndrome and somehow the question that came to mind immediately was who paid for his health care? Was it covered under the federally subsidized military insurance her husband received or rather the one she gets as a member of congress? I wanted to ask her who will continue to pay for his medical needs after he turns 26? She spoke about her background and how her parents guided her to save the money she made to help pay for college. What was lost was the fact that she worked on her family farm, an orchard that her parents bought in 1984 after moving back to the states from Canada. Her college savings came from what her family paid her from their business. How convenient. Then looking at her record in Congress it was interesting that someone growing up in a family that clearly loves the land got only a 2012 rating of 9 percent from the League of Conservation Voters yet a 100 percent from the Chamber of Commerce.
She shares what appears the general Republican response to voters, which in my words is, "If you made it, great. Then you are like me." "But heaven forbid that you were not born with a silver spoon in your mouth or parents who could pay you for work, or didn't come from a community with opportunities, then too bad." Republicans think that government should really only be there to help those who have made it and they still cling to the belief, after years of it being proven wrong, that trickle-down economics works.
We live in an age of hyper partisan politics and on the federal level it seems to get worse and worse. That is partially due to gerrymandering of congressional districts to the point where many on both sides of the aisle have secure seats, or at least the Party is secure in winning them. Then contrary to state governments which have to produce balanced budgets the federal government does not. Now contrary to what Republicans keep talking about in recent decades they have never balanced a federal budget nor have they really tried. It was Democrat Bill Clinton who produced the last budget with a surplus. But they like to talk about it to hide the things they like to spend money on.
The economics of the nation as I have understood them to be don't call for us to have no debt. A growing economy does call for investment that improves the economy for all and that includes spending money on education, scientific research, healthcare, improving the environment and leveling the playing field so that all people can compete fairly. These are the things that President Obama spoke of in his State of the Union speech and why I continue to be a partisan Democrat and proud of it.