Friday, February 15, 2013

SOTU: What's the agenda? *UPDATED*

We are closing out the week of the State of the Union, so before I get into any critical issues with current government policy (Oh, let's hope I get writing.), let's look at the good work being, at least considered. As such, what is the president considering for the next year and on?

There were many good ideas, good moments, hit in the speech. Obviously continuing talk of doing something on gun violence is great, and his rhetorical flourishes in reaching out to the national audience were touching. I hope for the best. Then I remember the hundreds of hostile eyes on him in that room, eager to not piss off the NRA. ...Let's see what happens. This is unlike immigration, where I am guessing their is enough push right now, and fear in the GOP of Hispanics, to make something real happen.

But I was more interested in the "new" ideas.

Universal Pre-K. Or, preschool for all. This would be great. A heads up for all kids, to socialize, learn some early skills, and help parents entering or trying to hold jobs in the workforce. The struggle to find ways to get their kids into preschool is a struggle for many working moms. But the problem is making it real.

This involves some troubling areas for the GOP. Kids, they don't like kids. Education, they really don't like education. And the government making an investment in communities across the nation, ...I think you see where I'm going here. This will be a fight. We already know Newt Gingrich already leads the concept of getting kids into overalls and giving them comically small brooms. You can feel free to imagine what the wingery parts of the party are thinking. As I heard someone say, this will likely not happen in Obama's time in office. Maybe the foundations for it can be set in the next 4 years. Or, maybe, we will be surprised by movement on it.

Minimum Wage Hike. This is needed. The minimum wage continues to lag behind indicator, and leaves anyone working for this wage rate below the poverty line. That is just not acceptable. And the idea of tying it to a measure so we don't need to wait for Congress to move, that seems sound. Also seems pie in the sky. I just don't see the GOP not blocking this, as always. The president needs to move things with voters so the GOP has no where to go. As it is, the GOP has it's tested pablum about how horrible it is to pay people living wages, and the media eats it up (despite it all being crap). But we may yet see a Minimum Wage bump at least. I just can't predict what madness the House will pull.

Getting to Actually Vote. I was glad to see continuing as an issue. And the president humanizing the experience with the older woman, stuck in an interminable line is smart. I hope we will see real action on it. The president has formed a committee, that is good. He's put a Republicans who's worked for Romney and McCain, and helped in the swiftboating of John Kerry, that's...confusing and troubling. But as long as we see some real plans to improve voting, I'd be happy. Though it seems the simplest way to go is to enforce uniform rules on FEDERAL elections, which would push states and counties to try and streamline their own elections, and put pressure to be sure regions of the country don't leave poorer communities with inadequate facilities to vote. If a finding of the committee is that we need to deal with voter fraud I will be peeved. But, it is early days...Voting occurs next year. Get to work!

The Progressive Narrative. This, to me, is the real power of the speech. Policy can have a chance of passing the next Congress or not. But what is the narrative of who we are as Americans? Reagan helped usher in a contempt for government action, a sense we were all on our own. It was the era of the yuppies, in bad suits, getting rich on the backs of the middle class, leading to growing disparity and struggle.

Obama talks of something else, connecting with Americans. He offers up a return to building a middle class that is the heart of this country. To us all standing together. The Progressive Narrative:

"And now they are at the heart of the story President Obama has been telling the American people in his SOTU, in his second inaugural address, on the campaign trail last year. From last night: "It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth -- a rising, thriving middle class." And "A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs -- that must be the North Star that guides our efforts." And "no one who works full time should have to live in poverty..." And "Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. 
It is this kind of prosperity -- broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class -- that has always been the source of our progress at home." You are speaking our language, Mr. President.It wasn't because the president's speech writers saw the website and thought it sounded good. It was because they are reading the same polling we are, because they are seeing the same focus groups. It is because this is where the American people have come around to after flirting with the Tea Party "no government is ever good" rhetoric. America's middle class knows it is getting crushed, and it knows that wealthy and powerful special interests have been making out like bandits on the backs of the rest of us. People are rallying around the story we are telling because it is common sense. The progressive center of gravity we built with this narrative pulled the president and the public in our direction because the story is true, and because it has powerful resonance in people's lives." 

President Obama made a potent use of this annual event. But it is only the beginning. The new term of Congress has started, as has the presidents term. The work lies ahead. Everyone has to be sure that the Progressive Narrative isn't lost under conventional wisdom, beltway realities, and our own sad short term memories. We have to push back on what conservatives will try to do and try to not let happen. And we will need to likely need to push the president on some actions.

Oh, but now, what did the GOP have to say in response, cutting the president's ideas to shreds?!



Forgot to mention another important area that the president mentioned.

Infrastructure investment. This is something we've needed for years now. Bridges, levies, dams, national piping, electrical grids, roads, all have needed a serious investment. And more should have come in the stimulus we got four years ago. We need to do this. It means, work, jobs, and needed boost to the economy. And it means we won't go more years and have a severe crisis arise when grids die, pipeline rupture, areas getting isolated by dilapidated travel conditions, or another tragic flood.

I hope this investment can happen. We do need this work done.

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