In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama offered an optimistic assessment of America buttressed by proposals to enable the middle class to build upon the modest economic progress of the past year and sustain it for years to come. The obstacle, of course, is the Party of No, which in spite of the rejection of its policies by voters last November continues to plot a road to ruin.
The president called for universal public preschool across the country, providing the early education critical to long-term learning and assuring children from low-income families an opportunity to pull themselves into the middle class. He proposed a program to upgrade our crumbling infrastructure, which would provide jobs to out-of-work Americans. Funding for these and other programs would come from closing tax loopholes and increased taxes on the wealthy.
In the Republican response, Florida Senator Marco Rubio offered the usual boilerplate. There was the pro forma complaint about "big government." He complained about the president’s "obsession" with tax increases when the real problem is the Republican Party’s obsession with preventing tax increases while insisting upon deficit reduction. The targeted tax increases of the Clinton era played a key role in the economic boom of those eight years, just as the Bush tax cuts contributed mightily to the economic stagnation and ultimate collapse of the following eight years. Ideology-based as opposed to reality-based, the party’s Washington hierarchy continues to clamor for the same austerity policies that have failed and are failing all over Europe.
Mr. Obama again reached out to the party that never reaches back in the spirit of compromise, most notably on the growth in Medicare costs, but unlike past State of the Union speeches, he did not conceal his impatience. The president’s disgust with periodic fiscal cliff and debt ceiling theatrics came through clear in his declaration that the nation "cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next." And in urging Congress to finally address the climate change crisis he emphasized that he would act if Congress did not, hinting perhaps at institution of a federal cap-and-trade program like the one enacted in Massachusetts and New England to cut down on industrial pollution.
House Speaker John Boehner speaks regularly about the need to follow the will of the American people, and the American people expressed their will clearly last November 6. Americans should take note in the months ahead of who in Washington wants to invest in them and push the nation forward and who insists upon adherence to failed, rejected ideology.