In State of the Union, Obama Presents a Powerful Progressive Agenda
In the first State of the Union address of his second term, President Barack Obama sent a clear signal: He will vigorously pursue an unambiguous progressive agenda in his final years as president. Universal preschool, boosting the minimum wage, passing gun-safety legislation—Obama delivered a left-of-center demand list for Congress and his administration. He talked far more about jobs than taming the debt. He certainly cited his own efforts to reduce the deficits and hinted at another version of the grand bargain—pairing cuts in entitlements with a boost in tax revenues—the holy grail of the inside-the-Beltway set. But he advocated “modest” Medicare reforms, citing limits on payments, not benefits, and decried those calling for deep cuts in this program and Social Security. And he declared he would not yield to those seeking such cuts to stave off the soon-to-hit sequestration.
“We can’t just cut our way to prosperity,” Obama insisted, once again drawing the line between his progressive view of government as a source of investment in jobs-creating innovation and infrastructure and social development and the tea party-ized GOP’s belief that the only solution to the nation’s economic woes is slashing government and the tax bills of the well-to-do. This was the face-off he established after the shellacking of 2010 to set up the campaign of 2012. And that certainly worked out as he intended. Now re-elected by a healthy margin, Obama is willing to defy the conventionalists of Washington who fixate on debt and, instead, speak of other priorities: educating children, enhancing the purchasing power of low-income Americans, and protecting citizens from gun violence. This is a president setting his own course.