President Obama’s State of the Union address might, at first glance, appeared to have been more about legacy than policy, but it might have a practical strategy in setting up a scenario for another Democratic White House win. Republicans, who now have control of of the Senate, seem barely willing to tolerate some of the legislation the President has managed to push through, including healthcare reform. Knowing this, President Obama sounded a note of slight defensiveness when he said any attempts to roll back healthcare or climate change would be fought against. In his address, President Obama outlined an aggressive middle class tax break, a tax hike for the wealthy and the pledge of free tuition at community colleges, plans which are unlikely to pass a Republican-controlled congress, but which some conservatives labeled as divisive proposals that could lead to “class warfare, ” according to the BBC.
Why did President Obama discuss legislation that most likely will not be passed? He suggested closing tax loopholes concerning large inheritances, raising capital gains taxes from 23.8% to 28%, giving the middle class more tax credits, raising the minimum wage, providing equal pay for men and women and waiving tuition in community colleges to eliminate the burden of student debt on many young adults. The BBC called the speech “aspirational, ” but it might be geared toward the practical aim of giving a push to the next Democratic Presidential candidate. If these proposals never become laws, they will occupy a kind of visionary horizon upon which the next candidate will gaze at and make reference to. Few could argue that these proposals are not, at least on paper, attractive, except for far right Republicans who say the reforms will come at too high a price tag for the taxpayer. However, if these proposals are never signed into law, who will feel the pain? Who will pick up the bill?
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Obama’s aim in his State of the Union Address might be to make the Democrats look like good guys fighting for the middle class and Republicans appear to be skinflints of the 1% running up to the next election, based on their respective positions on these issues. White House Senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, hinted that vision was more important than concrete policy in this speech, “We will not be limited by what will pass this Congress, because that would be a very boring two years, ” he told the Washington Post.
President Obama advocated for the lifting of the decades old trade embargo against Cuba, arguing that it “was not working.” He also gave more clarity on possible action against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. US military intervention requires congressional authorization if the actions last more than 60 days. It seems that President Obama is willing to work with Congress for such authorization.