If a presidency was a university program, President Barack Obama would be kicking off his junior year right now. And while he hasn’t quite switched majors, his State of the Union address showed he is shifting emphasis.
Although often lacking in detail, his address was moving and hopeful. As he noted: “That’s how we win the future. We do big things.”
But will Obama’s proposals actually lead us forward? Here’s how we graded him.
Veto all bills with earmarks, freeze federal spending, end the tax cuts for the wealthiest, strip the corporate tax of loopholes and lower it (while bringing in the same amount of money), reorganize and streamline the federal government, and most intriguing, move oil company subsidies to creating new energy technology. The president’s plans were bold, though the line from “True Grit” would apply if he were only overweight and one-eyed: tough talk, but is it feasible? We hope so.
This was his thesis, in a nutshell: If we’re going to compete in a global economy, we’re going to have to be competitive in the classroom. He warned that China and India are outpacing us in this area, and are seeing the benefits already. American students need better schools, committed teachers and access to the money necessary to pay for higher education if this country wants to retain its status as a world leader. He’s absolutely right, and while dramatic, his call to consider teachers “nation builders” was overdue. Now if only he’d have gone one step further and called for merit pay.
The president began by noting that the world has changed. But his line on this topic hasn’t. He’s called for clean energy investment and beefed up infrastructure (rail and Internet) again and again. Re-labeling these days “Our generation’s Sputnik moment” doesn’t change the fact that Obama’s proposals represent a long-term approach to a very immediate problem.
OK, he was barely even trying here. His security focus in this speech was largely a retread, and his insistence that American troops will begin leaving Afghanistan this summer seems misleading, given the pessimism of so many involved in the effort.
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