Last night, President Barack Obama gave his last State of the Union address before he has to go back to the American electorate. He used it to distinguish his economic strategy from that of the Republicans. Come November, if voters ask themselves who can lead the economy, the President's answer last night was in his stated goal of creating a level playing field between the richest Americans and the masses below.
As expected, he once again called on wealthy Americans to pay their fair share in the form of higher taxes. To drive the point home, billionaire Warren Buffet's vaunted secretary who pays a higher tax rate than he does, sat in the First Lady’s box. "[Y]ou can call that class warfare all you want ... Most Americans would call that common sense," he said. Obama also pushed for tax breaks in the manufacturing sector, which he said will drive up production and increase jobs in the United States. He called for a significant surge in American-made energy.
In a surprise to his environmental constituency, Obama announced opening "more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources." He defended government investments in green energy. He lauded natural gas development with the caveat of environmental regulations to protect communities from fracking.
Turning to foreign policy, he marked the end of the Iraq war, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the so-called Arab Spring. The President spoke directly of increasing tensions with Iran. He said America has united the world in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions, and called for a peaceful resolution if Iran changes course.
The President is known for his oratory skills and didn’t disappoint yesterday. Following his speech, the Republican response was delivered by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. He criticized Obama for dividing Americans has haves and have-nots. "[E]veryone should contribute to our national recovery, including of course the most affluent among us. There are smart ways and dumb ways to do this: the dumb way is to raise rates in a broken, grossly complex tax system, choking off growth without bringing in the revenues we need to meet our debts," Daniels said.
What's your reaction to the State of the Union? What about the Republican response? Did you hear everything you wanted to from the President? What were the high points of the speech? And, in one of the most divisive years in politics that we’ve seen in a long time, was everyone on their best behavior?
Lynn Vavreck, Professor of Political Science, UCLA
Barbara Boxer, Senator, D -California; Chief Deputy Whip of the Senate
Tom Del Beccaro, Chairman of the California Republican Party
Karen Bass, Congresswoman, represents California’s 33rd district which includes parts of Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire, Culver City, Leimert Park and Ladera Heights.
Doyle McManus, Washington Columnist for the Los Angeles Times, covering national and international politics