Op-Ed: Obama's State of the Union speech — left rhetoric, right action

Posted Jan 21, 2015 by Ken Hanly
Obama's State of The Union Speech(SOTU) was upbeat about the economy and in general about the US situation. He set out many progressive measures that he intends to include in a new budget.
US President Barack Obama delivers the State of The Union address on January 20  2015  at the US Cap...
US President Barack Obama delivers the State of The Union address on January 20, 2015, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC
Mandel Ngan, Pool/AFP
The entire Obama speech text can be found here, and I have appended a YouTube video of the speech as well. The speech enjoyed lavish praise for the performance of the U.S. economy, which is doing better than most advanced capitalist economies. However, it is far from booming and wage increases have not risen in tandem with the economic improvement. A trend upward in wage rates noted in Obama's speech was reversed in December last year.
The speech was replete with promises of liberal policies, such as free tuition at Community Colleges, that Obama knows the Republicans will not support. Since the Republicans now control both the Senate and the House of Representatives he must know that these policies can never become law under present circumstances. He also invented a new type of economics, dubbed "middle class economics," which has nothing to do with economics but everything to do with politics.
The middle class is the largest group of politically active voters and the US has faced the so-called hollowing out of the middle class as many of them are seeing their standard of living drop. Politicians thus advance policies that will be seen as improving the conditions for this group of voters even though when elected the promises will not be fulfilled or only to a very limited degree. Even Texas Republican Ted Cruz in his response to the Obama speech makes reference to "middle class economics." He accuses Obama of actually supporting the rich and powerful, the one percent, and ignoring the plight of the middle class. It is the Republican Party who will present policies to help the middle class and American worker:
Cruz also supports wage growth, which he claims has not happened because of Obama's failed policies. However he does not suggest a $15 dollar minimum wage as does Kshama Sawant, a Seattle city councilor, in her response to the Obama speech. Both she and Cruz agree that Obama supports the rich and powerful!
The first part of the speech is all about advancing liberal populist policies that are going nowhere and also threats to veto Republican bills but later he talks of working together with the Republicans. As Republican Senator Cory Gardner put it: “It was like he had two different speechwriters. In the first part of his speech, the president put forward policies that he knows we won’t support. In the second part of the speech, he talked about the need to work together.”
There are areas that the Republicans and Democrats can work together to push for policies that will advance the interests of international capital and reduce democratic control over policies. Obama talks of international trade deals in the context of competition with China: China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.
Note the arrogance: "We should write those rules." The TTP or Trans Pacific Partnership, which Obama refers to, involves 12 different countries as of 2014 but it is the U.S. that should write the rules. He also makes just passing reference to another huge deal that with Europe, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The TPP has been criticized by many Democrats: The TPP has drawn the ire of Democrats including Elizabeth Warren who object it will destroy jobs, limit online freedom, increase outsourcing and derail climate agreements. Ironically, it has made allies of his GOP rivals
Obama can rely on Republican support. When Sen. Joni Ernst delivered the GOP's response to Obama's speech she called on Obama to "cooperate" with congressional leaders to advance new trade pacts.
Obama will no doubt also get the cooperation of Republicans in passing cybersecurity legislation echoing CISPA. In his speech he notes: We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.
Obama's rhetoric promises progressive policies but he will act to pass reactionary bills that give more power to global corporations and to the national security state.