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It’s no big surprise that I wasn’t a fan of President Obama’s State of the Union address last night. As expected, it was full of bad ideas and logical fallacies. I could go through his entire speech and point out where he’s wrong but many like-minded commentators already have. Instead, I want to focus on what I realistically wish Obama would have said.
The key word is realistically.
It’s interesting that Obama chose to primarily focus on partisan issues like raising taxes on the wealthy, “free” community college, hiking the minimum wage, the so-called gender wage gap, and more. He should know that these are divisive topics that will not pass the new Republican-controlled Congress. Not going to happen. Is he more interested in gaining political points—or proposing practical ideas?
President Obama should have taken this as an opportunity to highlights issues where Democrats and Republicans can find common ground. That way, his speech would signal that he is actually interested in working across the political aisle.
First, Obama needs to get serious about civil liberties.
There are members in both parties who have taken a stand against intrusive NSA spying. It’s incredibly unpopular with the American people. Yet, Obama only paid a little lip service to the issue last night. He announced an unimpressive “NSA spying report” that will be released next month. I doubt that this in-house report will please privacy advocates.
What happened to the Obama that once spoke out against unconstitutional surveillance?
Last night, I wish Obama would have lent his support to a number of bills that would protect our privacy. There’s the bipartisan Email Privacy Act that would update privacy laws to prevent the government from snooping in your inbox. Or he could have supported the permanent expiration of Section 215 of the Patriot Act which comes up for renewal in June.
Secondly, Obama should talk more about repealing corporate welfare. He did talk about closing tax loopholes quite a bit. A more uniting topic is ending taxpayer subsidies to corporations.
I wish Obama would have called to let the Export-Import Bank expire. In 2009, Obama said that it was “a little more than a fund for corporate welfare.” He was right. The Export-Import Bank subsidizes big corporations and is rife with corruption.
Unfortunately, it seems that Obama no longer opposes the bank. If he reverts back to his original position, he’ll have plenty of allies across the aisle. Opponents of the bank range from Ralph Nader and Sen. Bernie Sanders to Sen. Rand Paul and the Heritage Foundation.
Lastly, Obama could have spoken more about criminal justice reform. He mentioned it but gave no real details.
I wish that he spoke about ending mandatory minimum sentencing laws. These laws may have good intentions, but they remove judicial discretion and lead to overcrowded jails. Often times, violent criminals are let out to make room for non-violent offenders due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
There are a handful of good issues that Obama could have focused on to promote unity. Instead, he chose to play political games.