On Obama’s State of the Union address

What can you take away from Obama's State of the Union address?
Posted on Feb. 13, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Feb. 13, 2013 at 6:06 p.m.

Contrasting viewpoints on President Obama’s State of the Union address:

New York Post:

America needs a sequester.

That’s what we take from the State of the Union. Though President Obama ranged far and wide last night — touching on everything from immigration and troop levels in Afghanistan to an increase in the minimum wage — what shines through is his determination to spend and tax without any serious restraint.

That is consistent with what he has done these past four years. It is consistent with his reading of his victory in the November elections. Above all, it is consistent with a philosophy that believes jobs and opportunity come from Washington.

That’s also why a sequester would be so bracing. Here’s how it works: If the two sides cannot come to terms on deficit reductions by March 1, automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion over 10 years go into effect.

Remember that this was Obama’s idea. Back when he proposed it, a White House fact sheet called it “a strong enforcement mechanism.” Obama was particularly enthusiastic because half the automatic cuts were to come from defense — and he believed Republicans would never allow that.

Now that the Republicans look as though they might pull the trigger, the president tells us a sequester is a “really bad idea.”

Let’s be clear: Automatic cuts would in some cases be just as the president says: “sudden, harsh and arbitrary.” A sequester would also be an admission by our political leaders that they cannot do their job.

Then again, every 12-step program for ending an addiction begins with admitting the problem. As that 2011 White House fact sheet so rightly observed, “[The] Sequester Would Provide a Strong Incentive for Both Sides to Come to the Table.” Time to give the president a taste of his own reform.

Los Angeles Times:

In his first State of the Union address of his second term, President Obama delivered the most forceful defense of liberal values uttered on this occasion by any president since Lyndon Johnson. Obama argued for progress on the environment, common sense on guns, decency on immigration. On those issues, he has the support of the American people.

Yes, there are problems left over from his first four years: high unemployment and slow economic growth. He rightly called on Congress to close the nation’s long-term budget gap by reforming entitlements and simplifying the tax code, rather than making across-the-board reductions that only chip away at the deficit. But it wasn’t clear how he’d get his ideas, many of them recycled from his first term, through a polarized Congress.

Many of the proposals Obama laid out — initiatives to promote manufacturing, shore up infrastructure, expand exports, develop clean energy technology, prepare American workers for the demands of today’s job market and fix a broken immigration system — would help build a stronger foundation for economic growth. He added a new wrinkle to several of these proposals, calling for public-private partnerships in construction and education to reduce the cost to taxpayers. ...

Leaders have to do more than set the right goals; they have to find ways to achieve them. There, Obama’s course is unclear. In the first term, he courted Republican support and was rebuffed. With his inaugural address, he suggested a new approach: rallying the public in support of common values, transcending partisanship. This speech extended that idea, but achieving it won’t be easy. ...

The president rightly argues that Washington should re-prioritize, not just cut back. Before him and Congress stand great opportunities to do just that. Pass immigration reform. Pass sensible gun laws. Work to improve the lives of average Americans regardless of which party benefits. Those are ambitions worthy of a great nation.

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