This week I covered the State of the Union address for my (Un)Conventional blog at America magazine. On Friday, I noted that President Obama didn't talk so much about creating jobs as about providing some financial security when jobs aren't enough. An excerpt below:
For much of the 20th century, the Democratic Party made “full employment” one of its primary policy goals (the term was in party platforms from 1944 through 1988). But that was when a large share of the workforce belonged to labor unions, which fought against lay-offs and lobbied for such benefits as health insurance and sick days. Now the idea that you can achieve financial security by simply landing a job is as quaint as the notion of starting a college fund with a paper route.
The Republican Party may try to dismiss Obama’s “middle-class economics” as nothing more than prophylactics against financial risk. Instead of subsidizing child care for working parents, why not encourage more Americans to make money by starting their own businesses or investing in the stock market? Opportunity, not financial security, has long been the GOP brand.
But even Republicans are feeling pressure to save the middle class.
On Tuesday, I previewed the speech by responding to a column by Ron Fournier on how Obama has "squandered" the opportunity “to rid the capital of pettiness and gridlock." An excerpt below:
I don’t know of any household, let alone workplace, that has eradicated pettiness. Pettiness and intransigence complicate the task of taking out the garbage from a typical family’s kitchen—something needed to keep rats from invading—but Fournier expects a president to wipe them clean away. The president would need daily shows of force, akin to the Chinese army in Tiananmen Square, not to eliminate the pettiness in Washington, but to keep it simmering behind closed doors. And he’d still know better than to mess with farm subsidies.
And during the speech itself, I joined the live-tweet brigade:
"everyone gets their fair shot...everyone plays by the rules" sarcastic applause from opponents of immigration executive action? #SOTU— Robert D Sullivan (@RobertDSullivan) January 21, 2015
"pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay" Space exploration always shines in #SOTU, usually fades by March.— Robert D Sullivan (@RobertDSullivan) January 21, 2015
"The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security." GOP, do you want to be blamed for flooded bases?— Robert D Sullivan (@RobertDSullivan) January 21, 2015
"I have no more campaigns to run" [laughter, applause] Ad-lib: "I know because I won both of them." (And I won't be a quiet ex-POTUS). #SOTU— Robert D Sullivan (@RobertDSullivan) January 21, 2015
That was the opposite of a home-spun, folksy, Bill Clinton-esque speech: Join me if you want to be on the right side of history. (1) #SOTU— Robert D Sullivan (@RobertDSullivan) January 21, 2015
I get the sense that Obama looks forward to "give 'em hell" speeches while the Clintons try to sweet-talk centrists. (2) #SOTU— Robert D Sullivan (@RobertDSullivan) January 21, 2015