Tuesday’s State of the Union address is the right moment for President Obama to make a clean break with the austerity lie in combination with a firm embrace of the growth agenda that is needed. [...] Ryan and the Republican proponents of austerity are for making deep cuts in order to balance budgets at any cost—except, of course, taxing their wealthy campaign donors. As such, they are more than ready to render cherished programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as vital services such as the Post Office, so dysfunctional that Americans will start thinking the unthinkable: that these programs should be privatized. [...]Lawrence Summers at Reuters urges also hopes that the president will steer Congress away from it's deficit and debt obsession towards a pro-growth agenda:
Simply opposing austerity is not enough. The president must present a specific growth agenda that has a goal of expanding job creation initiatives and strengthening families and communities.
There should be little disagreement across the political spectrum that growth and job creation remain America’s most serious national problem. Ahead of President Obama’s first State of the Union address of his second term, and further fiscal negotiations in Washington, America needs to rethink its priorities for economic policy. [...] We can do better. With strains from the financial crisis receding and huge investment possible in energy, housing and reshored manufacturing, the United States faces a moment of opportunity unlike any in a long time. The economy could soon enter a virtuous cycle of confidence, growth and deficit reduction, much like it did in the 1990s. But this will require moving the national economic debate beyond its near-total preoccupation with federal budget restraint.For more on why President Obama needs to refocus on growth over austerity in his SOTU, head below the fold.
Yes, fiscal restraint is necessary in the medium term to contain financial risks. But unlike in the 1990s, when reduced deficits stimulated investment by bringing down capital costs, fiscal restraint cannot be relied on to provide stimulus now when long-term Treasurys yield less than 2 percent. A broader growth-centered agenda is needed to propel the economy to its “escape velocity.”
From our standpoint, Obama -- and the nation -- would be best served by focusing on challenges such as immigration, inequality and climate change. [...] The political payoff may not be as great as it is with, say, gun control. But the economic consequences will be far greater. [...]Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post is looking for a word about poverty:
Any economy that continues to offer disproportionate rewards to those at the top, however, isn’t sustainable. As part of a larger deal with Republicans that includes long-term spending cuts, Obama should push to limit the sizable deductions, credits and exemptions that benefit wealthy taxpayers. (Senator John McCain, a Republican, just said he might be open to such revenue.) Obama could also seek to expand the earned-income tax credit to help two-parent families and low-income adults without children.
A more fruitful approach is to expand opportunity and increase the size of the economic pie. Two priorities are paramount: increasing early-childhood education, to give low- income children a running start; and expanding the number of Americans who graduate from college, to bolster workplace skills and wages. Education savings accounts, which work like 401(k) retirement plans but can be used only to pay for sanctioned education expenses, would help.
Specifically, I’m looking for the president to use the word “poverty” or “poor.” Because of the relentless focus on the middle class — those in it and those who aspire to join the club — poverty and the poor often go ignored or unremarked. That’s not to say that those issues are not important to Obama. Quite the contrary, as any honest assessment of his record that goes deeper than the headline-grabbing actions would show. Still, use of the words “poverty” and “poor,” especially its impact on children and in this particular address, would be the thunderclap of attention needed to kick start a renewed effort to do something about it.The New York Times is looking for voting rights protection in the address:
President Obama has a long agenda for his State of the Union address, but it is important that he not forget the most fundamental democratic reform of all: repairing a broken election system that caused hundreds of thousands of people to stand in line for hours to vote last year. It is time to make good on his election-night promise.Over at CNN, Van Jones hopes to hear about climate change:
Those seeking political power by making voting more inconvenient will resist reforms, but a better system would actually be good for both parties and, more important, the country.
Long lines are not the inevitable result of big turnouts in elections. They are the result of neglect, often deliberate, of an antiquated patchwork of registration systems that make it far too hard to get on the rolls. They are the result of states that won’t spend enough money for an adequate supply of voting machines, particularly in crowded cities and minority precincts. And they are the result of refusals to expand early voting programs, one of the best and easiest ways to increase participation.
In his second inaugural address last month, President Barack Obama forcefully articulated a case for confronting the climate crisis. In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, I encourage him to lay out a plan on it.
I realize Congress can be an obstacle. A few years ago, the right and left discussed how best to tackle the climate crisis. Today, it has become an article of faith among some conservatives to ignore science and deny there is a human-made crisis at all. Just last week, Sen. Marco Rubio, the oft-touted 2016 GOP savior who will deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union, falsely claimed there was "reasonable debate" on the issue.
There isn't. There is no alternative but to act.