State of the Union Address

Wanted: Middle-Class Support

In Wednesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama said the top domestic priority for 2010 will be creating jobs. And indeed, unemployment is a very immediate concern.

But it also reminds us how desperately he needs support from the middle class.

The House already passed a $174-billion bill to create new jobs last December. The bill’s fate is now up to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said it will be the first major legislation taken up after the health-care reform bill is completed.

Now, the address’ main proposals — building clean energy facilities, giving rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient and providing tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the U.S. — look promising to those who didn’t benefit from last year’s economic stimulus package.

Faced with voter anxiety over high unemployment, Obama’s fellow Democrats are at risk of losing big in November’s congressional elections. Amid eroding support from middle-class Americans, Obama is worried he’ll lose party majorities in the House and the Senate.

That’s probably why he felt he needed to mention the word “jobs” 29 times in his speech to Congress.

This was Obama’s attempt to show the middle class that he understands their financial predicament. Restoring his popularity with the middle class is the only way for the Democrats to secure control of the House and Senate. Whether or not the employment bill actually ends up on top of his desk pile, Obama intends to come out a hero.

— Arik Burakovsky

Staff Writer

Still Under Obama’s Spell

The dry, monotonous spiel about why our country is so great — to the chorus of laugh-track applause — could only be expected from the State of the Union address. However, after about five minutes of red, white and blue blabber, something strange happened: I experienced that same year-old warm, fuzzy feeling of Obama-engendered hope. For just a moment, it seemed our country might improve its economy, helping the everyman secure a breadwinning job.

Even if Obama’s speech was just another brilliantly brainwashing script, the visuals — Wall Street shelling out dollar bills to the little guys, the U.S. doubling its exports to increase productivity and employment, not going broke just to go to college — were delivered perfectly. From pausing to flash his pearly whites to raising his voice in mock-Evangelist call-and-response, Obama proved that — even if he can’t bring about immediate, palpable change — he can still deliver one hell of a one-man show. And that, given our broken economy and divided population, might be motivation enough for the rest of us to make it happen. (Not to mention it made for quality television.)

We can all roll our eyes at the optimistic tone reverberating through the White House. But at the end of the day, the belief that our nation can make a necessary shift for the better is all we have to hang onto.

Obama was able to inspire, and sometimes a little pep-talk is all we need to take the next step.

— Kelsey Marrujo

Senior Staff Writer

Morale in Small Places

With an approval rating now hovering at 48 percent, President Barack Obama entered last Wednesday night’s State of the Union address with a weighty task at hand: to convince us that, under his guidance, the country is back on the right track.

Obama did well to call on the other branches of the government to do their part; even his own party, he noted, has the largest congressional majority it’s seen in decades, but would rather “run for the hills” than work toward that elusive change.

One man can’t singlehandedly alter our national course without the help of a willing congress — which too many of the president’s critics fail to remember.

Though the focus of his speech was largely on the importance of creating new jobs — an issue that affects all of us — Obama was wise to target more specific groups, such as college students and the gay community, to boost morale.

He declared that 2010 will be the year we witness the end of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and that all who want a college education will be able to afford one, given the extension of the national government’s Pell Grant program.

In fact, Obama did such a good job of covering all his niche bases — military families, gays and broke students, too — that a reported 83 percent of viewers, according to a CBS News poll, responded positively to the speech.

So whether or not there’s change, at least we all seem to believe in it.

— Trevor Cox

Opinion Editor

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