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“Bold Moves”: Obama’s State Of The Union Address Offered An Ambitious Vision To Address Income Inequality

I don’t know what President Barack Obama is eating, drinking or smoking these days but someone should give some of it to every Democrat in Congress. Since the midterm election debacle, the president has unleashed enough bold policy initiatives to choke a horse. Some progressives wonder why it took so long for the president to push a populist agenda. My take is that late is better than never.

Last night in his State of the Union speech, the chief executive proposed a version of the “Robin Hood” tax which would provide tax credits and tax cuts to struggling middle-class families at the expense of the wealthy Americans who have reaped most of the benefits of the economic recovery. Previously the president signed a presidential memorandum that would provide federal employees access to paid sick leave to care for a new child and proposed a program that would allow students to attend two years of community college, tuition free.

In addition to his initiatives to combat income inequality, the president took executive action that eased deportation for undocumented immigrants and opened the door for diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba.

But Obama’s tax proposal is a turning point in recent American political history. He has boldly gone where no Democratic president of this generation has gone before. Since the days of Ronald Reagan, Democrats have been on the defensive on tax issues. Republican presidents have proposed tax cuts for wealthy Americans, and Democrats simply reacted and tried to mitigate the damage to working families. Last night the president played offense and proposed tax credits and tax cuts that will help hard-working, middle-class families finally get a piece of the economic recovery.

This is how the president framed the issue last night. “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” Americans are concerned about income inequality. In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a majority of people said the income gap between rich and poor is a major problem.

Republicans predictably lambasted the president’s proposal. But the president’s initiative placed the burden on congressional Republicans to explain why they won’t cut taxes for middle-class families. Most congressional Democrats favor the idea of middle-class tax relief. But even some of those Democrats are not enthusiastic since they know the proposal will die a quick death on Capitol Hill. Nevertheless, Obama is looking at the big picture, which is the need to rise above the debate on the federal budget deficit and discuss taxes in terms favorable to working families and his party.

The best thing about the president’s activism is that his job rating has increased significantly while he has been laying it out on the line for the last two months. The Washington Post-ABC News poll also shows that for the first time in a long time, there are more Americans who approve (50 percent) of the president’s performance than there are who disapprove (44 percent).

Obama used his State of the Union address to create an environment for a serious national discussion of the pernicious effects of income inequality. Occupy Wall Street put the income equity problem on the table, and last night the president made it the main course. The president may have created his legacy last night.

 

By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, January 21, 2015

January 23, 2015 - Posted by | Economic Inequality, Middle Class, State of the Union | , , , , , , , , ,

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