WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
State of the Union Silent on the States
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
President Obama did a low energy version of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" when he proclaimed the "worst of the recession is over."
While 44 of the nation's states are looking at a $125 billion dollar shortfall and hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded pension and health care liabilities, they did not make the president's State of the Union final cut.
In fact, with President Obama's pledge in his speech to freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years, it's not likely struggling states will find even a half-hearted partner in the federal government, whose poor regulation of the financial sector almost collapsed the global economy.
It was left to the Republican responder Congressman Paul Ryan to mention the more than nine percent official unemployment rate.
But President Obama did ask Congress to continue support of funding innovations that could show up in state budgets - for local education, infrastructure including high speed rail, and changes in tax policy to support higher education.
"Think about it, over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree, and yet as many as a quarter of our students aren't finishing high school," Obama said.
The President did try to counter the national outbreak of public school teacher bashing noting that in some parts of the world teachers are regarded as "nation builders."
"Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect," said Obama.
But the president gave no sign of backing off on his push for increased teacher accountability. "We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones."
President Obama did give some sense that he grasps just how dilapidated State and Main Streets have become.
He conceded that America's engineers gave the nation's infrastructure a "D."
He noted that South Korean households have a faster internet connection than American households and China now has the world's fastest computer and one of its most modern rail lines.
He did commit that by 25 years from now, 80 percent of America would have access to high speed rail, but hinted private investment would be in the mix.
And when it came to tax policy, it was clearly a split decision. The president pledged to push to cut the nation's corporate tax rates for the first time in 25 years, and in the same speech he called on Congress to eliminate "billions in taxpayers' dollars we currently give to oil companies."
Clearly with his call to cut the corporate tax rate and his unprincipled extension of the Bush era tax cuts for the super-wealthy the President continues to be able to celebrate his 'inner Republican'. With the defeat of his party last November true blue House Democrats are now left with Obama's brand of Chicago mercantilism as their fall back.
US multi-nationals have told the President what it will take to have them re-patriate the hundreds of billions they have made overseas and he plans on giving it to them.
There was no mention of the ongoing criminal big banking conspiracy short handed by the biz press as the 'mortgage mess'.
And as for those millions of Americans in, or facing foreclosure they were the loser relatives you avoid at the family re-union. For them, all the President had was rhetorical bromides. "Win the future?"
He needs more constituent work and less golf.