The State of the Union and the "Year of Action"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

President Obama delivers the 2014 State of the Union speech. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP/Getty)

In his State of the Union speech last night, President Obama chided Congress for their inactivity, and vowed to make 2014 a "year of action" on the minimum wage, climate policy, and immigration. James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, reviews the speech and what comes next.


Brian's Five Key Quotes from the State of the Union

  • Flipping the Script on the Usual "State of the Union" Line "Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: It is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong. (Applause.)"
  • Can He Really Get Businesses to Voluntarily Raise Wages? "Nick Chute is here today with his boss, John Soranno. John’s an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the dough. (Laughter.) Only now he makes more of it. (Laughter.) John just gave his employees a raise, to 10 bucks an hour -- and that’s a decision that has eased their financial stress and boosted their morale. Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead: Do what you can to raise your employees’ wages. (Applause.) It’s good for the economy. It’s good for America. (Applause.) To every mayor, governor, state legislator in America, I say you don’t have to wait for Congress to act -- Americans will support you if you take this on."
  • The Only Gun Control Reference. Still Promising Action? "Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I’ve seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid." And I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, in our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook. (Applause.)"
  • Forceful on Climate Change. "Because a changing climate is already harming Western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. (Applause.) The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require some tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. (Applause.) And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did. (Applause.)"
  • How Will He Boost The Tech Sector? (James Fallows Has Been Reporting on "Turnaround" Communities) "We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. My administration has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh, North Carolina and Youngstown, Ohio, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies. Tonight, I’m announcing we’ll launch six more this year. Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create. So get those bills to my desk; put more Americans back to work. (Applause.)"

Comments [27]


The majority of the media and focus groups do not seem as pleased with the President's speech last night. I was a little surprised Lehrer failed to even touch on how outside the norm his and his guests reaction to the speech was.

Jan. 29 2014 06:48 PM
GrandpaDan from 10033

Obama, faced with a constitutional government that is failing to do the right thing for the rest of us, is operating like a neighborhood organizer. Getting all the CEOs together might help him uncover a powerful, practical base for us to get a single-payer health-care system, like in Canada and Denmark. And some other things, as well. But CEOs? I knew some very good corporate management types ... ministers' sons, among others. well, let's see ... .

Jan. 29 2014 11:49 AM

@Mr Bad

"Obama is a technocrat without the courage or will to do what we elected him to do i.e confront the establishment and entrenched corporate interests that really run this country even when he has nothing to lose in his 2nd term. He's not a fighter, he just isn't, and that's what poor and working people need."

How much fight can one guy have in him? I think you put too much on BHO's shoulders but he *is* in the office so if not him, whom? The drubbing of November 2010 was the cruelest fate dealt to Mr. O and the nation. We need to give him a Democratic-controlled House in 2014. Maybe then we can get to work on unrestrained globalization and the tax code. I think we're pretty much effed on the financialization part but eventually the financiers' greed will wreck things and we'll have the chance to save them and ourselves (again) or take our medicine.


Burning any hydrocarbon - including hemp oil - produces CO2. CO2 isn't a pollutant, but the concentration of it can be dangerous. Too much oxygen is dangerous, too. Pure O2 blinded lots of preemies and killed the Apollo One astronauts. Too much CO2 will kill you. Right now it is killing our ice caps. How long do we wait?


"I didn't watch that farce...". Yet you feel empowered to spout your BHO-hating inanities. Tells us all we need to know about your opinions, doesn't it.

Jan. 29 2014 11:13 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ mklw1954

Yes, exactly. I was especially "moved" by the reference to the "barkeeper's son" and the "single mothers son" who became king. The "Phoenician tale" from Plato's Republic, a "golden son born from a silver caste". This bullsh*t game is more than two millennia old and we're still falling for it. Lap it up and clap, it's all we're good for, pffft "education"...

Jan. 29 2014 10:55 AM


Your staff needs to contact Staten Island Rep Michael Grimm and ask him why he threatened to assault a reporter who asked for his comments about the SOTU speech.

Jan. 29 2014 10:51 AM

The SOTU is the usual listing of issues that the political establishmnet has no intention of dealing with. Democrat or Republican, every year it's the same but nothing happens. Go back to the previous speeches, they're all the same. So be amused, pick you favorite line or assertion, and listen to the pundits' analysis but don't expect action on the issues meaningful to most people.

Actions show that there's no intention to deal with poverty, inequality, middle class decline, good job creation, health care access, education, immigration, infrastructure, and other issues in the interest of the people.

Instead, the focus is on long-term deficits, negotiating so-called free trade agreements in secret which paves the way to export more jobs, printing money to prop up the stock market, bailing out banks and corporations with our tax money, no financial reform, no gun regulation reform, no immigration reform, spying on the population, projecting military power all over the world, and getting us ready to accept dismantling the social safety net.

Obama's the perfect foil for this as he can get people to "feel" that things the people want addressed will be addressed but they won't.

Jan. 29 2014 10:42 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Infrastructure spending would be nice but at this point it's still shuffling deck chairs on the titanic. Not everyone can be Mark Zuckerberg. Education is not the answer. Training, maybe, but putting BIDEN in charge of the idea? Please.

Unrestrained Globalization, Financialization and a broken tax code are the legitimate forces destroying the future of the American worker and where is the action on those issues? *crickets*

Obama is a technocrat without the courage or will to do what we elected him to do i.e confront the establishment and entrenched corporate interests that really run this country even when he has nothing to lose in his 2nd term. He's not a fighter, he just isn't, and that's what poor and working people need.

Jan. 29 2014 10:35 AM

A Perspective I don't expect to hear much of on this show or station:

"US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday was, perhaps even more than his previous addresses, a cynical and reactionary charade. Empty rhetoric was combined with a complete disconnect from the reality confronting millions of people and an assertion of executive power."

From an analysis of the speech by Joseph Kishore at

An excerpt that is perhaps especially germane and apropos here:

"The media’s attempt to promote the speech as a major address on inequality was a deliberate falsification aimed at drumming up interest among a generally indifferent and hostile population."

(Requisite Disclaimer: Quoting/citing =/= Endorsement.)

Even less likely that anyone will even notice, much less remark upon, another spectacle: This President has gone further than any of his predecessors in allowing the agenda of a special interest group to trump public health as relates an act that is empirically unsafe, unhygenic, anatomically and physiologically unsound. Such a President inveighs against income inequality. Meanwhile,the gruesome (psuedo-)sexual act that is being whitewashed and effectively promoted under his sanction (by our government institutions and agencies) could hardly entail a greater degree of inequality between its participants.

Jan. 29 2014 10:34 AM

Heck...Applauding is free, veterans support services takes money. Ten deployments is a disgrace. I want a universal national service bill NOW!

Jan. 29 2014 10:32 AM

As political theater it was an inspiring speech and compared to the previous president superior in tone, cadence and locution.

Jan. 29 2014 10:32 AM

Human metabolism converts Oxygen and carbohydrates into CO2 = Carbon Dioxide, which you just called Carbon. So as you breathe, you are "polluting" according to Obama's EPA.
If you would like a CO2 neutral fuel source, then legalize industrial hemp. the oil of which makes a nice #2 Diesel oil.
The farm bill has authorized a university-based "pilot program", but this is a delay tactic. Humanity already has run a pilot program on growing hemp for more than 3000 years. We grew lots of it until a law in 1937 was slipped through.
Hemp opponents, whose products would need to compete with hemp:
Oil Industry - Rockefellers;
DuPont: oil, plastics, paper pulping;
Hearst - Wood Pulp Paper
cotton industry,
providers of insecticides & fertilizers for cotton
alcohol industry
drug industry
1937: The year the federal government outlawed Hemp.

-- DuPont patents petrochemical manufacturing processes for making plastics, as well as pollution-heavy sulfate/sulfite processes for producing wood pulp. For the next 50 years, these processes are responsible for 80% of DuPont's industrial output.

--In its 1937 Annual Report, DuPont informs stockholders that the company anticipates radical changes from the revenue raising power of government... converted into an instrument for forcing acceptance of sudden new ideas of industrial and social reorganization.

Hemp proponents:
Henry Ford - Planned to run cars on Hemp Deisel Oil, Built rugged body parts of Hemp fibre reinforced hemp plastic
American Medical Association

Jan. 29 2014 10:26 AM
Jean Simeon from Midtown

Lengths of SOTU speeches:

Jan. 29 2014 10:23 AM
Arthur Aptowitrz from Forest Hills, NY

Although I've been involved in politics for nearly 50 years, I don't listen to State of the Union speeches anymore, since they are more campaign devices rather than reports to Congress on America's condition, as the Constitution specifies. The last one I listneed to, i believe, was the one in which Bush said we would go to Mars, which I wish he had.

Jan. 29 2014 10:21 AM
JR from NYC

Brian - don't forget Lula in Brazil. He came from real humble beginnings and won the presidency (after many tries).
So the USA is not the only place where the son of a single mother can become the president of the country.

Jan. 29 2014 10:21 AM
fuva from harlemworld

hjs11211 -- Aiight. Republican baseness once again. And cowardice. Wonder if Grimm woulda stepped to Errol Louis like that...

Jan. 29 2014 10:19 AM
Jay F.

Yup, a real kumbaya moment.

Jan. 29 2014 10:18 AM

You watched the speech like it was a high school play and weren't those kids awesome.

Jan. 29 2014 10:18 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Less inspiring, less boldness of vision than I would like to have heard but an acceptable tightrope between "This is where I want to take our nation" and "Congress is the problem".

Since January, 2011, the President's agenda has been hobbled by a GOP-led House who have had more fundraising success bringing ObamaCare repeal bills (knowing full well that these bills had no chance in the Senate and if by chance one passed, it would certainly be vetoed by POTUS) rather than actually move forward on legislation to improve the nation's ability to compete in the future. Just a few of the items that have gone wanting - smart electrical grid; high speed rail between major ports and large (1M+ cities); faster broadband services; the road and bridge infrastructure; national standards for distance education.

After 8 years of '...deficits don't matter...' the country does need to pull in its belt a bit, but not BEFORE we are clearly back on the path to full employment.

279 days until the next election! Do we toss out the obstructors or admit that we like it here in the ditch?

Jan. 29 2014 10:15 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Look, the "Recovery" story that is reported everywhere in the media including on this show is a variation on the "Noble Lie". There is no recovery. There has never been a recovery. The stock market has shot up on the back of low interest rates and Fed asset purchases (QE). We have an economy based on debt and consumption and the media is simply fluffing the consumer. It will get very bad before it gets better and we ain't seen nothing yet. One thing is certain though there is no help coming so make your plans accordingly.

Jan. 29 2014 10:12 AM
steve from upper west side

As always, the great orator Obama talks the talk, but fails to walk the walk. If one only listens to his words, he's one of the most articulate presidents we've ever had, and indeed one of the great visionary leaders. However if one looks at his actions and actual policies, he is one of the most hypocritical and unsuccessful presidents in generations... It's a shame -- we had such hope...

Jan. 29 2014 10:12 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Didn't see it. When he implored businesses to raise wages, did he mention that it is also good FOR BUSINESS?

Jan. 29 2014 10:09 AM

It's off topic so don't kill me but Staten Island ? with us or more like the thugs in jersey ?

Jan. 29 2014 10:08 AM
JR from NYC

I thought that the recognition that Cory the military guy received was very touching but very sad at the same time. I just kept thinking how senseless wars are and how much they change the lives of the ones who survive, often not for the better.
Apart from that, the usual theatrics on both sides.

Jan. 29 2014 10:07 AM


Jan. 29 2014 10:05 AM

It was a boilerplate speech, with a few shameful human interest props thrown in.

Jan. 29 2014 10:03 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

POTUS was in rare form last night, he seemed to think he was hosting an SNL episode as opposed to giving a speech to a hostile congress and a nation in the 5th year of a crushing economic depression with the lowest labor force participation rate since 1977. I watched the entire risible spectacle and if I were some poor schmuck down on his luck and hoping for a ray of hope that speech would have done me in permanently. Time to "do the dutch". I don't know what's worse, the con men on the left or the crackpots on the right, but either way we're screwed.

Jan. 29 2014 09:27 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan


I didn't watch that farce, duh, but I tried to get a sense of it by watching the morning shows, including MSNBC, and they had already moved on. Must have been a real barn burner.

Poor guy.

Jan. 29 2014 08:58 AM

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