President Obama addressed the nation last night in his second State of the Union. He laid out a broad agenda of future government investments in education, infrastructure, clean energy, and technology and innovation. As far as a path forward on debt reduction – the President called for a 5 year freeze on non-defense discretionary spending - and a nearly $100 billion cut to the Pentagon’s budget. He pledged he will end President Bush’s failed education program No Child Left Behind, and assured the nation that troops in Afghanistan will begin coming home in July of this year. As far as specifics – the President didn’t mention the words “climate change” – though he did set goals for new energy use. Calling for America to be the first nation with 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015 – and promising by 2035 – America will derive 80% of it’s energy from clean and renewable sources.
And finally the President drew a line in the sand when it came to health reform – chiding House Republicans for trying to repeal the new health reform law instead of working to make it better. Ultimately – President Obama outlined a progressive agenda of government investment to rebuild our nation – something that’s desperately needed. Even though the new seating arrangements in the House chamber dampened many of the boisterous and partisan applauding episodes that normally accompany a State of the Union – there were still several agenda items that Republicans clearly were not willing to lend their support – or applause – to. When the President touted his reform of the student loan industry – removing wasteful bank subsidies – and allowing more children to have access to federal Pell Grants – the Republicans sat on their hands.
When the President called for greater investment to high-speed rail…no applause from the Right. When the President defiantly said he would not allow health insurance companies to continue their abuses – Republicans seemed to disagree. The President called for end to tax breaks for the richest 2% in our nation – the GOP shunned the idea. And when the President called for an end to big oil subsidies – Speaker Boehner practically choked.
And nowhere could you see the difference between the two parties more drastically than in Congressman Paul Ryan’s GOP response to the State of the Union. It was a "short on specifics - long on partisan attacks" speech that focused solely on our nation’s deficit – and not on what America needs to do to compete with the world in the future. It’s pretty clear to see – while the Democrats are looking forward – the Republicans are looking backward.
As the Conservative William F. Buckley so famously said – “A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling, ‘stop’!” After last night’s display by the GOP – Buckley couldn’t be more right.