President Barack Obama

February 1, 2012 by staff 

President Barack Obama, President Barack Obama’s oratory soared again when he made his State of the Union address to Congress in the very House of Representatives chamber where Republicans have done so much to taunt Obama and snuff out the hopes that so many American people had of the new young, intelligent, telegenic president.

It was great theater. Unfortunately for Obama and for America, too many contradictions remain between his promises and the dirty real world. You had only to watch the deadpan expression and almost permanently glazed eyes, hauntingly hostile, of John Boehner, the speaker of the House of Representatives, sitting behind Obama’s left shoulder, to realize that Republicans will oppose Obama tooth and claw, whatever it takes.

Yes, this is election year and Obama was laying out his stall to create, as he put it, “A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.”

Later he came down from his folksy heaven to below the rumbling proliferating clouds of political and economic thunderstorms. America has a choice, he declared: “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by; or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone gets a fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

Such marvelous presidential dreams — but unfortunately Obama has had three years in the White House, and the lot of many ordinary Americans has got worse. He is fighting not only against his own failures to turn soaring rhetoric into political reality, but also against determined opponents who deride Obama as either a socialist or, worse, a closet European.

In addition he faces economic headwinds of slow growth and unemployment not seen since the 1930s. On top of that, America’s place in the world is rapidly changing and its predominance being challenged in ways that Obama seems unable to admit and Republicans are dangerously determined not to.

The president suggested various ways to revive the economy and employment, including giving tax credits to companies bringing jobs back and denying them to those outsourcing jobs, and for pumping money saved from fighting wars into badly needed renewal of U.S. infrastructure. But there seems little hope that Republicans, determined above all to pay down the debt and pander to the rich, will agree. They don’t want to give him any credit: They want him out of the White House.

In laying into the rich who benefit from tax breaks that reduce the rates they pay to 15 percent or less, Obama was both taking a dig at Republican rival Mitt Romney, who paid just 13.9 percent tax on his 2010 earnings of $21.7 million, and presenting himself as the leader of ordinary Americans.

Romney’s tax bill was entirely legal, since he took advantage of lower taxes on capital gains. “I pay all the taxes that are legally required, and not a dollar more,” Romney said. (In fact, Floyd Norris of the New York Times discovered that Romney overpaid his taxes by about $44,000 because a trust had miscalculated the capital gains actually realized.) Obama and his wife paid tax of about 26 percent on their $1.7 million income, including from sales of the president’s books.

Even being clad in the mantle of Man of the People does not help Obama against determined Republicans who persist in their belief that it is the rich people who create jobs, and should be encouraged. Romney’s main Republican rival, Newt Gingrich, said he wants to reduce tax on capital gains to zero.

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