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7 Great Moments from the State of the Union

7 Great Moments from the State of the Union
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President Barack Obama delivered his fourth State of the Union address on Tuesday, and the first of his second term. In it, Obama laid out a surprisingly ambitious agenda from a president stuck with a radical, do-nothing House of Representatives.

While it remains to be seen how much of his agenda Obama can push through, the president’s speech had some outstanding moments, and proposals that hopefully will be enacted sooner, rather than later.

#1: “In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness, they’d devastate priorities like education and energy and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. And that’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts — known here in Washington as ‘the sequester’ — are a really bad idea.

“Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training, Medicare and Social Security benefits. That idea is even worse.”

Obama called out Republicans for their continued foot-dragging on dealing with the sequester. While the draconian cuts to defense and health care will have a negative effect on the economy, Republicans appear to be boxed in by a refusal to raise taxes by one dime more.

Obama rightly called out Republicans for their recalcitrance, and moreover, attacked the Republican “cut our way to growth” plan as the pipe dream it is. After doing that, Obama went on to reach out to Republicans, saying he was “prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.”

Naturally, Republicans will refuse that proffered hand, as they have done repeatedly since taking over the House in 2011. That’s okay, though; Obama once again appears to be the magnanimous party, offering to work with his opponents even as they refuse to entertain even the barest thought of working with him. If and when the sequester cuts happen, Republicans will have to take ownership of them.

#2: “Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late. [...]

“But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

Obama took his toughest stand yet on global warming, flatly telling Republicans that if they won’t work with him, he’ll go it alone and take executive action to fight carbon emissions.

Obama’s threat is not an idle one. Courts have upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and that means that the EPA could simply regulate carbon emissions under powers given to them by the Clean Air Act. Indeed, the EPA is already regulating carbon emissions from automobiles and stationary sources.

Obviously, more could be done with the cooperation of Congress, and Obama is right to seek out Republican help. Still, assuming that Congress refuses to act, Obama can take a number of steps to help reduce the long-term damage from greenhouse gasses.

#3: “[R]right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities, they all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Now’s the time to do it.”

Obama made a straightforward call for comprehensive immigration reform, but wisely steered clear of specifics. Why is that wise? Because there is, at least for the moment, slow but bipartisan movement on immigration reform in Congress, and pushing too hard is only likely to upset the apple cart.

He did, however, make a strong call to fix “the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.” That’s important, because right now, legal immigration policy is a labyrinthine disaster. Streamlining legal immigration would have the salient effect of discouraging undocumented immigration — why sneak into the country when you can enter it legally?

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8:44AM PST on Feb 18, 2013

Emergency rooms cost a fortune to operate Mat. They are horribly inefficient dispensers of family medicine. SO the hospital raises its rates to make up the difference.

Yes too many people sure Drs for profit and nothing else. But too many Doctors make mistakes too…….and those mistakes cause needless death pr a life of agony. The health care insurance companies are a powerful lobby and resist every single cost reduction. They are immensely rich.
The EASIEST way to get things back to normal is to reign in the insurance companies.The only reason the government gets involved is because its citizens are being mistreated.

At the same time Matt no one in Canada is without health care. health care insurance companies are the problem……not the government.

5:36AM PST on Feb 18, 2013

Matt B. - What century are you in? You seem to still be fighting the Cold War. Nobody has referred to China as the enemy and the Red Chinese in years. You clearly are racist and have watched far, far too much Fox News and listened to too much of Rush Limbaugh. Surely you are either retired (my bet) or unemployed because from the number and length of your posts, you have a lot of time on your hands. Have you ever considered taking up carpentry or some other interest to fill your time? It might sooth your temper.

5:31AM PST on Feb 18, 2013

Matt B., You sound like a member of the TEA Party (who preaches about others ignoring the Constitution, but picks and chooses the parts of the Constitution they want to follow). When the Constitution specifically states that the Federal government is responsible for certain things and you call it government overreach or over-taxation when they need to fund those things, then you are as guilty as the next person of ignoring the Constitution. Everyone knows that the federal government is spending much more than it takes in, but nobody has come up with a workable solution to the problem. To decrease tax revenue, by cutting taxes and not cutting out government waste is irresponsible on the part of both parties in Washington and as long as they (and we) keep blaming the other party, it will keep getting worse and worse and nothing will get accomplished.

5:18AM PST on Feb 18, 2013

I suppose, but they are also obligated under the Constitution to maintain the postal service, so they will have to step in to help keep it from failing also.

5:16AM PST on Feb 18, 2013

Matt B.,
I don't know where you got the idea that my state is stealing money from other states to do road and bridge construction and repairs. The money is set aside to dole out to the states from federal gas taxes and other fees collected in those states. That money is used for the federal government's responsibility under the Constitution (as I described in my earlier post) to share in the cost of building and maintaining any road used for transport of the mail (virtually all roads in the country). My state has never used all the federal money collected in the state for this, but larger populated states on the East and West coast use more than 100% of the federal money collected in their states. California is basically bankrupt and many of the others are operating in the red, while my state has a huge surplus and is considering cutting income tax rates because of it. Since the federal government is required by the Constitution to build and maintain all roads that are used to transport the mail, money has to come from somewhere to do that and the most fair way is through gas (user) taxes. That is not over-taxation or overstepping it's bounds, because the Constitution doesn't require that the states have to contribute monetarily to build and maintain those roads, but they do anyway because they are used for more than transporting mail. If the post office went out of business in a few years, the federal obligation to help built and maintain the roads and bridges would cease,

11:15PM PST on Feb 17, 2013

Let's hope that the President's second term is successful in building a better nation that works for the people.

10:55PM PST on Feb 17, 2013

The Washington Post had an article on an interesting aspect of a new type of American tourist...those travelling abroad to seek cheaper health care costs. So, you see Matt B, there are Americans leaving the U.S. to see less expensive health care elsewhere, not to mention Americans travelling to Canada to purchase much less expensive prescriptions from Canadian pharmacies because prices here are considerably less.

A Wall Street Journal Market Watch article on the myths of Canadians 'flocking' to the USA for health care.

10:33PM PST on Feb 17, 2013

Dale O......I am so glad I can contribute in some small way to your "wee small hours" :-)
It is very difficult to explain to some how our system works when they really don't want to know.......I'm sure there are a large number of Obamacare haters who think we are lining up at the borders to avail ourselves of health care and bankruptcy......I have always had health insurance through my employer but now that I have retired, I still have a wonderful plan.....medical, dental, eyecare, meds., etc all for just over $60 (sixty) / month.......and I can see a doc whenever I need to.....

10:05PM PST on Feb 17, 2013

My real entertainment/laugh for the wee small hours of the morning comes from Matt B when he comments: "Mary B. there is no one who does not have access to healthcare in America." That's rich, a real knee slapper if it weren't so sad. Everyone has heard of people dying because they couldn't afford to pay for health care or people selling their homes to find funds or how a people's HMOs would only pay for x amount of coverage of a given procedure leaving people facing difficulty/cut off of care.

The fact remains many are hard done by the present lack of universal health care. Or you can mention that people from elsewhere come seeking care when things go wrong to the welcoming arms of American health care because of problems elsewhere. There are some problems but the vast majority of Canadians/others don't become health care refugees running to the USA. Obamacare doesn't even come close in comparison to true universal health care yet the right wing wishes to deny even this in the lame attempts to keep an at profit system at any cost no matter how many suffer.

9:31PM PST on Feb 17, 2013

Matt B.....Do you not think that the insurance companies are at all responsible for many not being able to afford health care?......Do you know anything at all about how the Canadian system works?

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