While numerous news outlets have pumped out stories calling President Obama’s State of the Union address “ambitious,” what we really heard last night were the same crowd-pleaser proposals about bringing jobs back to America and restoring the glory of the middle class. While some of Obama’s points, notably increasing the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour and tying it to the cost of living, would bring real change to helping the middle class, most ideas were lackluster and unlikely to be passed.
Obama listed off many Democratic Party platform ideas. He is asking Congress to pass legislation in the coming months, such as a plan to create jobs fixing infrastructure and ways to make higher education more affordable. But with the trillion dollars in automatic spending cuts, the so-called sequester (set to go into effect in the coming weeks if Congress cannot agree on ways to reduce the deficit,) it is extremely unlikely that the divided legislature will be able to work on any other legislation for a while.
The speech was slated to focus on the economy and jobs, but the President seemed to receive the most support when he brought up gun rights legislation. Many members of Congress in attendance wore green or black and white ribbons to support victims of gun violence and gave thunderous applause to Obama’s modest gun legislation reforms. The President proposed background checks, closing the private sale loophole, and taking “weapons of war” off the streets.
We already do background checks before selling someone a gun in most states and there are most certainly no “weapons of war” on our streets. There are definitely guns available to the general public that are unnecessary for personal defense or hunting, but to call them “weapons of war” is extreme and can only further polarize the debate on the Second Amendment.
These weak reforms and statements will do little to stop gun violence, yet the chamber gave them a roaring applause and standing ovation as Obama exclaimed how urgent he believes a vote on the proposals would be: “Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote.”
Obama’s address was essentially an extension of his inaugural address last month—an uninspiring general assessment of America as the greatest country on Earth without any real changes introduced or cutting edge ways to push the limit of what is possible for us to achieve as a nation.