New Castle News

Editorials

January 30, 2014

Our Opinion: President’s annual address offers little inspiration

NEW CASTLE — Six years into his presidency, Barack Obama is running out of time.

And some would say out of steam. His annual State of the Union message — delivered to Congress and the American people Tuesday — offered little that was new.

While the president pushed for congressional action in key areas, such as immigration reform, he seemed to stress a desire to act unilaterally where possible. It was undoubtedly a reflection of Obama hitting a brick wall with major legislative initiatives.

That’s particularly true in an election year, where the parties will be far more interested in bickering with each other than getting something done. Americans tired of all the political posturing in Washington need to brace themselves for yet another round.

To get something accomplished as his time in office winds down, Obama must find a way to deal with Republicans who control the House and still have influence in the Senate. Despite occasional talk to the contrary, there appears to be little interest on either side to extend any olive branches.

The other option for Obama is to reach out to the American people and have them put pressure on Congress. But for that to happen, Obama needs the support and confidence of average individuals.

Amid confusion and outrage over such activities as health care reform and widespread government monitoring of private phone and computer communications, the president’s popularity ratings have sagged. There’s little indication he can stir the American people to follow him on key or controversial initiatives.

In fact, about the best thing going for Obama at the moment appears to be that Republicans in Congress are even less popular than he is. Unfortunately, it all adds up to a pretty dismal assessment of the nation’s leadership right now.

There seems to be some desire for immigration reform in Washington, but neither party is united on the subject. And there is interest in the issue of so-called income inequality, but Democrats and Republicans have decidedly different plans for addressing it.

Obama offered several initiatives in his address that require no congressional support. For instance, he declared that the minimum wage paid on federal contracts would rise to $10.10 per hour, while he asked Congress to hike the minimum wage for all. But the move won’t have much of an impact. As you might imagine, relatively few federal contract workers earn only the minimum.

And Obama announced plans for a low-wage starter retirement account system. But how it would work and how many people would take advantage of it is unclear.

All in all, when it comes to politics, the nation’s state of the union is uninspiring.

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