2012 State of the Union: Nobody Built This Nation On Their Own

Capitol Building by Night - photo by Marius Strom

Last night President Obama delivered the 2012 State of the Union address with a speech bookended by a message of cooperation. In the 65 minute address to a joint session of congress, the President cited the United States military as an example of people working together for a common goal regardless of their backgrounds and beliefs. There was no shortage of challenges to the Republican party, but tempered with what I took away from this speech, which Obama summed up when he said, “nobody built this nation on their own”.

Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords – victim of a gunshot wound to the head inflicted by Jared Loughner in a Tucson, AZ just over a year ago – was in attendance at the speech and received a standing ovation upon her arrival. There was a special moment when President Obama and Giffords exchanged a warm and playful embrace.

The speech covered many topics including –  funding for clean energy – changing the “temperature” in Washington politics – getting rid of insider trading in congress – a proposed rule change in the Senate for nominations to allow simple up or down votes in 90-days – making sure we do right by the men and women who have served in our wars – tax incentives for corporations who bring jobs back to America and ending tax breaks for corporations shipping jobs overseas.

State of the Union 2012 - top words - by Shreve GarrottObama made the case for raising taxes on the wealthy as part of a balanced approach to tackling the deficit and long-term debt, even mentioning the charge of ‘class warfare’ that Republicans repeat ad nauseam. “Now, you can call this class warfare all you want,” Obama said. “But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.” I think that was an effective way to frame the debate on raising taxes on those who can afford to pay more taxes.

President Obama also made a point that the burden falls on the rest of us to make up the difference when wealthy people get tax breaks they don’t need. This too is an effective message because at a time of economic hardship and a massive federal deficit, we are increasing the deficit and debt to make sure wealthy people can pay a lower percent of tax than the average working American. That is simply wrong.

There weren’t many specifics about how tax law should change. It was mostly a progressive argument about how taxation should work in America, but one thing Obama did mention specifically is that people making over a million dollars should not pay less than 30%. I agree.

Many Republicans and conservatives including candidates for president state Obama believes America is in decline. This of course continues the lies and concocted stories from the Right since Obama has taken office, but the President had a message for them in tonight’s speech. In direct contrast to the continuous stream of lies from within the conservative bubble that is Fox News and conservative radio, Obama delivered the following line with authority, “Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they are talking about.” He followed moments later with, “America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs, and as long as I’m president, I intend to keep it that way.”

The speech was mostly positive but also assertive. The President did challenge his foes but it appeared to me that he was much less combative towards Republicans compared to his previous State of the Union speech,  returning multiple times to a theme of unity and working together to make America stronger, just as Americans before us did.


U.S. Capitol Building photo by Marius Strom via Flickr


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