President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, said, “We have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is strong.”
Indeed, our union is strong, despite all the doubt and rancor. Our military is, by far, the world’s mightiest, and our economy, at least for the time being, the largest and most stable. However much the “rubble of crisis” has been cleared, this has only made way for new crises to be erected.
Our dysfunctional Congress has manufactured such crises, like sequestration and the fight over raising the debt limit, and will continue to do so. And if that is not enough to worry about, there are all the looming storms overseas that the president mentioned only in passing.
Almost all the president’s address concerned domestic issues, and he announced a number of initiatives to improve the job climate and raise the standards of the middle class, including a pledge to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour by 2015. Many employers have already been compelled to pay higher salaries than the national minimum, either because their states have enacted higher minimum-wage laws or because of market pressure. But raising the minimum wage is not a no-brainer; doing so always has a negative effect on employment, at least initially. Employers find it less expensive to pay overtime than to hire additional workers, and students seeking part-time and summer jobs are particularly hurt.
Obama said that none of his proposals would increase the deficit “by a single dime,” but we wonder how that can be. He called for increased federal spending to fix the nation’s roads and bridges, and for quality pre-school education for every 4-year-old in the nation. These are lofty and worthy goals, but also expensive, and where will that money come from? By closing tax loopholes? Which ones? For mortgage deductions or charitable contributions? We’d like to know.
Though the nation’s economy is foremost in the minds of most Americans, it is nearly certain our attention will be diverted by critical situations around the world for the rest of this year. The president mentioned his upcoming trip to the Middle East, which is a pot close to boiling over. If that’s not enough to worry about, Iran and North Korea are cooking up more trouble. Would the latter, under its immature new leader, launch a nuclear warhead at its neighbor to the south or in the direction of the United States? The retaliation would be swift and massive, of course, but would that not fulfill the regime’s prophesy that the U.S. is the enemy out to destroy the people’s paradise?
President Obama has much work to do with the state of the nation in the coming months, and Americans deserve to know the specifics of how he hopes to get it done. He will have to turn much of his attention to the state of the world, though, and Americans ought to have patience and understanding of just how crucial his performance is there, too.