Obama's SOTU receives mostly cheers from the 99%


WASHINGTON - President Obama threw down the gauntlet in his State of the Union address, Jan. 24, vowing to fight for an economy that serves the interests of the vast majority, not the wealthy few, and also requiring millionaires to pay their "fair share" in taxes.

The speech was widely seen as the opening shot of Obama's reelection bid and he went on the attack. Without mentioning the Occupy Wall Street movement by name, he echoed their "99% vs. 1%" populist theme, hammering Wall Street banks, corporate greed, deregulation, and lawmakers who serve the interests only of the wealthy one percent while running roughshod over the working class majority.

"The State of the Union is getting stronger," he said. "And we've come too far to turn back now. As long as I'm president, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action and I will oppose any effort to return to the same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place."

The speech was greeted by many grassroots organizations, even as some voiced concerns or hoped he had gone further on a range of specific issues he mentioned.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka said, "The president voiced the aspirations and concerns of those who are too often ignored" laying out a vision of an America that creates "jobs and prosperity for all instead of wealth for the few."

The labor federation president cited Obama's stress on restoring manufacturing and contrasted his speech with the Republican's answer delivered by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels who is pushing a union-busting "Right-to-work (for less)" law through the Indiana legislature.

Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP, applauded the president for "adopting our longstanding priority of economic stability in communities of color, for his bold stand on job creation, and for leading the charge on reversing the economic crisis."

At the same time, Jealous denounced the "obstructionist leaders in Congress" and called on the House and Senate to approve Obama's job creation legislation including the American Jobs Act that "would create 1.9 million jobs" and "his summer jobs and tourism initiative that will create hundreds of thousands more..."

The National Council of La Raza welcomed Obama's call for comprehensive immigration reform and for speedy enactment of the Dream Act "allowing hundreds of thousands" of immigrant youth to stay in the U.S. to study and work toward citizenship.

The Sierra Club, 350.org and the Energy Action Coalition staged a protest demonstration on Capitol Hill the day of the speech to protest the "pipeline of money flowing between Big Oil and Congress." They thanked Obama for halting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, while at the same time raised concerns about parts of his energy plan.

A Greenberg, Quinlan, Posner telephone survey after the speech of 50 swing Denver voters, 44 percent Republican leaning and 32 percent Democrat was headlined "President Obama Scores with Middle Class Message."

Before the speech, 50 percent had a favorable view of Obama. After the speech, his job approval rose 8 percent and his personal rating rose 16 points to 66 percent.

In his speech, the president announced that he has ordered the Attorney General to set up a special unit to investigate Wall Street fraud to "hold accountable those who broke the law..."

In response, MoveOn called on their members to thank the president via Facebook.

"President Obama did exactly what hundreds of thousands of us have been calling on him to do," said Elena Perez, MoveOn political action director. "This is truly a huge victory for the 99 percent movement."

MoveOn had just sent 360,000-signed petitions to the White House urging an investigation of Wall Street crime.

Obama touched on a wide range of issues in his 65-minute speech. He called for a "Buffet rule" to force millionaires like Warren Buffet to pay their share of taxes. He called for passage of the Dream Act to allow undocumented youth who have lived most of their lives in the U.S. to attend college and apply for citizenship.

End tax subsidies to oil companies, he said, and increase subsidies for renewable energy sources. Impose a tax on corporations that export jobs and use the revenues to help subsidize manufacturing in the U.S.

"Washington is broken," he said, calling on the lawmakers to clean their own house by adopting rules that bar "insider trading" by Congress members. He decried as a "fiasco" Republican threats to shut down the government if the administration didn't go along with extending tax cuts for millionaires. "Can you blame them [the people] for feeling a little cynical?"

Just before he mounted the platform, Obama greeted Rep. Gabriela Giffords, D-Ariz., standing on the House floor beside her Arizona colleague, Rep. Raul Grijalva. She was gravely wounded in the head by a deranged gunman in Tucson a year ago. Giffords, who has fought heroically to regain her health, had just announced her resignation. The president walked over and embraced her, a tender moment that brought home the cost of the nation's unbridled gun violence and rightwing hate.

Photo: President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 24. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


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  • It is absolutely essential that the Republicans, whose current crop of leaders and presidential candidates is the most shockingly reactionary we have seen in years, be defeated in the 2012 elections. The reality of this country is that the only way of doing that in the national electoral realm is by supporting the Democratic Party candidates including Obama. In general, it is a good thing that Obama has decided to take a more populist tack at this point, with his proposals on taxing the rich and other things. However, it worries me a bit that some of us think that applauding this positive stuff should entail bashing the many Oliver Twists among the 99 percent who are constantly saying "please sir, I want some more" (often using less polite and more colorful language than the Dickens character did). The main thing here is the class struggle, coming to splendid life in things like the "occupy" movement, which will inevitably put pressure on the Democrats as well as the Republicans. The Democrats are grown ups and their leaders are serious political operators, they are not going to fall apart because workers, minorities, women, immigrants and the poor criticize their policies. We should be active in discouraging things like assertions that the Democrats are "just as bad" as the Republicans, calls for a boycott of elections, or support for third party candidacies which are not going to go anywhere and might play into the hands of the Republicans, but we should not think we have to rush defend everything the Democrats and the Obama administration do or don't do against valid criticisms from the activist base. How can one NOT criticize things like the foreign policy stuff Gary H mentions in his comment, or issues of immigrants' rights and civil liberties (e.g. Democratic Mayor Emmanuel's "sit down and shut up" ordinance in Chicago) that have arisen, and have any credibility?

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 01/28/2012 7:22pm (4 years ago)

  • Good speech, but saying something about doing something and actually doing something are two entirely different things.

    Posted by richard, 01/27/2012 2:30am (4 years ago)

  • So a politician made a great speech in an election year. I'm not impressed. If Obama is reelected, just how long do you think it will be before he sells us out again to the 1%, like he did for most the past 3 years?

    Posted by John Whiskey, 01/26/2012 9:40pm (4 years ago)

  • Missing in this article: any inkling of Barack Obama's publicly announced and fierce foreign policy, in particular his boasting of the selective asassinations on his watch, his teeth-bared remarks towards China and Iran, his lack of commentary about the world economic crisis [as though our own takes place in a vacuum]. And the jingo-ism...the statement that the US is indispensable, thereby telling all other nations that they are otherwise. And the statement that anyone who thinks that things are otherwise "simply don't know what they're talking about".

    The New York Times and other bourgeois media have, within their worldview, tossed in more criticism of President Obama, than our historic working-class press. It's not even good cheerleading with intent to mobilize the troops behind Obama's quest for a second presidential term. Jesus wept!

    Posted by gary hicks, 01/26/2012 8:33pm (4 years ago)

  • Nice going Tim!
    We have to get behind this President so he can serve "us" the 99% for the next four years!

    Posted by Gabriel Falsetta, 01/26/2012 7:22pm (4 years ago)

  • While the President is at it he certainly needs to go after the Corporate Tax dodgers who have legally created shell corporations with no more than PO Box Numbers to avoid paying taxes.
    The reason we need reform is get rid of the Political Elite Caste that runs Congress to theirs and the Corporations benefit . Please don't forget the Banking Families who own the Federal Reserve Banks.
    Hot air is cheap from Politicians so lets see what real changes get done that benefit all us working serfs.

    Posted by RiverRat2U, 01/26/2012 4:06pm (4 years ago)

  • This is an excellent report of the SOTU address we heard on Tuesday. Especially valuable is weaving into the article the reaction from so many environmental, peace, labor and social justice organizations.

    Posted by James Hannley, 01/26/2012 12:09pm (4 years ago)

  • Pres. Obama is essentially on the right track He needs support from all reform-minded citizens. I am concerned
    that some on the left want to much too soon and, not understanding the political realities, blame Obama for not achieving enough.

    Posted by Rob Moir, 01/26/2012 11:01am (4 years ago)

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