President Barack Obama received uncharacteristic ovations from Republican legislators, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, when emphasizing American ideals and national security, but the sticking points that may well determine his re-election in November are the economy and jobs.
While the president touts marginal gains in decreasing America’s jobless rate, he failed to mention that we are far from where we were when he entered office in 2008.
Since then, the unemployment rate has jumped from 5 percent to 8.5 percent. In Obama’s defense, the unemployment rate peaked at 10 percent in October, less than two years into his presidency, and has steadily — albeit slowly — declined since.
Nearly 2.4 million jobs have been added since unemployment peaked in 2009. But even the president admits that wages remain “stagnant.” Aside from coveted gains in the automotive industry, the bottom has all but fallen out of the manufacturing base that supports a healthy GDP.
He may be on target to hit his modest 8 percent unemployment goal, but the recent demise of his jobs plan and narrowly avoiding a credit downgrade because of heated federal budget negotiations illustrate the difficulties he faces, and perhaps inspires, from his staunch partisan views.
The president calls for bills that he can sign immediately. He argues that much can be done in the turbulent political environment leading up to November. But the bills he hopes to see in the Oval Office lack support in the Republican-held House of Representatives, and he knows that.
As a politician, Obama played his cards masterfully on Tuesday night. He called for Congress to act. And any inaction will be seen as a political victory for Obama in the fall.
While the payroll tax cut extension is expected to garner bipartisan support, the same cannot be said for adjusting the capital gains tax and raising tax rates for millionaires.
As the election approaches, Obama will drift further toward his liberal base and further from making the compromises and agreements needed to foster legislation aimed at alleviating unemployment.