SOTU Was Tame, But Painted Crucial Vision For America


President Obama delivered the first State of the Union address of his second term, and it turned out to be everything we expected: ho-hum, predictable, somewhat boring, but also logical about where things in America need to go.

The speech was relatively brief and sweeping, beginning domestically, going internationally and back again. On matters of economic recovery and jobs, Obama made a point about the gains already made, but acknowledged their inefficiency in bettering the overall economic situation, still mired by high unemployment and structural problems, like the budget and debt issues. The consecutive call for bipartisan cooperation went out to the Republicans, and the president very maturely did not try to delegitimize of play down the opposition.

Tax, education, and immigration reform played at the basis of the domestic social issues, with the reality that hard choices are going to be made across the board, as resources get smaller and Americans need to put up with harder realities to make the country work, going forward.

Obama treated gun violence carefully, putting the emphasis on the legislative reforms to enhance gun control and access to military-grade weapons. Nonetheless, there is also a shared responsibility to making sure the gun culture is kept responsible and accountable.

Economically, re-introducing manufacturing in America, providing incentives for business to invest and hire and matching the educational system closer to the needs of the market and investing in energy independence through oil, gas and renewable are all outlined  steps to improving America’s relative economic situation. A still theoretical energy trust fund is supposed to invest in technologies that further energy independence in America. Not last on this list is the push to improving the energy efficiency of buildings and businesses.

Minimum wage and the middle class — those will be the likely political hot potatoes in 2013.

Internationally, the highlight fell on the establishment of trans-oceanic trade arrangements to bolster exports in East Asia, as well as with the European Union. The latter of those will be a specifically interesting development to watch.

The Middle East theater saw no change in outlook — moral support for democracy without clear practical considerations, support for Israel and the stock warning against Iran. Conversely, North Korea’s nuclear test was also acknowledged, but it seemed to cause no ripples.

Veterans’ affairs in terms of physical, mental health and civilian reintegration will become ever more important, as troops return and the army is downsized.

Cyber-defense is going to be one of the most important topics in the near future, as its potential to cripple fundamentally important infrastructure systemically puts cyber attacks on a scale potential of a weapon of mass destruction.

The final question the SOTU did not address tonight: what are we going to do about millennials’ opportunities to enter the middle class?