Over the last couple of years, the focus of Washington has been austerity, austerity, austerity. Conservatives believe cutting taxes and cutting spending to lower the deficit will lead us to economic recovery. Democrats believe they have to do whatever they can to keep the conservatives happy in the name of bi-partisanship. The result has been the economy recovering at a snail’s pace, keeping workers out of the work force, thereby keeping revenues from coming in.
We’ve spent the last two years talking about austerity, and the American people have tired of this approach. By rejecting the Romney-Ryan ticket and electing progressive heroes to the senate like Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin, the American people a clear message to John Boehner and his Tea Party Congress: “it’s the economy stupid!”
The State of the Union is the President’s first big opportunity to retrain our nations focus on economic prosperity instead of austerity. It is his chance to say to the Tea Party Congress: we’ve spent the last two years trying your way, it didn’t work, and the American people rejected it. For growth first to work, we must be bold.
The President must call on Congress to invest in infrastructure and education, strengthen the social safety net, and raise revenue so we're able to fund these programs. Here’s what I hope to hear the President highlight.
Now is the time for a robust investment in America’s future. President Obama must call for bold action on ensuring our school system continues to be one of the world’s best. This not only means hiring more teachers, but also investing in the physical plant needed to give students a top notch education.
Beyond education we must invest in our infrastructure. Why is it that in the richest country in the world, we have an infrastructure that literally crumbles and collapses without warning? Yet roughly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges exist in this country. We need these fixed up, improved, or rebuilt. The President must call for a robust investment in an infrastructure for the 21st Century. This includes not just bridges, but roads, and even high speed rail.
Next the President must commit to strengthening our social safety net. Here at DFA we have long worked to protect the progressive values of the New Deal, and our members want to see the President draw a line in the sand and say “I will not tolerate any benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” And simply saying “no cuts” is not enough. On Tuesday night, the President must offer solutions for these programs that keep intact their promise for future generations. This would include supporting bold programs such as Scrap the Cap that would eliminate the cap on Social Security Taxes so that all income is taxed instead of the first $113,000.
Finally, the President must continue to push on new revenues and ending corporate welfare. A few policies we would like to see the President support are addressing the difference between earned income and investment income, ending tax breaks for oil, as well as ending corporate welfare such as oil subsidies.