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Rzeczpospolita, Poland

Obama: Between Vision and Realism

By Tomasz Deptuła

Translated By Jakub Pankowski

15 February 2013

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

Poland - Rzeczpospolita - Original Article (Polish)

Promises to support the middle class and restrict gun control – these promises are what Americans will remember from the presidential address.

The U.S. president, who has started his second term, presented a combination of wishful thinking and a list of things that may actually be supported by Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Americans will remember this address firstly as a long list of actions that the government intends to take to improve the middle class’ situation, and also as an emotional appeal concerning outvoting a bill limiting gun control.

Barack Obama's speech delivered to both chambers of Congress was observed by victims of the recent massacres in Newtown, Tucson, Aurora and Blacksburg, along with their families.

A Minimum of $9 an Hour

People commenting on the speech stressed primarily those topics out of president's ambitious program for the first year of his second term that will be truly feasible to implement. President Obama left little room for the conservative Republican majority in the House of Representatives to maneuver.

He did promise not to increase the budget deficit and suggested it would be ready for a small cut in social programs, Social Security and Medicare, but at the same time proposed a minimum wage increase from $7.25 per hour to $9 and, what is more, indexing wages to the cost of living.

The latter, in addition to ensuring all children have access to childcare and the improved gun control law, is believed to encounter the greatest resistance in Congress.

Immigration reform, an issue to which Obama paid a fair share of time, stirred the least controversy, relatively.

Republicans agree with the assumptions proposed under the reform, but they place greater emphasis on border security than on the program of legalizing 11 million illegal immigrants.

Both parties may also find common ground in simplifying the tax law.

Tax Obsession

Republicans appeared to strongly criticize the presidential program presented on Tuesday night, which involved increasing investment in renewable energy sources at the expense of reducing the extraction of fossil fuels. This could bring energy independence to the United States, as well as plans to raise taxes on the wealthiest.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who gave an official statement on behalf of his party, stated that Obama is obsessed with increasing taxes.

Foreign policy seems to have been the topic commented upon the least in the presidential speech. The president said nothing surprising on this subject. He promised further action against al-Qaida, condemned the North Korean nuclear tests and called on Iran to start negotiations concerning its nuclear program.

He also called for a free trade agreement with the European Union. Moreover, he announced a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the next year, which was not a surprise either.

“Instead of talking about leaving the country, the president should focus primarily on goals to achieve in Afghanistan,” says Luke Coffey, an expert from the conservative Heritage Foundation.*

An Answer in Spanish

There was also a surprise on the right wing. Republicans confirmed that they are going through a serious identity crisis at the moment, which is most notably exemplified by the two separately delivered replies.

The official reply was produced by Senator Rubio (for the first time in history in two languages: English and Spanish), and the other a much more radical one delivered by the tea party movement congressman, Republican Ron Paul.

*Editor’s Note: This quote, accurately translated, could not be verified.



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