Once more, the U.S. president appeared before Congress to present the State of the Union address. Unlike the previous five years, lawmakers belonging to the Republican Party hold the majority in both chambers of Congress. This new balance of power does not seem to have affected the president, and in his speech, he got rid of the conciliatory tone that was his trademark. For reference, some Republican lawmakers said that the president has not taken charge of this new situation. Rather, what could be noticed in his speech is that he seems to have freed himself from a heavy burden that made him sacrifice the essential aspects of his agenda for the sake of a consensus never achieved with Republicans.
He openly questioned the conservative policy of the Republicans in their eagerness to obstruct his government’s decisions, and contrasted it with the achieved results. In the main part of his speech, he talked about the economic growth of his country over the past five years, which crystallized in the impressive results of the last quarter; unemployment rates dropped to 5.6 percent, after having been more than 10 percent in 2008, when he became president.
As in the previous year, he insisted on how limited the scope of that growth is, taking into consideration that one of its characteristics is the concentration of wealth and an increasing inequality. That is why, he said, the tax on “middle and working classes” must be reduced through a “dramatic” increase in taxes coming from capital profits, from 20 percent to 28 percent, and by closing the countless accounting and legal loopholes that assist in the avoidance of paying those taxes. For years, Republicans have insisted that top-earners should not pay a higher tax rate than those who earn less.
That will once again be one of the main points of dispute between the president and the new Republican majority, including some lawmakers of his own party closely linked to Wall Street. The oddest thing is that the issue of an increasing inequality and poverty has been a liberal flag, but lately, conservatives have been the ones flying it. Their mistake is attempting to reduce the deficit at the expense of the social spending benefiting the poorest.
No doubt, the most important aspect of Obama’s speech is that it laid the foundation for the main discussion of years to come, including during the campaign for the presidency in 2016, the issue of inequality and poverty. In this sense, the speech was barbed, raising a subject that has always made conservatives uncomfortable; they lack the tools to solve this issue without first changing the roots of their ideological conception.
In the end, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it has been proved that it is a discussion that lacks any sense if it does not lead to solving that fundamental precept of human co-existence: equitable distribution of wealth produced by society as a whole.