August 22, 2019 | 89° F

State of the Union address marks fresh start for Obama

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address tonight will highlight his plans in detail, specifically policies revolving around gun control, immigration, climate change and the federal budget.

David Greenberg, associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, said Obama will try to set his agenda and place the center of debate a more to the liberal side than it was in his first term.

“Usually the State of the Union goes into much more policy detail, [Obama’s] inaugural was a bit of a surprise because they usually don’t go into policy detail at all but he did,” he said.

Greenberg said Obama will try to exploit the weakness of Republicans, as they are in a particularly weak position.

“He’ll try to corner them,” he said. “They have not had a good past few months, with their extreme stance on guns, losing the election, remaining antagonistic on tax increases even on the rich, and claiming to support deficit and debt reduction … the Republicans are not in a strong position.”

The State of the Union address is a fresh start for the president, Greenberg said.

“It’s the only time he’s going to get his fresh start — it’s his last chance,” he said. “Now is the time, if he does want to promote major initiatives … because things take a long time. Politics intrude, congressional elections are coming up and Obama will be seen by some as a lame duck.”

But Greenberg said Obama will not succeed in passing legislation on a lot of issues and may concede to Republicans a lot, but this is the time for him to act nonetheless.

Obama would not be eager to make cuts to domestic spending programs, as they are not the source of the deficit, Greenberg said.

“You could double everything we spend on education and child care, and still we’d be in fine shape,” he said.

The real problems, in terms of the deficit, include the defense spending.

“We have decided to maintain the world’s strongest military,” he said. “It’s a system of private contractors with little oversight that can charge the government for a lot of work. [Obama will] be happy to cut defense spending, but he doesn’t know how to cut healthcare spending.”

Greenberg said the Republicans are going to make him cut other spending that Obama would not want to cut but would go along with to show a good face effort toward deficit reduction.

“You can’t cut spending too much, otherwise you’ll send us back to recession,” he said. “There’s a problem — long term debt — so as long as we’re not accruing a lot of debt, deficits are good in short term, it helps the economy.”

Greenberg said the topics Obama will primarily focus on involve the fiscal issues, taxes and spending issues in the State of the Union address.

“I think he’s going to try to bring up some other issues like immigration and gun control because they have more media attention and are more interesting than budget issues, but the budget is the big enchilada,” he said.

By Julian Chokkattu

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