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President Obama delivers his first State of the Union address of his second term.
Associated Press/Photo by Charles Dharapak
President Obama delivers his first State of the Union address of his second term.

Alternate reality

Politics | In his State of the Union address President Obama continues to push for more government, claiming his programs won’t add a dime to the deficit

WASHINGTON—Days after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the federal government doesn’t have a spending problem, President Barack Obama continued the string of brazen claims Tuesday night during his fourth State of the Union address.

He said Obamacare is cutting healthcare costs.

He said both parties have worked together to cut the deficit by $2.5 trillion.

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He said none of his proposals would “increase our deficit by a single dime.”

The president’s statements underscored lawmakers’ alternate realities on Capitol Hill, with Democrats pushing for more government programs—pitched as “investments”—and Republicans trying to rein in federal spending. Obama didn’t back down during his one-hour speech, using his national audience to propose new programs related to job creation, climate change, infrastructure, education, energy research, and more, while promising all of his proposals are “fully paid for and consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio presented a different view when he delivered the GOP response only minutes after the president’s remarks: “Every problem can’t be solved by government,” he said, pointing to the moral breakdown of American society as largely to blame. “The answers to those challenges lie primarily in our families and our faiths, not our politicians.”

Obama, too, said bigger government is not what America needs, but the content of his remarks cast a very different vision for the country in his second term. He showed no signs of retreating from economic policy that has contributed to a higher unemployment rate now than when he first took office. He forged ahead Tuesday, urging Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour, despite overwhelming evidence that says raising the minimum wage increases unemployment, especially for low-skilled workers.

The president did not mention Congress’s failure to pass a budget the last four years. But he did spend a significant amount of time talking about long lines at polling places, a problem he pledged to “fix” with a non-partisan commission to “improve the voting experience in America.”

Rubio, on the other hand—showing why he’s a conservative favorite for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016—spent a large portion of his response time addressing the fiscal challenges facing the country. He said the string of showdowns and short-term fiscal deals are doing nothing to solve the real budget problems in Washington.

Obama saved gun control for his final policy appeal, seizing on the Newtown, Conn., shooting last December to urge lawmakers to clamp down on gun violence. He repeatedly asked Congress to bring the bills up for a vote, but stopped short of throwing full support behind controversial proposals.

The president managed to elicit approval from both sides of the aisle when he spoke of support for Israel and the return of 34,000 troops from Afghanistan by early 2014.

He also received bipartisan applause when he said he wants to work to strengthen families and do more to encourage fatherhood, “because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child, it’s having the courage to raise one.” 

Obama later undercut his pro-father message by further promoting the idea that not everybody should have one: He wants to ensure that partners and families of homosexual military members receive full benefits.

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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