President Barack Obama delivered his third State of the Union address last night at the U.S. Capitol, winning widespread plaudits. This is the enhanced version shown on the White House web site with various graphs and visual aids.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … JERRY BROWN 2.0: HOW’S IT GOING?
** QUICK HITS. In a quickly scheduled lunchtime press availability in the Governor’s Office prior to his afternoon meeting with the mayors of California’s largest cities, there to defend the redevelopment pot of gold, Governor Jerry Brown told reporters that his budget plans are on track. And he previewed his message for the mayors, which is that there is “no money,” hence the need to redirect revenue to core services, and predicted that they would just be among the first to walk the halls of the Capitol and beyond in protest of the state’s austerity budget. … Some of the mayors reportedly said after their session with Brown that he was listening to their pitch that their use of property tax revenues for shopping malls, sports stadiums, and the like was essential for economic revitalization and that he had called in staff and agreed to a dialogue. … Brown also challenged legislative Republicans, who are trying to pull their Arnold era scam of supporting only cuts in the budget but refusing to say what should be cut, to stop playing that game.
** OBAMA ACHIEVES S.O.T.U. KUMBAYA.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following joint statement on President Obama’s State of the Union Address:
“America’s working families and business community stand united in applauding President Obama’s call to create jobs and grow our economy through investment in our nation’s infrastructure.
“Whether it is building roads, bridges, high-speed broadband, energy systems and schools, these projects not only create jobs and demand for businesses, they are an investment in building the modern infrastructure our country needs to compete in a global economy.
“With the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO standing together to support job creation, we hope that Democrats and Republicans in Congress will also join together to build America’s infrastructure.”
** NEW POLL: VOTERS WANT CUTS, JUST NOT WHERE THE MONEY IS. Just like Americans in California, Americans as a whole, according to the new Gallup Poll, want to cut government spending, just not where the money really is.
Of nine progam areas polled, foreign aid is the only one that a majority wants to cut.
And the foreign aid budget is a relative pittance.
In every other area, which happens to be where the money actually goes, majorities — usually big majorities — oppose cuts in spending.
You see, Californians are not uniquely ignorant and/or hypocritical.
Prior to the State of the Union address, a majority of Americans said they favor cutting U.S. foreign aid, but more than 6 in 10 opposed cuts to education, Social Security, and Medicare. Smaller majorities objected to cutting programs for the poor, national defense, homeland security, aid to farmers, and funding for the arts and sciences. …
In the weeks ahead, Congress and the White House will likely focus on negotiations over government spending and how to cut the federal budget deficit. In addition to broad concerns about the size of the deficit, Congress is under pressure to raise the legal limit on the national debt before U.S. borrowing exceeds the existing limit — or face what Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner describes as “catastrophic economic consequences.” Geithner’s department predicts the current debt ceiling could be exceeded as early as March 31 of this year.
The new Republican leadership in Congress has indicated it will look for progress on deficit reduction before agreeing to raise the federal debt ceiling, and Americans appear to agree with that point in principle. Half of Americans say the limit on the national debt should be raised only if Congress specifies in advance what measures would be taken to reduce the deficit in the future, compared with 16% who think Congress should raise the debt limit regardless. An additional third of Americans have no opinion on the matter. …
A thriving national economy can be effective in reducing the federal deficit, because it produces increased revenues even if tax rates remain the same. This happened in the late 1990s during the “dot-com” boom, but few economists are predicting a recurrence of those circumstances in the immediate future. That leaves two practical, but politically painful, approaches to deficit reduction: raising taxes and reducing spending. Americans certainly do not favor an increase in taxes for anyone other than the wealthy, and at this point frown on spending cuts in most of the obvious areas where such reductions could be made.
The largest slices of the current government spending pie, other than interest on the debt, are the entitlement programs and national defense. Entitlement programs are of particular concern, given the looming impact of the aging baby boom generation, the oldest members of which are now turning 65. Despite this, 64% of Americans interviewed in the Jan. 14-16 USA Today/Gallup survey are opposed to cutting government spending for Social Security, and 61% oppose cutting Medicare. Meanwhile, 57% of Americans oppose cutting government spending for national defense. A majority of Americans also oppose cutting education, anti-poverty programs, homeland security, aid to farmers, and funding for the arts and sciences. Foreign aid is the only area out of the nine measured that a majority of Americans agree should be cut.
Two areas of possible cuts generate the biggest differences between Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) and Democrats (including leaners): national defense and funding for the arts and sciences. Democrats are much more in favor of cutting the former, and Republicans, the latter. …
It has become a maxim of U.S. politics that Americans approve of cutting spending in concept but disapprove of cutting specific programs. The Defense Department long ago realized that closing specific military bases is difficult because local politicians always push to keep their area’s bases open. This realization led to the creation of a special commission that recommends base closures without directly involving Congress — an idea that may need to be replicated to achieve broader government spending cuts.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama called for a five-year freeze in most domestic federal discretionary spending, contrasting with Rep. Paul Ryan’s Republican response, which emphasized broader and deeper cuts in domestic spending. While Americans may believe, in principle, that the federal government should cut spending, the current data suggest they may be more receptive to Obama’s spending freeze, given that Republicans’ cuts will inevitably take aim at some programs Americans think ought to be spared.
I’ll have more from another poll on such matters, this one on California, when it comes off embargo.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Wisconsin.
Obama departed Washington early this morning for post-State of the Union appearances in Wisconsin. He receives his daily intelligence and economic briefings on Air Force One.
At 8:35 AM Pacific, Obama arrives in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
At 9:35 AM Pacific, Obama tours Orion Energy Systems, Inc. in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
At 10 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks on the economy.
At 10:35 AM Pacific, Obama tours Skana Aluminum Company in Manitowoc.
At 11:50 AM Pacific, Obama tours Tower Tech Systems, Inc. in Manitowoc.
At 1:10 PM Pacific, Obama departs Green Bay, Wisconsin on Air Force One en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
At 3 PM Pacific, Obama arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, where he boards Marine One.
At 3:15 PM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
For his part, Vice President Joe Biden is in Greenfield, Indiana late this morning to discuss how the Obama Administration is incentivizing investment in innovation.
Obama is getting high marks in instant polling for his performance in last night’s State of the Union address.
In many respects, while more centrist than some of his past presidential speeches, it was a return to the post-partisan uplift that characterized his early oratory, as I discussed in the essay below on Obama and the JFK Inaugural.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Tunisia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and the Korean peninsula, as well as the Wikileaks crisis.
In the wake of the Tunisian uprising, waves of protest, fed by social media, spread through Egypt, a key US ally, on Tuesday. Today security forces are cracking down.
The unrest in Tunisia has spread to Egypt, where dissatisfaction with autocratic rule is growing with help from social networks. But Facebook and Twitter are running afoul of the authorities.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento today.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown is working on California’s chronic budget crisis and on developing his nascent administration.
He will meet privately this afternoon with mayors from a host of large cities around California opposing his plan to redirect revenues from redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones to core services.
They include the mayors of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa; San Diego, Jerry Sanders; San Francisco, Edwin Lee; Sacramento, Kevin Johnson; Oakland, Jean Quan; Santa Ana, Miguel Pulido; San Jose, Chuck Reed; Fresno, Ashley Swearengin; and Anaheim, Tom Tait.
This will be very interesting.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Canada today.
He is in the midst of a three-day speaking tour of Canada.
Today he is in Toronto for a noontime address at the Metro Toronto Convention Center.
Yesterday he addressed a crowd of 2300 at a luncheon speech in Calgary, and 850 at an evening speech in Winnipeg. Attendees are paying hundreds of dollars to hear Schwarzenegger.
What did they hear? An amalgam of inspirational talk and glimpses of an Arnold-style future marked by new, greener technology.
** OBAMA AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE JFK INAUGURAL 50 YEARS ON. Why, 50 years after the fact, did official Washington celebrate the inauguration of a most imperfect man who served less than one term as president, and had far fewer accomplishments than many other presidents?
The answer undoubtedly lies in why John F. Kennedy continues to be rated higher in polling than all other modern presidents, and why Barack Obama became a major political figure in the first place and is resurgent today. Ideology, policy, even accomplishment has remarkably little to do with it.
Obama flashed on to the national scene in 2004 on the strength of nothing more than one great speech, his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. He was only a state senator in Illinois, about to become a freshman U.S. senator. But after that one speech, he was a major presidential prospect.
So, too, with Kennedy, finding his place on the stage of history with his great inaugural address.
When Senator John Kerry selected Obama to deliver the 2004 convention keynote, like most in politics I’d barely heard of him. But his obscurity and newness on the scene — in 2000, Obama had struggled to even get into the Democratic national convention in Los Angeles, as he endearingly recounted in The Audacity of Hope — didn’t stop him from delivering one of the great convention stemwinders of all time, an exercise in uplift, ennoblement, and possibility that launched him on a steep trajectory taking him to the presidency four years later. …
From my January 22nd essay.
** THE JERRY BROWN ERA UNFOLDS (AGAIN). And he is off and running as governor of California. Again. The first week of Jerry Brown’s governorship told us a lot, and set the stage for the second week, in which a hellacious state budget proposal is dominating.
First, let’s look at that, and then at the first week of the Brown governorship as he took over from Arnold Schwarzenegger. A week that was telling and even, in its way, festive. At least at first. … From my January 11th feature.
** 2010: A JERRY BROWN ODYSSEY. … From my December 20th feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
Russia is holding a day of mourning today in the wake of Monday’s devastating terrorist bombing at Moscow’s busiest airport.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $86 per barrel.
This is up about $52 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
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