Wednesday, January 21, 2015

State of the Union

Obama managed to sound somewhat more like a Democrat last night, and he seems to have given up entirely on his earlier "working across the aisle" mantra.  I like some of the ideas he floated, needless to say those least likely to be enacted into law by our current troglodyte Congress.  Raising the top capital gains tax rate to 28%, albeit only a modest increase, would be a step in the right direction.  "But wait," shout the Republicans, "that would stifle investment and kill jobs!"

Nah.  It's still a lower rate than the rich would be paying if they actually had to work for the income, and since corporations are so astute at avoiding paying taxes, the "double taxation" argument won't hold.  Dumping the inheritance dodge also makes a lot of sense, but I didn't hear anything about closing the "carried-interest" loophole this time around.  Oh well, it wasn't going to happen anyway, so why keep antagonizing Hillary's likely Wall Street donors?

Getting Congress to actively authorize military action against IS makes a lot of sense, because when things go terribly wrong, as they always are inclined to do, the administration gets to share the blame.  Free community college tuition sounds good, but community college tuition is cheap, generally covered by Pell Grants for the poor, as David Brooks pointed out in his NYTimes column a couple of days ago.  He is also on the mark when he observes that raising graduation rates from community colleges is a much more difficult, and a much more important, endeavor than just shuffling more failures through the system.

One area where Obama might get Republican cooperation is in getting fast-track authority for his Trans-Pacific-Partnership.  Will the TPP result in improved labor standards in Asia?  Maybe.  Asian standards just might improve almost to the same extent that US standards deteriorate.

All in all, though, inching to the left, however slightly, is likely to help Democratic candidates in 2016, while keeping what Paul Wellstone called "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party" at bay — and I suspect that may have been a major objective of last night's address.

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