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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Obama's Sixth Year Pitch -- Review & Outlook, The Wall Street Journal

Trying to address the economic insecurity his policies have caused.

The State of the Union address in the sixth year of any Presidency is rarely compelling. The White House tries to portray a renewed sense of vigor and perhaps a fresh proposal or two, while the public has begun to tune the familiar man out and Congress has its eyes on November. Perhaps that explains the subdued tone of President Obama's speech Tuesday.

Gone were the grand progressive ambitions of last year's speech and the soaring tributes to government. Perhaps this was an implicit nod to the failed rollout of ObamaCare, as well as the polling fact that only 19% of the public says it trusts the federal government. Mr. Obama had to say something about ObamaCare, so he stuck to a few popular details and did a public-service announcement asking people to sign up. 

Mr. Obama was also trying to revive his own standing as a leader, which has suffered from the failures of the last year. Some 63% of Americans now say they lack confidence in his ability to make the right decisions. This may explain Mr. Obama's odd pledge that 2014 will be a "year of action." What were the previous five—years of inaction? As with his pledge to "act" on his own if Congress fails to agree with him, Mr. Obama is trying to convince Americans he's not a spent force.

Most of the rest of the speech tried to address the economic insecurity that his own policies have done so much to create. Thus the odd combination of claiming credit for the recovery, even for the domestic oil boom he has resisted, while fretting about stagnant wages for "the middle class."

Not that his small-ball proposals would help. His proposal to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour—he proposed $9 a year ago—is an empty gesture because most Americans make more than the minimum and many of those who don't will end up with a wage of $0 if their employer reduces the number of employees. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline would do more for the jobless than his $24 billion a year palliative to extend jobless benefits.
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