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Obama: Shadow Of Crisis Has Passed; State Of The Union Is Strong

President Barack Obama is greeted on Capitol Hill in Washington before his State of the Union address, Jan. 20, 2015.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press
President Barack Obama is greeted on Capitol Hill in Washington before his State of the Union address, Jan. 20, 2015.
Obama: Shadow Of Crisis Has Passed; State Of The Union Is Strong
Obama: Shadow Of Crisis Has Passed; State Of The Union Is Strong
How Obama's State of the Union proposals may impact San Diego GUESTS:Carl Luna, professor of political science at Mesa College Marney Cox, chief economist at San Diego Association of Governments Samuel Popkin, professor of political science at UC San Diego

Maureen Cavanaugh: Our top story on Midday Edition President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union Address Tuesday to a congress now controlled by republicans but it did not stop the President from proposing some major changes in taxes, education and paid leave. In addition, the President used the address to restate his belief that Americans are one people who can work together despite the aggressively partisan politics in Washington. Joining me to discuss the State of the Union Address and its impact on San Diego are my guests Marney Cox, Chief Economist for the San Diego Association of Governments. Welcome Marney. Marney Cox: Thank you, good to be here. Maureen Cavanaugh: Carl Luna is Political Science Professor at Mesa College. Welcome Carl. Carl Luna: Good to be back. Maureen Cavanaugh: And Samuel Popkin is Political Science Professor at UC San Diego and author of the book The Candidate what it takes to win and hold the Whitehouse. Sam Popkin thanks for you joining us. Samuel Popkin: Oh it’s a pleasure with you always. Maureen Cavanaugh: Okay, thank you. Now Carl let me start with you what struck you about the President’s speech last night. Carl Luna: I thought it was more optimistic than I would have imagined it would be after the November election. He was more compromising. He tried to reach across the aisle even as he advanced the agenda and the V word for Veto, and he used the word fairness I think that was the theme, his big argument as we passed the time of crisis, now is the time to get back to basics producing something for we the people. So I was surprised that the non-partisanship will be attempt to be bipartisan that express rather than taking the other party to the bully pulpit as it were. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now Carl I know that at San Diego Community College District you sort of held a watch party last night with students, what was their reaction? Carl Luna: They were of course very happy with the idea of something to bring down their cost of college, the community college initiative which for their lives is one of the most important things but also ideas of child care minimum wage issues of what they would see as greater equality in the economy. The younger generation is not getting that greater deal from us baby boomers, we were handed it all from our parents from World War II in the depression. We’re leaving them student debt, federal debt, healthcare cost, housing cost. My generation has really dropped the football. Maureen Cavanaugh: Sam Popkin how important are State of the Union speeches you know in terms of what actually gets accomplish in Washington? Samuel Popkin: I think this year State of the Union I think comes down to really what was he was telling the republican you can legislate but you can’t override and he was identifying the areas where he could do things that they would have to work with. He didn’t talk about any of the really tough issues that why democracy focused on the things that the republicans would have to work with him on. Maureen Cavanaugh: You know a piggy backing on what Carl said a minute ago several commentators mentioned the President seemed quite relaxed and assured during this speech not caught by the GOP dominated congress. Do you agree with that assessment? Samuel Popkin: Yes and I thought it was one of – when he crack that line I won twice or something to that effect when he said he made a comment I’m never going to run again and there are few republicans who applied it and he said I won twice and reminded them for two years still nothing happens that he doesn’t sign. I did a calculation interestingly that the republicans are 28 percent of the democrats’ sort of an override in the senate and 28 percent of the democrats’ sort of being able to override a video in the house meaning if they can get a little over a quarter of the democrats to agree with them they can't pass a bill that he vetoes Maureen Cavanaugh: And so that means it is to their advantage if they want to move forward on some issues to actually pass bills that the President will sign? Samuel Popkin: Exactly and there are things where a President can act because he is the executive like some of the modifications of priorities on immigration, crime and the border as much as the republicans postured about the gestures being unconstitutional they are completely constitutional and they will stand until a bill is passed that he can’t veto that doesn’t make it legal. Maureen Cavanaugh: There weren’t too many surprises last night. We have been hearing about some of the President’s initiatives in the weeks actually leading up to the State of the Union then Carl I was wondering is that usual the amount of State of the Union proposals that we were leaked before the speech? Carl Luna: You always running up the flag pole to see who is going to salute that sort of thing and going into it what one of the things that I thought was significant was the President painted directions and the republican response from Joni Ernst painted directions but nobody was really greeting policy in that stone beyond things like the capital needs taxed up, increase looking at community college somehow to make it free the devils and the details and they did want to engage with that level last night. Maureen Cavanaugh: Well go ahead Sam. Samuel Popkin: I can go on with something Carl said I just learned this morning that as you know the republican said two responses, one in English one in Spanish, the Spanish response added a discussion of doing something by the immigration reform which the English Joni Ernst respond didn’t [overlapping conversation] [00:05:43]. Maureen Cavanaugh: Isn’t that interesting. Samuel Popkin: The Spanish representative added on his own and the party knew he was going to do that and it speaks to the division within the Republican Party on stopping any of the President’s moves on immigration. Maureen Cavanaugh: Did he say anything concrete? Samuel Popkin: He said working together, doing something about the impasse, about the people who are in this quandary it was not any more specific than the President but it was reflected the fact that you can’t stop the president on immigration if you can’t unite your party and opposed the President and override of video and the republicans are divided internally between the presidential wing and the very safe seat congressional part of the party on what to do about immigration. It’s a very deep division. Maureen Cavanaugh: I want to go to Marney Cox and talk about some of the economic proposals the President made. First of all, the President began his speech by totting a spectacular economic recovery from the recession. The national number seemed to back him up, are we seeing that reflected here Marney in San Diego? Marney Cox: Yeah definitely he declared the end of the recession in light of the growth that we have seen this particular year with exception of the first quarter and San Diego has been like that although we were hit harder and went into the recession earlier starting about 2012 the economy has responded more favorably than the US economy. Our job growth has been two and a half percent, population growth has begun to spike up again and especially we have reduced the number of domestic migration outflow from San Diego because things have turned around. So San Diego’s economy is again back in sort of leading the nation as opposed to falling and where we have been during the recession and up through 2012. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now Marney the President also asked if we can accept an economy and which only a few of us do spectacularly well does that question resonate here in San Diego. Marney Cox: Absolutely we’re in that sense a micro chasm of many other areas, the Seattle’s, the San Jose’s places like that which are struggling with a divided income between those who are at the end, top end of the spectrum and those at the low end and were simply generating a lot of part-time jobs, jobs that don’t pay very much in the service industry and those are by default the only things that then become available for new graduates or people who are looking to move up the ladder. So yeah, that’s a similar story across the United States and I think that’s why he used, Barack Obama used the State of the Union [indiscernible] [00:08:37] as a Springboard to declare the end of the recession but to focus on some new issues for example income and equality. Maureen Cavanaugh: And so the economist Marney what did you think about the economic proposals the President made. Let me start by saying increasing tax credits for working families, what do you think of that? Marney Cox: Well as I would prefer those types of tax credits such as they earn an income tax as opposed to minimum wage increase is much more targeted. It gets to the people that you are really trying to provide assistance to much better but we also have to remember that even if the minimum wage did pass the ten dollars and ten cents which he would like to do it, most places in the United States would not be hurt dramatically. It’s not one of those things that's going to create a downturn in your local economy from passing a minimum wage to that level. Maureen Cavanaugh: What about some of the things actually the increases that he talked about increasing capital gains tax up to 28 percent, putting a fee on some of the largest banks in the United States. Marney Cox: Here I think the division between what the president would like to achieve and maybe what the republican congress link they view capital gains as when it’s low as a spur towards growth, the ability to generate high paying jobs and so and in their minds when you raise that capital gains tax you potentially would reduce the number of jobs and also high paying jobs. So although what the President wants to achieve is more jobs, higher incomes, there are just coming about at from a much different prospective and that’s really the differences of opinion here. He would like to do it directly, he would like to take money away from those who have from most of it and be able to redistribute it either in terms of programs or actual funds back to them and I think that’s where that divide lives between the two. Some would like the economy to grow, provide that for the work you put in to it and others would like more of a direct subsidy coming from program such as child care, free community colleges and just things like that which are programmatic as oppose to income earn. Maureen Cavanaugh: Carl, I would like to get your take on that because I was reading that apparently there are some bipartisan support for certain aspects of these economic proposals such as expanding the earned income credit or may be the proposed fee on the big bangs. Do you think any part of this proposal might go down well in this republican congress? Carl Luna: It’s not just the republican congress though to be fair, its congress itself, it’s the entire system. You’re going to raise fees on the big bangs, the big bangs will take a fraction of what they would have lost in terms of the fee increases to do a Massive Lobbying Campaign and that’s going to basically probably be a nonstarter and when we get to the issues of earned income tax credits how they pay for it and if we got a cut taxes at some place or cut spending somewhere else that group will yell about it. If you got to raise taxes on somebody that group will yell about it and next things that was 2016 and then we’re getting ready for the 2018 midterms. Maureen Cavanaugh: And it’s your take on Sam as realistic or a pessimistic is that? Samuel Popkin: I noticed that the single most important person in holding the republican in unison opposed to any and all tax increases ever has been Grover Norquist and I was very, very interested to notice the other day that commenting on the governor Sam Brownback who is Mr. [indiscernible] [00:12:10] is the governor of Kansas now the former Senator Grover Norquish defended a Brownback a speech saying we needed to raise some tax, they needed to raise some taxes in Kansas by saying he really is deferring the tax cut. In other words the man who attacked Jeb Bush in 2012 and Lindsey Graham in 2012 for mentioning possibly some increases would be needed is now very much softening his tune and that tells me something is going on that I haven’t quite understood around the country where there is a realization that some cuts have been too deep. Maureen Cavanaugh: And Carl. Carl Luna: What I was just going to say though in the current environment just as Pope Francis is now a communist, Grover Norquish must have become a communist we didn’t recognize it, you will hear Plumpton [phonetic] say things like that about tax increases. Maureen Cavanaugh: And Carl one issue that was barely mentioned was immigration reform. Does that signal that a bipartisan reform bill is just not going to happen in this congress? Carl Luna: I would find it very difficult to imagine of occurring because there are so many different components to it and some many different groups within both colligations but on the republican side just like giving you response in Spanish. Maureen Cavanaugh: Right. Carl Luna: Not to the rest of your based it’s a nonstarter where the President did send immigration is I have done things try and touch it I’ll veto it, and now its up to the republicans to see if they are going to test them on that. Maureen Cavanaugh: Marney. Marney Cox: From the economics’ point of view if you can get wholesale immigration reform maybe what you can do is do something to H1B Visas allowing those who go to school here earned a degree to stay longer and help pay back right to the society of the provider of the education to them and that’s the kind of thing that I think maybe there is room for compromise where you may not get wholesale but may be what you can do is recognize what we would do the economy and boosted up and moving that direction. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now Sam the President as you reminded us so you told the congress last night is not running again and then quickly added that because he won the last two elections. Does this President now have an eye toward his legacy? Samuel Popkin: I think he has an eye toward the things he has been really frustrated in a way Shakespeare could express with the bickering and the pettiness of putting all the partisan goals ahead of any of the goals people knew had to be met like doing something about immigration or some of the other issues and is in the position now you can stop me because I don’t care what you think about what I did and it is his legacy and it’s also I think looking to the legacy of the party and keeping the party that he strengthen by bringing in new voters from falling apart. Maureen Cavanaugh: But Carl the executive actions that President Obama has taken do not last in theory any longer than his presidency. So the fact that he has to have relied on these executive actions to move forward on issues does that affect the assessment of his presidency do you think? Carl Luna: Well it does, it affects all presidents because they have been doing more and more by executive action. The question then comes who takes the presidency in 2016. Samuel Popkin: Who dares to reverse them? Carl Luna: And I think that sounds right on that that when it comes to 2016 of democrats on the Whitehouse first of all the republicans are in a world of hurt nationally if they lose the 2016 election that means they are not just a national party anymore and a lot of with the President's advance his general will be kept in place and ultimately a lot of the republicans are saying as what he is doing as unconstitutional but they don’t take it to court. If that’s where you’re supposed to resolve, if you think it has a case so there must be very concerned they had lose. I think a lot of what the presidents doing just as Sam is saying is not going to rolled back. Samuel Popkin: I have to end it there gentleman, thank you so much for taking part in this. I have been speaking with Marney Cox, Chief Economist for the San Diego Association of Governments. Carl Luna, Political Science Professor at Mesa College. And Samuel Popkin, Political Science Professor at UCSD. Thank you all very much. Samuel Popkin: Thank You Maureen.

President Barack Obama declared Tuesday night that the "shadow of crisis" has passed and urged Congress to build on economic gains by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for reductions for the middle class — an agenda more likely to antagonize the new Republican majority than win their approval.

In a shift from State of the Union tradition, Obama's address to a joint session of Congress was less a laundry list of new proposals and more an attempt to sell a story of national economic revival. He appealed for "better politics" in Washington and pledged to work with Republicans, even while touting bread-and-butter Democratic economic proposals.

"We can't put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street or refighting past battles on immigration when we've got a system to fix," Obama said. "And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it."

Obama's address marked the first time in his presidency that he stood before a Republican-controlled Congress. Yet the shift in the political landscape has also been accompanied by a burst of economic growth and hiring, as well as a slight increase in Obama's once sagging approval ratings.

After ticking through signs of the rising economy, the president turned toward Republicans sitting in the chamber and said with a wink, "This is good news, people."

With the economy on more solid footing, the president sought to move away from a focus on austerity and deficit reduction. Instead, he called for increasing the capital gains rate on couples making more than $500,000 annually, to 28 percent. The president's tax plan would also require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they're inherited and slap a fee on the roughly 100 U.S. financial firms with assets of more than $50 billion.

Related Link: Obama Rejects Lame Duck Label In Giving State Of The Union Address

Much of the $320 billion in new taxes and fees would be used for measures aimed at helping the middle class, including a $500 tax credit for some families with two spouses working, expansion of the child care tax credit and a $60 billion program to make community college free.

"Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?" Obama asked. "Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?"

Even before the president's address, Republicans were balking at his proposals and painting a far less rosy picture of the economy.

"We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by canceled health care plans and higher monthly insurance bills," said Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who delivered the Republican response. "But when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It's a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions."

With an eye on a swirl of foreign policy challenges, Obama also asked Congress to pass a new authorization for military action against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, as well as for legislation to boost U.S. defenses against cyberattacks. He also pressed lawmakers to lift the half-century-old economic embargo against Cuba. He promised to veto any legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran in the midst of nuclear negotiations with the Islamic republic.

"New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again," Obama warned.