Some Things to Keep in Mind While Listening to the SOTU

First, don’t expect anything particularly bold or progressive. Give the administration credit for pushing income inequality into the debate (I personally feel, as passionate as I am about this issue, we need different language that illustrates this is the product of ordinary people getting screwed, but save that for later), but don’t count on a populist call to arms. Besides, as Zach Goldfarb in the Post writes, Obama may not have a lot of maneuvering room.

I understand, via NYT’s Annie Lowrey, that he’s planning to dust off the old idea of creating economic areas for special investment. This has been tried many times before, without the expected results. They’re always “zones,” “Enterprise Zones” or “Opportunity Zones” or some such. Obama’s calling them “Promise Zones.”

Since we’re not going to be talking about how the whole economy got royally rogered by a few rich, greedy hustlers who bent the law to serve their personal wealth and left the rest of us to struggle while walking away largely unscathed and certainly unpunished, let’s consider the context of tomorrow night’s speech:

1. Nearly five years after the recession “ended,” a big chunk of the country has not recovered.

2. For the first time, working-age Americans make up the largest group of recipients of food stamps.

3. Profits are soaring, and productivity is generally on the rise, yet wages are falling, in part because profits are soaring.

4. A lot of jobs being created don’t pay very well.

There’s tons more, of course – long-term unemployment, a concentrated assault on organized labor, continued efforts to gut social programs – but you’ve already got the idea.

Perhaps the President, who’s not going to get any cooperation from the Republicans who control Congress anyway, might just once want to come out swinging on the side of ordinary Americans, call for some economic justice, and commit his administration to re-righting the economic wagon so that more people can climb back aboard.

Sigh. Not holdin’ my breath.



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