Posted at 1:21 AM ET, 01/23/2011
Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address–an accounting
By Glenn Kessler
Every president announces a slew of initiatives in his State of the Union address, and President Obama last year was no exception. Here, in order of delivery, is a summary of the key proposals, pledges or priorities announced by Obama a year ago–and what happened to them. Overall, he did rather well in getting his ideas enacted by Congress, the clear benefit of having commanding majorities in both houses of Congress. With the prospect of divided government in the coming year, his batting average in 2011 is sure to fall.
Obama: “So tonight, I’m proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat.”
This idea was contained in a small business law that won final passage by Congress in September, but at least one report said that there was little enthusiasm among community banks to take the money.
Obama: “To encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.”
This plan has long been an Obama applause line but there is little enthusiasm for it in Congress and so it has gone nowhere. Even Democrats have said they would only consider such an idea only in the context of comprehensive reworking of the corporate tax code.
Obama: “The House has already passed financial reform … And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back until we get it right.”
In July, Obama signed into law a sweeping banking and consumer protection bill.
Obama: “It means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I’m eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.”
The energy bill failed in the Senate, and many Democrats in the House were punished at the polls for their votes in favor of the bill.
Obama: “So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America.”
In September, the Obama administration unveiled a strategy for reaching this goal, and it recently concluded a major free trade agreement with South Korea that now needs congressional approval. In the first 11 months of 2010, U.S. goods and services exports are up nearly 17 percent compared to same period in 2009, according to data released this month by the Commerce Department.
Obama: “Here’s what I ask Congress, though: Don’t walk away from [health care] reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.”
Despite the loss of a filbuster-proof majority in the Senate, Democrats reached a compromise that resulted in final passage of Obama’s chief legilslative initiative.
Obama: “Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will.”
Obama’s budget proposal fulfilled this pledge, but Congress never finished its work on the budget and so the outcome is uncertain. Spending has continued at 2010 levels and Republican want to cut further.
Obama: “But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for …those making over $250,000 a year. We just can’t afford it.”
Obama’s vow to end the Bush era tax cuts for couples making over $250,000 in the name of fiscal responsibility was abandoned as part of a compromise with Republicans to extend the tax cuts for two more years.
Obama: “I’d like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can’t wait.”
Scheduling such meetings is completely within the president’s power, but according to House and Senate GOP officials, there were only five such bipartisan, bicameral meetings–Feb. 9, April 14, June 10, July 27, and Nov. 30. A report in The Hill newspaper last year said Republicans regarded the meetings as “hollow public-relations moves” and the White House believed Republicans came to the sessions with closed minds. A White House spokesman did not respond to a query about why monthly meetings were not scheduled.
Obama: “We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August.”
Obama: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.”
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” law was repealed in December