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President Obama State of the Union Speech

The current global economic crises rose to the forefront of President Obama’s recent address to a joint session of Congress. Although the President and Congress recently passed a landmark “economic recovery” bill, with the aim of jump-starting the economy out of the deepening recession, President Obama’s address made a stark case that additional measures on the behalf of the Federal government would be necessary to prevent an economic collapse. President Obama’s tone during his address was sober and authoritative, but it also hit points of soaring optimism.

Taken together, the President’s dual tones of somberness and excited optimism left me, personally, feeling a bit surprised and also a bit skeptical about the practical aspects of his economic recovery plan. Although the President was careful to remind Americans that “The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation” (Obama, 2009) his observation that crises creates a potential for bold and assertive action, at times, seemed to be far too generalized, and a bit thin on practical specifics.

For example, when Obama asserted that “The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth” (Obama, 2009), I felt my pulse quicken and my heart surge and I felt tremendously excited. A bit later, still listening to the speech, a voice in my head began to ask “how? ” and, although I watched the rest of the speech carefully, nothing specific about the pragmatic manner in which recovery would be attained was actually given.

Instead, the impression grew stronger and stronger that by “bold action” adn “using a crises as an opportunity,” that Obama was, in one way or another, whether consciously or not, insinuating a massive social reworking, on a scale that few could probably comprehend. Of course, as many commentators and pundits have been pointing out for the past several months, Obama’s Presidency may be shaping up as a modern version of Roosevelt’s “New Deal.

” While it could be credibly argued that the New Deal is what created America’s modern middle-class in the first place, the usual arguments against massive government works and spending are definitely relevant to Obama’s recent Congressional address. Critics of the New Deal hold that “Under the cover of an acute economic crisis created by government itself, President Roosevelt waged nothing less than a counter-American Revolution, a comprehensive repudiation of the Constitution and of the twin values of federalism and the free market” (Scaliger, 2008).

Although very little in Obama’s speech gave outright indication of the subversion of traditional American capitalism, words such as “Now is the time to jump-start job creation, restart lending, and invest in areas like energy, healthcare, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down” (Obama. 2009) promise not only massive spending but hint at massive taxation as well.

At a time when many economic experts are calling for the nationalization of America’s banks, and in a global environment where so many modern, industrialized nations resort to nationalization, the question may not be whether or not Obama’s vision is, like Roosevelt’s, of a sweeping change to American culture and society, but whether Obama’s vision, as massive and comprehensive as his soaring rhetoric indicates it to be, is actually big enough to meet the task at hand.

Just as some historians view the era of the New Deal as merely a pretext by which to expand Federal power and limit the gains of the wealthy few, other historians adhere to a vision which “berates the New Dealers for not accomplishing more—for not nationalizing the banks, for providing relief work for only a fraction of those who needed it,” (Himmelberg, 2001, p. 78); in effect, for not being massive or radical enough. Only time will tell which side of the historical divide President Obama’s recent address, and current economic rescue plan, will be judged to have served.

References Himmelberg, R. F. (2001). The Great Depression and the New Deal. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Obama, Barack. (2009). Address to Joint Session of Congress, trans. The Washington Times. Andrew Malcolm on February 24, 2009 http://latimesblogs. latimes. com/washington/2009/02/obama-text-spee. html Scaliger, C. (2008, June 23). The Great Depression: Contrary to Conventional Wisdom, the Historical Record Shows That Interventionist Policies during the Hoover and FDR Administrations Caused and Prolonged the Great Depression. The New American, 24, 34+.

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