WASHINGTON—President Obama's State of the Union address was either wonderful, despicable or somewhere in-between, depending on the viewpoints of various commenters.
The president set forth his agenda in his annual speech before a joint session of Congress last night. This agenda included new tax initiatives designed to help middle- and working-class families.
Some of these initiatives would raise taxes on high-income families, including an increase in the capital gains tax from 23.8 to 28 percent and a change in inheritance taxes to require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they are inherited.
Among other things, the president also called for funding to restore the nation's infrastructure, enforceable new trade agreements and a tough, proactive government approach to global warming.
Reactions to Obama's speech ran predictably along party lines, and the prospect of the president getting most of his agenda through a Republican-controlled Congress seemed doubtful.
Among non-government organizations, one of the most negative reactions to the State of the Union speech came from Dan Danner, president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business.
“Most small business owners aren't wealthy,” Danner said. “Neither are they helped in the smallest way by higher taxes on anyone else.
“The president's tax plan is fair in the way that hurricanes are fair,” he said. “They hurt everyone. His goal is apparently to ensure that the tax code hurts everyone. A much better idea, and just as fair, would be to bring small business taxes into line with the biggest corporations and the richest individuals. The goal should be to hurt fewer Americans, not more.”
On the other hand, the United Steelworkers union was mostly though not totally pleased with Obama's speech.
“From saving America's auto sector from bankruptcy, to reforming our financial system, to expanding access to health care, President Obama deserves enormous credit for his leadership,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard.
But while Gerard said the USW agreed with most of the president's agenda, it had to oppose him on trade.
“USW members, their families and their communities have had to pay the price for past trade deals and today's outdated policies,” he said. “America cannot afford more of the same.”
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance of American Manufacturing (of which the USW is a member), expressed similar views about Obama's trade policies.
“I'm still baffled as to why the president is pursuing a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement without addressing the very serious issue of currency manipulation, particularly with Japan,” Paul said. “By ignoring the concerns of industry, workers and majorities of the House and Senate, he's not only putting the TPP at risk, he's putting a whole lot of auto jobs in the U.S. at risk, too.”
Pete Ruane, president and CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, said investments in surface transportation and infrastructure were long overdue for bipartisan consensus.
“However, policy legacies won't be earned with more short-term gimmicks and temporary patches of the Highway Trust Fund,” Ruane said. “It will require Congress and the president to enact a long-term revenue stream to ensure state governments have the reliable federal partner they need to make overdue improvements to America's roads, bridges and transit systems.”