Where's the Urgency, Mr. President?

Scott Erickson

2/3/2014 12:06:00 PM - Scott Erickson

Barack Obama used last week's State of the Union address to pontificate upon many things but it was what he neglected to do that spoke volumes about his capacity to address the great issues facing our nation.

He announced that where congress failed to act he would take it upon himself to use executive orders to pursue his agenda. He called for an increase in the minimum wage and he promoted a new investment vehicle dubbed "myRA" to encourage greater retirement savings. What the president failed to convey, however, was a sense of urgency.

Instead of acknowledging the precarious state of our nation's economy and calling for substantive policy changes to meet the challenges facing millions of Americans, the president squandered the opportunity by rehashing the same small ideas that have characterized his presidency.

Ron Fournier, writing in National Journal, dubbed Obama's address a "modest agenda delivered by a diminished leader, a man who famously promised to reject the politics of 'small things' and aim big—to change the culture of Washington, to restore the public's faith in government, and to tackle enduring national problems with bold solutions."

CBS's John Dickerson, speaking of the president's proposals on the minimum wage, "myRA," and his promise to meet and confer with CEO's and college professors, deemed Obama's ideas "very small bore stuff compared to the claims the president made tonight and his aides have been making in terms of his acting.”

By focusing on small ideas and downplaying the most enfeebled economic recovery in generations, one that has come to increasingly define his first five years in office, the president is hoping that the American people will in turn ignore the economic consequences of his failed policies. It is the only hope that he and the Democrats have to forestall what will likely be a disastrous mid-term election later this year.

Of course, one really can't blame the president for ignoring the realities of the Obama economy.

Democrats and the president are quick to speak of income inequality and poverty as political talking points but what they fail to mention is that under the Obama administration both poverty and inequality have gotten worse.

According to statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate has increased to 15 percent from 13.2 percent since Mr. Obama became president and in 2012 the number of Americans living in poverty reached 46.5 million, of which over 16 million were children.

Median household income has decreased nearly $4,000 during Obama’s tenure, sinking to $52,297 in December 2013 from $56,124 in January 2009, and a lower percentage of Americans are participating in the labor force today than has been seen since the lowest days of the Carter administration.

Far too many Americans are living in poverty and the Democrat's big government, one-size-fits-all approach to governing simply hasn't worked.

The president may be loathe to admit it but it has not been lost on the American people. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 63 percent of Americans have "just some" or no confidence "at all" in Obama's ability to make the right decisions for the country's future and over 60 percent of respondents consider the United States to be on the "wrong track."

These are the realities of the Obama presidency and these problems should demand an urgent call to action, not a tepid call for "executive orders" and a myopic focus on pursuing stale initiatives.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama and the Democrats appear incapable of offering new ideas or opening themselves up to the possibility of working across the aisle with their Republican counterparts in congress. That would require a modicum of leadership, and leadership is something that has been sorely lacking from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.