Cultural Revolutions

State of the Tepid

President Barack Obama’s second State of the Union Address was almost entirely focused on domestic issues.  This was appropriate, considering the magnitude of social, economic, and moral problems America is facing, and the attendant impossibility of pursuing grand global themes for as long as those problems remain unresolved.  His proposals for resolving them are surprisingly mainstream.  Two years after being inaugurated as the “first black president,” Obama knows that his core constituency can be ignored; it has nowhere else to go.  His speech was addressed to those not normally well disposed: the business community and the white salariat.

Obama used rising stock values and corporate profits, rather than employment figures or wages, to claim that an economic recovery is under way.  His hint that U.S. workers should be prepared to compete with their Chinese or Indian counterparts would have been deemed outrageous, had it come from a Wall Street banker or a Wall Street Journal editorialist.  With the promise of lowering the corporate tax rate, of facilitating the passage of free-trade legislation and loosening regulatory controls, Obama spoke like an MBA from Kellogg rather than a community organizer from Chicago’s South Side.  Even his “Sputnik Moment” was a hat tip to state-sponsored excellence, rather than a plea for egalitarian-minded intervention.

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