The Republicans are right when they they point to America’s 25+ million jobless and ask whether the President is serious in proposing job training as his primary remedy. The Democrats are right when they respond that the Republicans have proposed no real jobs alternatives of their own.
Five years after Obama’s historic mandate, the conditions of the great mass of Americans remains intolerable. And yet to hear his fifth State of Union address, an uninformed listener might think America’s problems are limited and manageable.
The reason for this dissonance is that this State of the Union was not delivered by the man elected in the mandate of 2008. This State of the Union might as well have been given by a robot, or an actor, or a media spokesperson. In fact, a media spokesman is what this President of the United States has long since become. His is a voice that modulates the reality experienced by an ever more disconnected political establishment for a polity that grows smaller by the year.
In this shriveled State of the Union, natural gas is a gateway to energy independence and climate justice. In this reality, student debt is to be solved with counseling and unemployment to be addressed with job training. In this United States, poverty can be overcome by a president who appeals to corporate executives to raise workers wages. In this America, equal pay for equal work is a promise the White House intends to fulfill before the next Clinton takes to the campaign trail.
So few are fooled by this State of the Union because so many have been betrayed by those who sat in that congressional chamber the other night. When the President introduces a man horribly maimed after ten tours in Afghanistan, Washington wants us to understand that their plan requires our continued sacrifice. And they are right that it does.
There are policy alternatives with support outside of Washington and Wall Street. One is the Green New Deal brought forward by Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala in their 2012 presidential campaign. Putting 25 million people to work and reconstructing the economy from the bottom up . . . that is a significant alternative. And it would mean a different State of the Union delivered by and for a much larger section of the American people.
Ben Manski is Senior Advisor to the President of the Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States.