Update: Robert Kuttner says it best:
Pitch perfect. What logically follows from the president's invoking of the history of American prosperity is a call for more public investment in 21st century infrastructure. This is not in-your-face partisanship, but the astute marketing of a progressive message and ideology that contrasts radically with the conservative one.
But then the president said this:
Now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.
So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. This would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president.
This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we have frozen the salaries of hard-working federal employees for the next two years. I've proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs.
My friend Westen was incredulous. Why would a Democrat give aid and comfort to a right wing ideology that is also wrongheaded economics? Why sacrifice Medicaid and programs for kids for the sins of the bankers? Why add fuel to the right's attack on public employees?
People watching the speech rightly wondered: How do you freeze domestic spending -- and also dramatically increase outlay on 21st Century infrastructure? How do you win public support for more desperately needed public investment when you brag that you will reduce domestic spending to its lowest share of the economy since the Eisenhower years?
In the 2008 election, people with incomes of under $50,000 supported Obama and the Democrats by wide margins. But the kind of mixed messaging in the president's State of the Union address reinforces political anomalies such as the 2010 mid-term election, where white working class voters supported Republican House and Senate candidates by a staggering margin of 30 points.
The administration's mixed signals on aid to Wall Street are so potent that in the 2010 election, a majority of voters who blamed the collapse on Wall Street nonetheless voted for a Republican candidate for Congress.
On January 17, the New York Times published a letter to the editor from a woman named Susan Kross, of upstate New York, praising governors for "reining in labor unions."
The shocker was her concluding paragraph. She wrote, "I was reared on a family farm where pennies were always pinched, every day was a workday, and there was no such thing as a pension or vacations, let alone paid ones."
Such is the state of ideological muddle and confused self-interest that a hard working rural, middle-class American could disdain pensions and paid vacations as unnecessary luxuries too good for working people. This woman's family farm, if it has truly been in her family for generations, probably survived thanks to the New Deal. She gets her crops to market thanks to government-subsidized highways, and uses modern farming methods thanks to USDA. Her parents and grandparents, who benefited from Social Security, most likely did not share her contempt for pensions and paid vacations.
This moment cries out for a combination of clear leadership and mass protest...[right here in America, of Americans for America, not just Egypt]