A lot of smart, entertaining stuff has been written about what Obama said in his State of the Union speech (yay corporate tax cuts! Hooray for fracking!) Monday night. Here's some of the stuff he didn't talk about.
Women. In a speech that lasted 65 minutes, Obama saw fit to mention women just five times: Three times times in the context of "men and women," and twice specifically: Once, that women should get "equal pay for equal work," and once that women shouldn't pay more for men than health care.
In the context of a year when state legislatures across the nation moved to ban abortion, defund Planned Parenthood, define zygotes as full human beings with more human rights than women, requiring abortion providers to give women medically inaccurate information, imposing new waiting periods and other burdens on women who seek abortions, and forcing abortion clinics to abide by unnecessary new government regulations (like the requirement that they be certified as surgery centers, at enormous cost)... you might think the President could have given a nod to the assault on women's reproductive rights.
We are, after all, half of the Union.
Nonmanufacturing jobs. On a related note, Obama focused largely on job creation in the manufacturing sector---a sector that, as I've noted previously, is extremely male-dominated and has lost fewer jobs than female-dominated sectors like health care and government employment. Manufacturing jobs, as it happens, make up a tiny fraction of jobs in the United States---if our aim is to prevent companies from "shipping manufacturing jobs overseas," that ship has sailed.
The environment and climate change. Apart from a brief, lip-service comment that "we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy," Obama's speech was pro-hydrofracking, pro-offshore oil drilling, and remarkably short on talk about solutions to the world's looming climate catastrophe (remember cap and trade?), with the exception of a few limp nods to energy efficiency and solar power.
That's a far cry from the President's previous State of the Union speeches, which have dedicated paragraphs to energy innovation, cap and trade, and climate change.
The gays. Obama said the word "gay" exactly once during his speech, in a segment about the military. ("When you put on that uniform, it doesn't matter if you're black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight.") No mention of gay marriage, employment discrimination, or even the President's lesbian guests, including an Air Force veteran.
Although there isn't a pressing gay-rights issue on the table at the federal level (unlike 2010, when Obama explicitly vowed to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"), states around the nation, including Washington, are wrestling with proposals to legalize gay marriage, and the inevitable attempts to repeal it.
Alternative transportation. Obama's speech included plenty of shout-outs to the auto industry ("Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories." Um, yay?). What it didn't include: Any indication that Obama plans to move the nation toward meaningful transportation improvements. (Remember high-speed rail? Fixing our urban infrastructure so that people could get around without relying on cars? Ah, those were the days.)
In place of transformative transportation proposals, Obama name-checked projects like the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the interstate highway system. Those were innovative infrastructure projects in their times---1936, 1937, and 1956, respectively. Today's equivalents are things like rail, bike infrastructure, electric cars, and transit infrastructure. If we're going to "win the future"---Obama's cringeworthy slogan from his 2011 address---we can't rely on the technologies of the past.
Health care. In an example of an omission that was almost certainly a carefully calculated oversight, not once in his speech did Obama mention the Affordable Care Act---which the Washington Post's Sarah Kliff argues was a wise decision. With Republicans committed to dismantling the act piece by piece, Kliff writes, "Spending too much time defending the health reform law gives weight to the threat of repeal, recognizes it as legitimate"---and makes voters more resistant to health care reform. Moreover, health care remains a polarizing issue, with voters starkly divided on the law along predictable party lines.
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