The Green Shadow Cabinet has responded to the 2014 State of the Union address with a critique of the policies, priorities and omissions made by President Barack Obama on Tuesday night.
The following articles represent an alternative set of principles and policies that acknowledge and address critical issues facing the United States and the world.
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.
“I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” – FDR
These famous words from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1937 State of the Union address were missing from this year’s speech, but they should have been there.
In spite of the so-called “recovery”, millions of Americans still own homes with negative equity, millions were impacted by cruel Federal housing sequester cuts, and millions more remain literally homeless. One housing official in Silicon Valley, where five homeless people froze to death in December, reported that homelessness there is “the worst I have ever seen.” The 1300-resident CCNV shelter in Washington DC, created in a 1986 accord between Mitch Snyder and Ronald Reagan, is slated to close its doors in 2016. And hundreds of the homeless took to the streets in twelve cities on January 17 to protest for a “Homeless Bill of Rights”, since Democrats and Republicans have refused to even talk about ending America’s affordable housing crisis.
War, Deception and the Obama Administration in Syria ~ Ajamu Baraka, Public Intervenor for Human Rights
The U.S. is playing a deadly and cynical game at the Geneva II conference on Syria, sabotaging the talks in order to set the stage for more warfare and terror. In this sick equation, diplomatic failure is victory: “the U.S. moves closer to their real strategic objective – regime change or the dismemberment of the Syrian state.”
There is a perverse irony that last week on the day that the U.S. government designated as the official holiday in honor of the birthday of Dr. King, a militant anti-war and anti-imperialist, the administration of the nations’ first black president would be involved in frantic efforts to ensure that the Syrian peace conference would be unable to deliver peace.
The crisis created by the administration on the eve of the Geneva II conference to exclude Iranian participation only confirmed the duplicitous nature of the conference. While Iranian participation would not have guaranteed that a peaceful, durable resolution to the war in Syrian was achievable, the Obama administration demonstrated that it is not serious about seeking a diplomatic solution by excluding the only other force beside the Syrian government that actually has real influence on the ground in Syria.
President Obama’s comments about the health law in his State of the Union speech lacked substance and were primarily focused on selling his law, and more insurance, to the public. He avoided discussing the root causes of our ongoing healthcare crisis and set the ball in motion to destroy another pillar of our social infrastructure, Social Security.
The bottom line of President Obama’s comments on the health law was that more people have health insurance and insurance companies can’t deny people based on pre-existing conditions. He urged everyone to make their friends and family buy insurance.
What he didn’t say is that people with health insurance in the United States still can’t afford the care they need and face bankruptcy if they have a serious health problem.
President Obama didn’t even give a nod to his rhetorical commitment to the global elimination of nuclear weapons (“perhaps not in my lifetime”) – the rhetorical commitment that won him the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, he focused exclusively on the danger of a prospective Iranian bomb. To his credit, Obama made clear that he would veto any legislation that would derail the current negotiations with Iran, stating: “For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.” Entirely missing, however, was any mention of the dangers posed by U.S. nuclear weapons, the trillion dollar U.S. commitment to maintaining and modernizing its nuclear arsenal over the next three decades, and the recent record of U.S. non-cooperation with multiple efforts being made in international forums to stimulate progress on achieving and sustaining a world free of nuclear weapons.
President Obama’s State of the Union last night showed that our task has now become parsing his statements to show Americans reality rather than the myths that falsify reality.
President Obama began painting a rosy picture of the economy on the rebound, unemployment dropping and healthcare on the mend, based on narrow, selective examples. By failing to paint the full picture, he paints a false one.
The president pointed to 8 million jobs created over the last four years and unemployment at its lowest in five years. A total of 8.8 million jobs were lost in the recession, and every month 250,000 jobs are needed just to keep up with the expanding workforce. During the Obama administration there have only been two months that exceeded 250,000 jobs. So, while jobs are being created, the reality is the country is losing jobs almost every month compared to the growth of its labor force. Rather than the unemployment rate the more important figure is the percentage of Americans participating in the workforce. That number continues to shrink. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics only 62.8% of Americans are in the workforce, this is down from over 66% before the crash.
“Truth-telling is powerful. People don’t try it often enough.” – Guy Saperstein
The power of nonviolence as the key to strengthen our democracy was noticeable by its absence in Obama’s State of the Union address. Gandhi, we may remember, felt that democracy would never be complete without nonviolence, because, among other things, there would be no protection for those who are weak, or who dissent.
Perhaps, by resigning the movement to silence, the President signaled to us that it’s time to escalate our efforts.
One of the most fundamental questions in nonviolence is whether our means are aligned with our ends. Obama has often noted (rather paternalistically) that while we can agree on the ends, we will disagree on the means, in other words that he can use whatever means suit him – reminiscent of the Bush quip, “I’m the decider.”
He misses the point; The means for anything are more important than the ends.