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The state of the State of the Union

As the nation rebounds from economic disaster and faces political divide in Washington, President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night that put the economy front and center, and stressed innovation and bipartisanship as critical for America to “win the future.” Northeastern University faculty across several disciplines react to the speech.

William Crotty, Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Public Life:

Given his objectives, it was a successful speech. … My feeling is his objectives were to first establish himself and presidency as a moderate, pragmatic centrist. It’s been a difficult two years, as the other side has painted him as socialist and liberal. That was the basic underlying message. The second thing was to reposition his presidency for the election to come, and to set the framework for the policies discussions and expectation. I think he did that well. Third, he put the Republican Party on the defensive, and he did this with the unwitting aid of Republicans themselves. The rejoinders by Rep. Paul Ryan and Rep. Michelle Bachmann were so negative and apocalyptic that his call for a future of hope was a nice contrast that worked in his favor.

Greg Goodale, assistant professor of communication studies:

It was nice to know that the pundit class was wrong as usual. They were expecting a very tepid speech, and I thought the speech was pretty aggressive. The obvious parallel was to President Bill Clinton’s speech in 1995 after the Democrats were shellacked in the 1994 elections. That was not what Obama did, and I thought he took a very productive turn. … State of the Union speeches are often long laundry lists of policies the president wants to implement. Obama’s laundry list was shorter than others I remember. He was trying to elevate level of debate from specific questions to much broader questions like, ‘What is the role of government in American society?’ There was a very intentional move to go big rather than small, and I think that serves the president well.

William Dickens, Distinguished Professor of economics and social policy:

The investments the president talked about in science, education and infrastructures were things most economists would agree would help the economy grow at just about any point in time. However, the president nearly ignored the big issue — that there are many unemployed people and underutilized resources in the country. A big reason the deficit is high now is because people are out of work, so tax revenues are down and social costs to support them are up. Trying to cut the deficit before we put people back to work could be counterproductive, since it will cause us to lose the jobs that are currently funded by the spending we would lose.

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