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Progressives Chime in on the State of the Union

Jon Queally, staff writer

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

As President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address on Tuesday night, critical progressive observers let fly with their immediate reactions to the speech via Twitter.

Disappointed by a political speech that was previewed as a call to action, what many critics on the left continue to point out is the deep gap between Obama's acknowledgement of certain problems that must be addressed and the milquetoast quality or contradictory nature of his proposals to fix them.

On topics including economic inequality, trade policy, climate change, foreign policy, and education—progressives voiced frustration with what they see as misguided policies overall or lofty rhetoric unsupported or contradicted by the vision set forth.

Economic Inequality / Jobs & Wages / Trade Agreements

Focusing on the idea of economic inequality was said to be one of the key sections of the speech, but many found a contradiction between Obama's simultaneous push for an increased minimum wage while also championing a new set of "free trade" agreements that have proven to hurt U.S. workers while undermining key protections around the world.

And low-wage workers fighting for a minimum wage pivoted on Obama's vow to increase pay for federal contract workers, to say that such a move is just the beginning and much more must be done to achieve true economic justice.


Climate Change / Energy Policy

Obama acknowledged, once again, the undeniable existence of human-caused global warming by declaring in his speech that "Climate change is a fact." But for environmental campaigners, Obama's "all of the above" energy strategy—especially the president's continued and worrisome endorsement of fracking and his habit of treating natural gas as a "clean energy" source—betrays the urgency of what the scientific community says is necessary to actually mitigate the worse impacts of the unfolding climate crisis.


Foreign Policy

Obama mentioned Afghanistan by saying that "by the end of this year, and America's longest war will finally be over." Just several sentence later, however, he acknowledged that his intention is to pursue an ongoing agreement with the Afghan government that would leave a sizable military force in the country. He also again vowed to close the offshore U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, but offered no concrete way to do that. He championed the ongoing and so-called "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and ongoing talks between the P5+1 and Iran over that nation's nuclear technology program. In the emotional highlight of the speech, Obama pointed to injured U.S. Army Veteran Cory Remsburg, who sat next to First Lady Michelle Obama in the crowd, and though tears flowed for the hardship of the young man who served ten war-zone deployments before his devastating injuries, others interpreted his story as a sad and brutal comment on the nature of U.S. militarism so ingrained in the national fabric.


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