Of hope and reality President Obama seeks to scale down expectations

Obama promised a ‘year of action’ during which he would raise the minimum wage and tackle economic inequality. US President Barack Obama also used his State-of-the-Union Address to bring in a dash of reality into the audacity of hope that aroused high expectations.

He said he would revamp the US taxation system to decrease the gap between the rich and the poor in the US. He plans to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. Naturally, this move is opposed by business leaders, but it would mean a major boost to household incomes across the US.

The US President also plans to overhaul the country’s immigration laws, withdraw US troops substantially from Afghanistan and act aggressively on climate them. Over the years, President Obama has found his sweeping vision of bipartisan consensus swept away by the partisan reality of politics. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives and their ability to block or delay legislation in the Senate have created a situation where the Democrats have found themselves checkmated on a regular basis.

No wonder, President Obama said that he would bypass the Congress, if necessary, to usher in the change that he wants. How this confrontational stance plays out remains to be seen; it certainly is going to bring about some interesting times ahead. In fact, confrontation was what the President’s supporters were looking for. In his second term, he can afford to take on the Republicans.

By an executive order, a US President can make substantial changes in policy, even though these can be reversed by the next incumbent. The State-of-the-Union Address focused largely on domestic policies and many of the issues that President Obama raised find resonance among voters, especially his emphasis on pay-check parity. He will have to find ways to deliver his promises, even if it leads to some confrontation with the Congress, which has hobbled him since 2010 when the Democrats lost their hold.

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