Jamelle Bouie, writing at The American Prospect, criticizes President Obama for not talking about joblessness or poverty in his State of the Union address last night. While one can't argue with their absence, one could argue with Bouie's assertion that, "it's abundantly clear that the White House -- along with the Democratic Party -- has all but given up on reducing unemployment."
Slow down a second there. We are constantly reminded that the impoverished have the least political capital of anyone in this country, and so by Bouie's own framework where the speech is intended for "the lawmakers, interest groups, and party elites that ultimately craft and pass policy," the President shouldn't be speaking to poor, he should be speaking to the folks that make the policy. When I listened to the speech, I didn't hear the terms "joblessness" or "poverty." I can't argue that those elements weren't explicitly stated, but when I heard the president giving a full-throated defense of infrastructure spending, education, and the role of government in our lives, I felt like he was talking about helping the poor. It wasn't direct. It wasn't specific or explicit, but I thought it was there, sitting just behind his words.
We live in a time when the opposition seeks to redefine the role of government. It is an opposition that sees almost no role at all for government. It would have been great to isolate joblessness and poverty. It would have been amazing to lay out programs to address these issues, but there is a more fundamental challenge the president faces. A good portion of this country thinks the government doesn't have a role. That's a bigger issue then verbiage, and I think the president tackled that issue with aplomb.