Ezra Klein was struck by the ambition of Obama’s agenda:
It’s often the case that candidates are more ambitious than presidents. But Obama’s second term is showing precisely the reverse progression. The speech went much further than Obama’s 2012 Democratic convention speech. There, his address was notable mainly for how modest the policy proposals were. Here, his speech was notable for the sweeping nature of the proposed changes. Obama’s agenda hasn’t been this bold since 2009.
How R.M. at DiA understood the speech:
The president’s speech felt like something out of the Roosevelt administration (Franklin), full as it was with progressive policy proposals–not exactly suited to our current paralytic times. So I’m going to propose that he has an eye on 2014. “Here are a bunch of proposals that you’ll probably like–universal pre-school, higher minimum wage, etc–and that Republicans will never pass,” he seemed to be saying. “Do you want to reward such obstructionism?”
A very strong speech, better that most, an A-. The writing was prose, except for the “they deserve a vote flourish at the end,” which was powerful, but the structure was very effective. I really liked the way he opened by diving right into the sequester (as I suggested!). The words weren’t exactly the ones I’d have chosen, but it was good that he said–early, when everyone was still watching–that the Republicans are going to be the ones to blame if these cuts kick in.
Will Wilkinson doubts the speech mattered much:
Mr Obama will have gratified progressives by calling for action on climate change, and pleading emotionally for a vote on gun control measures, but there’s little reason to think he gained any ground on these divisive issues. It will be interesting to see how Republicans respond to Mr Obama’s proposal for universal preschool, as well as to see whether this new expence will actually survive as a priority for the president during negotiations over fiscal belt-tightening.
Sprung sensed Obama’s confidence:
Obama’s repeated plea to the nation tonight was to face reality: his tone was relentless reasonability. He spoke with a distilled fluency of a man who has been articulating the same values and proposing essentially the same policies (excepting gun control) for six years on the national stage and now speaks with the knowledge that through several permutations and waves of oppositional hysteria he has still has (or has regained) a majority with him on the big stuff. And so he argued, not only as if he were himself convinced but convinced that we are convinced …
I thought speech clever in how he handled challenge to GOP; very Clintonian in policy offerings (and better than past SOTUs); and pretty good at taking advantage of areas where public opinion pretty much already on his side. Minimum wage increase good example: Republican pols and business leaders hate it, public loves it.
Dylan Matthews analyzes Obama’s proposal to bump the minimum wage to $9.00:
According to a 2007 study by the CBO, an increase in the minimum wage to $7.25, like that eventually passed that year, would increase wages by $11 billion, of which $1.6 billion went to poor families. By contrast, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for large families (as happened in the stimulus bill) and for single people would cost $2.4 billion, of which $1.4 billion would go to poor families. The EITC option costs one fifth as much to society but does about as much good for poor families. That suggests that if you want to help families escape poverty, wage subsidies are a more cost-effective option than the minimum wage.
Keith Hennessey thinks the minimum wage hike is unwise:
A minimum wage increase precludes employers from hiring, or from continuing to employ, those workers whose productive value to the firm is worth less than the new minimum wage. Like any price ceiling or price floor a minimum wage restricts supply, and an increase in the minimum wage restricts supply more. Raise the minimum wage and you will eliminate jobs for the lowest-skilled workers in America.
Adam Ozimek suggests an alternative to Obama’s minimum wage proposal:
I think on balance the evidence suggests [raising the minimum wage] does cause unemployment, and I don’t support it. But I recognize the evidence is mixed, and this is why I think what Obama should propose is a randomized minimum wage. Let the policy be designed by the Alan Krueger, the head of his Council of Economic Advisors, and one of the pioneering researchers on the impact of the minimum wage. The higher minimum wage can be set to sunset in 8 years conditional on what the experiment has shown about the impact of the policy.
Yglesias wants more details on the universal pre-K proposal:
People who consider themselves skeptics of K-12 education “reform” sometimes fall into a trap of thinking that preschool is like some kind of magic wand. But in fact the research on preschools is very similar to the research on K-12 schools. On both levels, some schools are excellent and make an enormous difference in kids’ lives but there are also a lot of middling-to-poor institutions that are adding little educational value. We have some intriguing examples of amazing preschools, but little experience with bringing them up to mass scale—the exact same problem we have with K-12.
And Howard Gleckman wanted more fiscal seriousness:
The fiscal goal he described is the same one he’s had for months: By his count $1.5 trillion in new deficit reduction over 10 years that would stabilize the debt at slightly below current levels—a far cry from balance.
Ambers’ bottom line:
[B]y not proposing a new “Grand Bargain” tonight, Obama has effectively foreclosed on the idea. Forever.