The State of the Union address by the US President is generally regarded as an important indication of where US economic and defence policy is going – and has been. But Obama’s on 21 Jan (US time) is seriously disappointing on both scores.
On the past, he claims credit for the recent improvement in the economy and employment but “overlooks” the benefits from the shale oil and gas developments (due to the private sector) and, while noting the reduced budget deficit, offers no explanation of how the anti-stimulus effects managed to help the economy despite the Administration’s opposition to reducing expenditure (Perhaps Hockey should quote Obama on the beneficial effects of reducing budget deficits!). On the future, Obama foreshadows that his forthcoming budget will include extensive interventionist proposals including tax increases on upper income groups to help meet the costs. His reference to reducing income inequalities as a new form of economics – “middle class economics”- can only be described as absurd.
On defence policy, Obama offers the same basic minimalist US approach (ie minimal use of ground forces) and he continues to fail to address the Islamic influence by limiting his focus to “terrorists” only. The front page lead in today’s Australian (see below Barack Obama “We’ll hunt down terrorists”) is misleading in giving the impression that Obama has moved on that: he hasn’t. In fact, he gives the impression that the sole object remains to “defeat and degrade” the Islamic State and yet he can do more than claim that so far the US has stopped the advance of IS. As to other terrorists, the best he can say is that the US is “united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists”. (One might add “except for failing to unite in the Paris rally of world leaders).
It is of interest that Bishop visited the US in time to attend Obama’s address (at the invite of Republican Speaker Boehner) and, in a subsequent speech at Brookings Institute, she apparently correctly indicated that “the terrorist threat was spreading far beyond that posed by Islamic State” (see below Julie Bishop ‘even more troubled’ over terror after briefings in the US). The report that Australia is prepared to increase its military involvement suggests that this may again have been conveyed to the US by Bishop, but presumably on the basis that the US increases its involvement.
One other point worth noting on defence is Obama’s claim that the US has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear project and there is “a chance” to negotiate agreement to prevent a nuclear Iran. On this basis Obama indicates in his address that he will veto any proposal from Congress to increase sanctions against Iran. But this report suggests that a leading Democrat Senator told a Senate Committee that Iran’s nuclear program has not been stopped and that last year it produced enough enriched uranium to build almost two nuclear bombs and that its ballistic missile project is almost complete.
On climate change, Obama is even worse than he was before, with the incorrect claim that 2014 was the warmest year on record and that the world faces all kinds of terrible climatic developments unless action is taken to cut “carbon pollution”. He claims the US will double the rate of reduction.