Calling America’s wealth disparity the defining issue of our time, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., praised President Obama’s annual State of the Union as a strong and decisive speech.
The nationally televised address was framed with a call that every American deserves a fair shake and should pay their fair share. Before Mr. Obama’s address, White House aides defined the speech as a defense of the middle-class.
Yarmuth says the president outlined an impressive direction for the country, adding Mr. Obama has improved the economy from the recession he inherited.
“The last two and a half years have seen a dramatic improvement in our economic prospects. When you talk about going from losing 8 million jobs over a period of a year and then subsequently creating 3 million private sector jobs, there’s no question that things have gotten better. The ditch was incredibly deep and we’re slowly crawling out of it,” he says.
Other area lawmakers, however, criticized the address as divisive and more of the president’s failed policies to improve the economy.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels delivered the official Republican response and said Mr. Obama has chosen dividing rhetoric, stifling big government regulation and class warfare over economic progress.
“We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have-nots,” Daniels said. “We must always be a nation of haves and soon-to-haves.”
But during the address, the president pledged to fight against any policy that he deemed responsible for getting the country into the recession back in 2007. Mr. Obama also highlighted the so-called “Buffett Rule,” which would raise taxes on wealthier Americans by giving them a similar rate to the middle-class citizens.
The president made that point on the day a potential White House contender, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, released his tax returns that showed he paid less than 14 percent on $21.7 million in income in 2010.
Yarmuth says the contrast between the former Massachusetts governor and the president’s speech is important for Democrats to make because the debate is about whether the wealthy should get tax relief for income that doesn’t benefit the country.
“It’s not really any issue whether $3 million in taxes is fair or whether a 13.9 percent rate is fair,” he says. “The question is whether the income he made, the activity that generated that income provides any benefit for the economy or society that would warrant a preferential tax treatment.”