huffingtonpost.com — In his second inaugural address, President Obama offered a stirring vision of the future of America, and the role of the federal government in enabling America to achieve it. He rightly emphasized that "preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action." An active federal government is needed, he said, to ensure quality education for all, mobilize new technologies, care for the elderly, fight climate change, and address global poverty. The challenge he faces -- that America faces -- is that the vision must be coherent with the budget. This has been the Achilles' heel of Obama's government from the start. And if he's not careful, he could put his powerful vision out of reach by budget blunders in the coming few weeks.
policyshop.net — The standard conservative rap on the social safety net is that it turns people into slackers by providing a comfy hammock and discouraging work and initiative. Yesterday, President Obama offered a diametrically opposite analysis: Programs like Social Security and Medicare, he argued, actually enable people to reach higher: "...these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. That may be the strongest defense of the safety net in a nation like the U.S., where the values of self-reliance and individualism run so deep, providing fertile soil for libertarian attacks on government assistance.More interestingly, this logic chain offers insights into how to spur growth and innovation. In a nutshell, if we can strengthen the safety net and de-link it from employers, we'll encourage more risking taking, entrepreneurship, and job creation.
nextnewdeal.net — Four years ago, I stood in the cold listening to President Obama’s first inaugural address. I remember it leaving me cold. This year, in the warmth of my den, the president’s clear projection of progressive values as core American values warmed my heart. No progressive story of America would be complete without putting movement at its core, which the president does forcefully in his alliterative embracing of “Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall.” He doesn’t leave the call for action in the past. His concluding paragraphs clarify that “You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.” The president will need lots of help setting that course over the next four years; surely he’ll be tested to keep to it himself. Our job is to do everything we can to assist him.
truth-out.org — Many people have been asking about the Justice Department's priorities in the wake of the suicide of computer whiz and political activist Aaron Swartz. As has been widely reported, the Justice Department was pressing charges that carried several decades of prison time against Swartz. He was caught hacking M.I.T.'s computer system in an apparent effort to make large amounts of academic research freely available to the public. The Justice Department's determination to commit substantial time and resources to prosecuting Swartz presents a striking contrast to its see no evil attitude when it comes to financial fraud by the Wall Street banks. People should recognize that this is not just a rhetorical point. It is clear that the Justice Department opted to not pursue the sort of investigations that could have landed many high level people at places like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup behind bars.
prospect.org — As I watched Barack Obama's speech yesterday, I couldn't help thinking of Ronald Reagan and what he has meant to conservatives since the day 32 years ago when he delivered his first inaugural address and said, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem." Some have lamented the fact that no single line from Obama's speech stands to be repeated as often as that one. But could this speech, and the four years to follow, make Barack Obama into the Democrats' Reagan? I don't necessarily mean that Obama will be treated with the kind of creepy fetishism Republicans treat Reagan. But the question is whether, like Reagan, Obama can define an era that continues even after he leaves office (in many ways, the Age of Reagan didn't end until January 2009), and give succor and guidance to his followers for years and even decades.
thedailybeast.com — Back in November more than 60 million Americans thought they were voting to reelect the man who has served as our president for the past four years. Little did we know that a very different man would place his hand on the Bibles of President Lincoln and Dr. King. The new Obama is more combative. He signaled this even before his speech. His nomination of Chuck Hagel is a slap in the face of the neocons, and his post-Newtown advocacy of gun-safety laws is a direct assault on the entrenched power of the NRA. Perhaps he is becoming less obsessed with process than with results, less convinced his mere presence will transcend partisanship, and more committed to mastering and manipulating our messy, imperfect democratic system to advance his notion of a more perfect Union. “Our journey is not complete,” the president said. Nor is his.
washingtonpost.com — January has turned out to be a banner month for fans of American exceptionalism. As documented in voluminous detail in a 404-page report released last week by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, Americans lead shorter lives than Western Europeans, Australians, Japanese and Canadians. Of the 17 countries measured, the United States placed dead last in life expectancy, even though we lead the planet in the amount we spend on health care (17.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 vs. 11.6 percent each for France and Germany). We get radically less bang for the buck than comparable nations. If that’s not exceptionalism, I don’t know what is.
dailykos.com — Died, after long struggle with infectious reality, Hastert Rule. Mr. Rule, caretaker at the House GOP Asylum for the Criminally Insane, is remembered by all who knew him—Democrats in particular—as an emotionally distant father, abusive husband, and hostile, litigious neighbor. However, he is also widely credited with keeping his asylum under tight control for many years, although some observers attribute much of Mr. Rule's success to his long-time pharmaceutical assistant, Nurse Ratched. More recently, Mr. Rule’s growing health problems left him largely incapacitated, making him a figure of ridicule even among the asylum’s inmates. As his mental faculties deteriorated, Mr. Rule’s increasingly bizarre orders (such as his recent call for the utter destruction of the federal government and the global financial markets) were largely ignored by his staff, including head janitor John Boehner.
thedailybeast.com — Among the moon-howling reactions to the president’s surprisingly bold gun-control proposals on the right, the one that most struck me was the boiling indignation that he had the temerity to speak of, and surround himself with, school children. Rush Limbaugh led the way as usual: “He’s using these kids as human shields ... He brings these kids who supposedly wrote letters to the White House ...” And so on. It was a shocking rant, even for that flatulent pile of gelatin, and amazingly out of touch with how the country feels about what happened in Newtown, and what is happening in our political culture generally. And it made me realize: they’re going to lose. Their excess outrages America, and even if they prevail for the time being in Congress, in the long run, they’re cooked.