State of the Union: Keep a good stock of pens, Mr. President

State of the Union: Keep a good stock of pens, Mr. President

January 29th, 2014 in Opinion Times

The real audience of President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech is us - the American people.

The real audience of President Barack Obama's State...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

In 1948, then-President Harry S. Truman in his second State of the Union address called for a raise in the federal minimum wage to at least 75 cents.

President John F. Kennedy talked of sending men to the moon.

Ronald Reagan encouraged Congress to approve his Supreme Court justice nominations,

Bill Clinton pushed Congress to embrace "the Internet Superhighway" with its instant flow of information as a jobs creator.

Those things happened. And they happened through no small part because the lawmakers of those eras still understood the meaning of compromise and governing.

President Barack Obama doesn't have a Congress with that work ethic. Instead, he says, he has a pen. And hopefully he will begin to use it more often.

On Tuesday, the morning of his sixth State of the Union address, he pledged to do just that and signed an executive order raising the minimum wage of future federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour.

It's a limited version of a raise he has suggested for the whole nation. But his noble effort to bring some equity to the growing wage gap in our country has gone the way of other higher ideals like immigration reform and common-sense gun permits.

Common sense of any kind has been held hostage by this nation's Congress for much of Obama's presidency -- long enough for both him and many Americans to lose faith in the people we've elected.

In the State of the Union, the audience the president could see in the chamber was largely made up of people he must work around, since they won't work with him. But the real audience is us -- the American people. And we already know the urgent need for increased opportunity and social mobility that job creation, higher wages, training and education can bring.

Like the president, we have ways to work around our recalcitrant representatives and deadbeat senators. And in November, we can boot some of them out of office.

Republicans, even before the speech, were crying foul and accusing the president of "overreaching" his power under the Constitution. One of them, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, continued to beat a dead horse by claiming the Affordable Care Act is "a big, wet blanket" of regulations that will kill jobs.

Alexander is the wet blanket, as are many of his colleagues, and Americans know it.

In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week, an astounding 80 percent of Americans said they don't have confidence in Republicans in Congress to make the right decisions for the country. Democrats in Congress polled only slightly better with a mere 72 percent no-confidence mark. Meanwhile, President Obama's approval rating stands at 46 percent, a slight increase from the 42 percent he had in November.

If President Obama's efforts to help all Americans have affordable access to health care and better wages and safety is overreach, then we'll take more of it.

And we can further tune out what we hear from Congress -- a body of slackers whose primary claim to fame has been to shut the government down and stymie any progress beyond that of the wealthiest 1 percent in the country.

Mr. President, use your phone and your pen. Use the phone to continue trying to build bridges, but don't hold your breath any longer. And please make sure you have a good stock of pens on hand.