Before the State of the Union Address, I knew that President Barack Obama was going to give a great speech, as he always does. I knew he would remind us that he has become the black male Oprah Winfrey: The person of color that everyone seems to love. Many black men (including myself) are not as likable as Obama, and most of us are considered far more threatening. But the president has mastered the ability to connect to white Americans, in large part because he is 50% white himself. I’m definitely envious, sort of.
Obama focused on job creation as the centerpiece of his speech, which I would have advised him to do. When polled on what they care about most, Americans were overwhelmingly focused on jobs and the economy. Everything else is pretty much entertainment. The president gave America exactly what it wanted, laying out a very serious commitment to creating jobs in 2010.
The “jobs, jobs, jobs” speech is going to pay off for Obama, since the natural rotation of the business cycle will likely cause an upturn in the economy this year. Jobs are going to come and most economic indicators are going to rise. With this rise in economic conditions will come a rise in President Obama’s popularity among the American people. That does not, however, help us to escape long-term fundamental problems in America’s collective financial situation, since our economy has not created one net new job since 1999.
President Obama also attacked the banks, making it clear that he is not in the pocket of Wall Street. Well, at least he’s not in the pockets of big bankers. Having Tim Geithner and Lawrence Summers as his key economic advisors implies that he is likely not going to throw all of Wall Street under the bus. Geithner and Summers have deep ties to “the street,” and may have discouraged Obama from attacking America’s financial centers. At the same time, the president clearly stated that taxing big banks was going to be a priority. Even Republicans gave him a standing ovation on that one.
The president also made courtesy stops on other important issues in our nation, such as National Security, Immigration, Education and Civil Rights, but the truth was that he was focused on the economy. That’s exactly where his attention needs to be right now, since no one seems to care about anything else. When the economy improves, so will Obama’s fortunes. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.