SOTU 2007: Not much for America's middle class

"...not with more government, but with more enterprise." That pretty much said it all. Instead of offering America's squeezed middle class a substantive vision for addressing the root causes of their challenges, he wavered between ideologically-driven experimentation and small-bore thinking to trick us into missing the forest for the trees. In this year's State of the Union Address, there was little for America's current and aspiring middle class.

When it came to health care, the President opted to push an aggressive ideological agenda on the backs of middle-class Americans, offering "market-based" proposals that treat health care as if it were any other commodity and fail to address the real reasons behind its ballooning costs. On the economy, the President wants to reduce the deficit while maintaining his tax cuts that favor the very wealthy.

On issues like education and energy, the President's proposals lacked a core vision or an admission that previous years of inaction and underfunding have made these problems far more intractable today than they had to be.

Listening to the speech, average Americans heard the President use those words that the droves of Americans who abandoned him and his party at the polls two months earlier wanted to hear. He spoke of improving access to health care and of providing a system of public education that would "leave no child behind." He told us he would balance our federal budget. He promised to reduce America's dependence on oil, to improve our environment, to secure the border and to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He looked Americans in the eye and told them our economy was good and their lives were getting better.

But when one looks past the State of the Union's middle class window dressing, one cannot help but notice the speech reflects a view of America and an approach to government that is at odds with the reality lived by average Americans. The flourishing economy described in the speech may reflect the view held by corporate CEOs and Wall Street bankers whose fortunes have certainly improved in the past year, but it bears little resemblance to the experience of middle-class Americans who worry about the security of their jobs, how they can afford to pay their mortgages, to send their children to college as well as to save for retirement, and who wonder why their dollar seems to buy less and less every year.

The President's proposals, at their core, would implement a conservative ideology that doggedly protects the wealthiest Americas from tax hikes by sharply cutting social programs and absolve corporations from their obligation to protect the health and welfare of their employees by shifting those burdens to the workers themselves. And on issues like the environment, the President merely plays a shell game by distracting Americans with promises to reduce our nation's consumption of oil while he discretely announces his desire to step up domestic oil production and to double the capacity of our nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

As the father of the President's party, Abraham Lincoln, once wisely observed, "you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." Tonight, those who genuinely value the interests of the middle class and those aspiring to join the middle class have not been fooled.

For a complete analysis, please check out the Drum Major Institute's "DMI on the 2007 State of the Union."