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- A better way: What we would’ve liked to hear in the State of the Union
A better way: What we would’ve liked to hear in the State of the Union
by Karen Orenstein, Deputy Director of Economic Policy
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In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, President Obama set an aggressive tone on a number of key progressive issues, from education to equal pay. And while his speech featured strong points on the importance of tough action on climate change and mocked Republicans for their widespread climate denial, he also touted environmentally and economically harmful policies such as the Trans Pacific Partnership. The president’s support for the Asian and European trade deals, as well as his pursuit of increased oil and gas production, weakened his rhetoric. Instead of policies that would undermine climate action, here are points for which Friends of the Earth’s campaigners would have liked to see the president push:
Lukas Ross, climate and energy campaigner:
On Tuesday, President Obama talked a good game about fixing a tax code rigged in favor of the ultra-rich. He also talked about the urgency of the climate crisis and all the work that still needs to be done. The problem is that he missed a chance to bring these two issues together. At the end of the day, we still have a tax system that transfers billions every year to polluters like Big Oil and King Coal. If the president wants to build a legacy on either tax reform or climate, then he needs to put a public bull’s-eye on these special giveaways.
Marissa Knodel, climate campaigner:
President Obama said we should listen to climate scientists and act forcefully to address the immediate and long-term threats climate change poses to present and future generations. Well, this is what the scientists are saying: if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate disruption, we should leave two-thirds of the world’s remaining fossil fuels in the ground. To act forcefully and make this happen, President Obama should have called for an end to fossil fuel development and a transition to a 100 percent renewable energy economy.
Karen Orenstein, senior international policy analyst:
President Obama proposed several positive government initiatives to help ordinary folks in the U.S. — like free community college and more assistance for daycare. But he neglected to talk about an untapped source of funds that can help pay for these and other critical public needs, including money to help developing countries deal with climate change, which the U.S., more than other country, is responsible for causing: a Robin Hood tax! Also known as a financial transactions tax or Wall Street tax, it’s a tiny tax on trades of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments that would generate hundreds of billions of dollars of new revenue.
Just this month, senior Democratic leader Rep. Chris Van Hollen came out in favor of a Robin Hood tax, and it has long been championed by the chair of the Progressive Caucus, Rep. Keith Ellison, seen here plugging the Robin Hood tax in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Now it’s time for Obama to get on board. By making Wall Street pay its fair share, the Robin Hood tax can shore up funding for goods and services that keep people and our communities healthy and whole, at home and around the world.
Luisa Abbott Galvao, climate and energy associate:
I would have liked to hear of a bolder power plan, in both senses of the word. We should be revolutionizing not only what kinds of sources we use for power generation but also break the unfair control that big fossil fuel industries have over our energy matrix and politics. In addition to hearing about using clean, renewable sources like wind and solar, I would have liked to hear about feed-in tariffs and decentralized energy grids, to democratize energy provision and put power back in the hands of communities, which would at the same time also help improve our democracy, currently bought out by Big Oil.