Barack Obama

Sophomore Nyrie Kasparian places her handprint on a poster commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Students and community members convened on the West Mall on Friday to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were killed.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Carpenter | Daily Texan Staff

Students and members of the local Armenian community lit candles inside a replica of an Armenian monument in memory of a historical tragedy. 

Volunteers from the Armenian Cultural Association built a replica of the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex, located in Yerevan, Armenia, on the West Mall to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1.5 million Armenian people killed in the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey, in 1915. Most historians consider the deaths one of the first modern genocides.

Karen Aroian, who helped organize the commemorative event, said the goal was to increase awareness of the Armenian genocide and other mass killings. 

“If we, as [the Armenian genocide] descendants, do not speak out for the voiceless and vulnerable, then genocide is bound to continue to today,” Aroian said. “What more do you need beside the mass murders of women, children and men who are defenseless?” 

Brandon Keropian, co-owner of South Austin Studio and member of the Armenian community, said the genocide personally affected his family members. 

“My great-grandparents went through this,” Keropian said. “My great-grandmother was one of seven kids, and they were all murdered, and she was lucky that she was spared. Her parents hid her with some Mormon nuns in Armenia.”

Advertising graduate student Davit Davtyan said he was frustrated President Barack Obama broke his campaign promise to recognize the Armenian genocide in such terms. During his first presidential campaign in 2008, then-Sen. Obama called the events in Armenia in 1915 a genocide. He has not referred to the killings as a genocide since his election.

A White House press release to acknowledge Armenian Remembrance Day referred to the historical event as a “mass atrocity.”

“He promised to recognize the Armenian genocide and name it a genocide,” Davtyan said. “Any time when a U.S. official, like a senator or someone like that, asks for support, and they promise to help us with recognition of that massacre, a later day they forget about this because they don’t want to damage their relationship with Turkey, which is an ally of [the] U.S.” 

No president since Ronald Reagan has used the word “genocide” during his term to describe the killings.

Undeclared sophomore Nyrie Kasparian said greater recognition of the 1.5 million Armenian deaths has long been a goal of the community. 

“I always made efforts to tell all my friends back in high school,” Kasparian said. “Even in elementary school, I would bring petitions to school and get my teachers to sign it. We’ve always been working toward recognition.”

Davtyan said the Armenian community is committed to remembering its past to prevent genocides from being committed again. 

“We are doing this for peace,” Davtyan said. “This is not only for the Armenian genocide. We devote this event to all genocides that were committed in the past.”

Photo Credit: Jessica Lin | Daily Texan Staff

One of the great accomplishments in recent American society was the recognition, during the 1960s and 1970s, that the “personal is political.” For civil rights activists; this meant that racial prejudice was not just a matter of individual preference but a national issue requiring government intervention to protect the entitlements of citizenship and civilization.

For women, “the personal is political” meant that mistreatment at home and in the workplace was no longer acceptable but instead a topic for intensive debate and correction. For gays, lesbians and transgender citizens, “the personal is political” became a foundation for exposing suffering and claiming equal access to public institutions and privileges.

Making the personal political opened American power to people long denied access. It created a national dialogue about fairness, equality and the nature of a free society. During the 1960s and 1970s; intensive debates about rights and identity disrupted American society, with countless protest movements on city streets and across college campuses. The intensive debates and protests made our country more diverse, more open, more innovative and ultimately more successful. We would never want to reverse those accomplishments.

In recent years, however, the personalization of politics has turned in a new, destructive direction. Instead of opening opportunities for expanded participation and exposing the mistreatment of individuals, the contemporary focus on personality denies serious political analysis.

Too much of our rhetoric is “anti-Obama” or “anti-Bush” without real discussion of what matters: their policies. For all the shouting about the Affordable Care Act, for example, there has been very little public discussion about the problems of our terribly costly and inefficient health care system and the possibilities for improvement. For all the controversy about the recent agreement between the United States and Iran, there has been limited analysis of productive alternatives, if this deal is not accepted.

Instead of policy, talking heads pronounce strong judgments around positive and negative portrayals of personality — why we should “support” or “distrust” President Barack Obama. Overwhelmingly, citizens are told to decide on policy based on strong judgments of the leader’s personality, not the other way around. If you hate Obama, you hate the Affordable Care Act and the U.S.-Iran agreement. If you love Obama, you support those policies.

This is not how democracy should work. The complexities of policy should inspire people to embrace different and inconsistent positions on various issues.

In the 1960s and 1970s, for example, many thinking citizens supported rapid civil rights reforms (a largely Democratic position) and hardline Cold War foreign policies (a traditionally Republican position). Many who hated President Lyndon Johnson for prosecuting the Vietnam War also revered him for promoting more equality among citizens.

The same in reverse: Many who supported President Richard Nixon on Vietnam differed from his expansion of the federal government at home. Our society made progress, because citizens debated the big issues of fairness and foreign intervention on their own terms, not purely around the personality of the president. That is, of course, how both Johnson and Nixon were able to elicit bipartisan support for big, new initiatives. The opposition to them was also bipartisan, at times.

In earlier decades, the “personal is political” opened discussion of long-ignored issues, and it created opportunities for creative solutions. Today, the “personal is political” means that personal judgments of people are so deep and so vengeful that we cannot discuss anything else. All evidence is filtered through the question of who proposed a given policy, not what they proposed. Imagine, just for a minute, how partisan statements would flip on Iran if George W. Bush, not Obama, negotiated the current agreement — very similar, in fact, to the Bush administration’s pursued agreement with North Korea in 2008.

The personal is really political because our life choices are largely determined by political decisions made far from our families and our homes. Educational policies determine the kinds of schools we attend and what we learn. Zoning and transportation policies influence where we live and how we travel. Economic policies shape the jobs we hold and the money in our bank accounts. Policing and defense policies determine our safety and the protection of our rights. All political policies have deep and enduring personal effects. Personal needs demand political attention. That is the positive lesson of the 1960s and 1970s.

Attention to the personal, however, is not a substitute for serious policy analysis. Since the 1970s we have gone much too far in that lazy and simplistic direction, contributing to the stagnation, hyper-partisanship and public ugliness of our current day.

It is time to return our concentration to the personal effects of policy. Do not support the presidential candidate you “like,” please, but research the issues you care about, and follow the figures who offer the best ideas. Who will improve our educational system and open better opportunities for young people? Who will make our society more humane, prosperous and safe?

When you answer these questions, then you know which candidates to support and how to make the personal truly political for a new era of democratic accomplishment.

Suri is a professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Department of History. Follow Suri on Twitter @jeremisuri.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

President Barack Obama recently took a stance against “reparative” therapy for gay and transgender youths. For some UT students who have gone through the process, the experience can be traumatic, according to Joey Hannah, LGBTQ specialist at the University’s Counseling and Mental Health Center. 

Last week, Obama denounced gay and transgender “conversion” therapy for minors and said he would back efforts to ban the practice at the state level. He said he was inspired in part by transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn, who died by suicide and cited these types of therapies in a note she wrote shortly before her death. A petition to ban the therapies went viral online soon after she died, and the petition gained more than 120,000 signatures before it expired.

Most children just want to be accepted for who they are and struggle when they are told they must be “fixed,” according to Cristina Urdiales, Mexican American studies sophomore and legislative chair in the Queer Students Alliance.

“Conversion therapies are done to mostly young adults and kids whose parents think they’re doing the right thing, but in reality, it’s something that can scar someone for life,” Urdiales said. “As harsh as this sounds, this statement brings to light that sometimes parents don’t know best.”

Placing people in reparative therapy, also known as conversion therapy, demonstrates a misunderstanding about sexual orientation and gender identity, said Josh Rudd, neuroscience freshman and Queer Students Alliance public relations director.

“Sexual orientation and gender identity are not things one can just change,” Rudd said. “It would be like trying to force people to change their race — it’s just not really possible.”

California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia currently have laws that ban conversion therapy for minors. Last month, Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin) introduced a bill that would ban the practice for minors in Texas. The bill, which would provide an exception for counseling that “provides acceptance, support and understanding of a child or minor … [allows] identity exploration and development … [and] does not seek to change sexual orientation or gender identity,” is currently in committee.

The American Psychological Association advises that conversion or reparative therapies for young people be avoided and that families instead seek psychotherapy support and education to find accurate information about sexuality.

Hannah said he would like to see more states ban these kinds of therapies as well and for there to be wider understanding of the damaging consequences of the practice.

“This is a harmful practice, and it isn’t a viable option, and people are acceptable,” Hannah said. “The problem isn’t the person; the problem is the culture that needs to change.”

'Local control' is another Republican myth

Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick beat State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the lieutenant governor race Tuesday evening.
Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick beat State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the lieutenant governor race Tuesday evening.

Attend any Republican political event throughout this state and you'll find a recurring talking point that really riles up the crowd: tyrannical overreach by the federal government against Texas. Fueled in part by distaste for President Barack Obama and in part by a neo-confederate love affair with all things "state's rights," the mantra of local control has become a rallying cry for the right in Texas. Medicaid expansion, marriage equality and immigration reform, according to these individuals, are just countless examples of said tyrannical overreach.

The mindset behind this is flawed, but even a cursory look into the recent dunderheaded moves of the state legislature would suggest that — worst of all — it is totally hypocritical and built on a foundation of lies.

Take Senate Bill 267, which the Austin American-Statesman recently reported was passed by the Texas Senate. It disallows municipalities from compelling landlords to accept Section 8 housing vouchers, something that does not match up with typical state precedent. House Bill 40, which overrules Denton's recent voter-approved ban on hydraulic fracking, recently cleared a house committee hurdle nearly unanimously, so reports The Dallas Morning News.

Perhaps most egregiously, the legislature looks determined to pass one of the many so-called "Campus Carry" proposals, which would allow concealed handgun license holders to carry their guns onto college campuses, including this one. Everyone from the students, to the faculty, to the administration opposes this misguided proposal, and yet the state pushes on anyways.

That is because the idea of local control is a myth for the modern day Texas GOP. They merely use it when it is convenient to them, in order to continue portraying Obama as the boogey man in order to race-bait to their increasingly hateful and out-of-touch base. When local control is inconvenient, as it is for cities or local universities that want to regulate housing, guns or the oil and gas industry differently than statewide officials, it is gladly lumped on the chopping block.

Horwitz is the senior associate editor.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

President Barack Obama’s January removal of the Cuban embargo is an important step toward restoring diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S., according to a senior research fellow at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

After nearly a half-century of deadlock between Cuba and the U.S., Julia Sweig, a Latin American foreign policy scholar, said reforming relations with Cuba will help maintain relations with other Latin American countries. Sweig spoke at the LBJ School on Tuesday about the effects of the embargo’s removal. 

The agreement includes returning imprisoned foreign spies to their home country and putting embassies and ambassadors in place as soon as possible, Sweig said.

On Dec. 17 last year, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro simultaneously announced they had been meeting for the past six months to delegate parameters for a big diplomatic move, according to Sweig. 

Now that pathways into Cuba are more open, Sweig said Obama’s administration hopes the private sector will return to Cuba and increase pressure on the White House and Congress for policy reform.

“The presidents issued some regulations a couple weeks ago that make the sanctions regime toward Cuba very much like Swiss cheese — that take his executive authority and say, basically, to the American private sector, ‘Go down to Cuba and explore and see what you can do. Come back and tell us what more you need in order to be able to trade, invest,’” Sweig said. 

Human biology junior Francisco Dominguez said the potential to make investments in Cuba gives him hope for the country’s future economic development — even if the legislation isn’t there yet. 

After Ted Cruz announced his presidential candidacy, Dominguez said the likelihood of a conservative president not following through with Obama’s efforts is worrisome.

“More than likely, according to polls, I think it’s going to be a republican president [in 2016], so I was really worried about … all of the work that’s been done — like six or seven years in the making,” Dominguez said. “Is it going to be dismantled?”

Public affairs graduate student Dylan Roberts said he found it surprising that the environment in Cuba is now so permissive for business.

“In the past in Cuba, what they don’t use they’d end up selling and using as their own profits sort of on the black market, so it’s nice to see now that there’s above ground activity to help people start businesses where it really just used to be black market sales,” Roberts said.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential race over Twitter on Sunday and in a speech at Liberty University in Virginia on Monday.

Cruz is the first major candidate to announce his candidacy. Since he represents the second most-populated state in the country, Texas, Cruz is a major candidate in the current Republican race, according to government professor Sean Theriault.

“Dr. [Ben] Carson has never won an election in his life,” Theriault said, referencing another potential candidate for the Republican primary. “That doesn’t mean that he has no chance, just that he’s never demonstrated that he knows how to put a winning campaign together. Senator Cruz knows how to do that.”

Such an early announcement gives Cruz a short-term advantage, Theriault said. University Democrats president Michelle Willoughby disagreed.

“Announcing early officially isn’t an advantage,” Willoughby said. “What matters more is starting early in the early states like New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, and, in that game, Cruz is significantly later than several other [Republican] contenders who have been spending a lot of time in the early states.”

Cruz, a Texas junior senator, has been under some scrutiny regarding his eligibility to run for and/or serve as president. Cruz was born in Canada, but his mother, who is from Delaware, is a natural-born citizen. 

Cruz formally renounced his Canadian citizenship last May and claims he is natural-born through his mother.

Theriault said people questioning Cruz’s citizenship have no grounds for their worries.

“These questions about citizenship are ridiculous — not quite as ridiculous as the questions about Obama’s citizenship, but close,” Theriault said. “His mother is a naturalized citizen.”

Bridget Guien, College Republicans communications director, agreed with Theriault.

“Senator Cruz’s birthplace should not affect his eligibility to run for president,” Guien said. “He is a natural-born citizen and holds the right to run for the presidency.”

Cruz is serving his first term in the U.S. Senate. He defeated then-Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the 2012 election by a 14-point margin. 

Theriault said Cruz’s limited time in federal government might not affect his abilities to serve, citing President Barack Obama’s victory after one term in the Senate.

“Ask Barack Obama the same question,” Theriault said. “He was first elected to the Senate in 2004 and, four years later, became president. Cruz would follow the same path.”

Willoughby said Cruz’s political résumé concerns her, calling him the “most extreme candidate considering running.”

“He isn’t polling well, he has alienated many in the GOP leadership and the general Republican voters with his grandstanding, and he is likely to have issues even with the groups that supported him in his campaign for Senator with a more crowded field,” Willoughby said. “These factors mean Cruz winning the primary is pretty unlikely.”

Theriault has more faith in Cruz’s abilities to persevere in the presidential race.

“For the Republicans in 2016, it all comes down to how the other candidates collapse,” Theriault said. “If the hard-right candidates fall like flies, and Cruz wins Iowa, he could have some longevity, especially if Bush has some competition from the ‘establishment’ wing of his party.”

The College Republicans do not officially endorse anybody in the primaries because the group is an auxiliary of the Republican Party.

Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

In December, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. The embargo with Cuba has long been criticized as petty and outdated policy, especially in the post-Cold War era. The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago. The U.S. has had a relationship with communist China for 42 years. And yet an island nation 90 miles from Florida remains extremely isolated from American society. As  Obama said in his State of the Union address: “When what you're doing doesn't work for 50 years, it's time to try something new.”  

Our post-Cold War generation is ready to turn the page in our relationship with the island nation. Most millennials cannot remember the years of tension with the communist world; most undergraduates were born after the Soviet Union ceased to exist. For us, the threat has transitioned into history. As the actions by Obama’s administration indicate, it is time to make up. It is time to learn from each other and our past mistakes. Greater interaction will lead to more mutual understanding and mutual benefit.  

A better relationship with Cuba will also have ramifications throughout the region. Much of Latin America’s sympathies, if not official support, lie with Cuba. America’s policy toward Cuba provides ammunition for anti-American sentiment. The U.S. has a history of meddling in the affairs of many countries in the region. Latin America has not forgotten. Some see the U.S. as an exploitative imperialist power, which the irrational Cuban embargo supports. Turning over a new leaf with Cuba will earn the U.S. favor with both the people and the governments of the developing region. 

With greater access, Cuba will provide opportunities for study in economics, history, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, political science, literature, fine arts, business, the Spanish language and more. According to U.S. News and World Report, UT has the best Latin American Studies program in the nation, with the faculty and resources at the Lozano-Long Institute of Latin American Studies. LLILAS should also encourage academic exchange at the undergraduate and graduate levels through curriculum and study abroad programs, and at the professorial level by hosting Cuban academics and supporting UT professors’ efforts to study Cuba. LLILAS should be a leader in academic and cultural exchange in this new era of U.S.-Cuba relations.  

With travel restrictions subsiding, the University should encourage more students to study abroad in Cuba. Currently, the International Office offers a Maymester program in Havana. While certainly an enriching experience, it is by design a limited one. The “Cuba in Question” Maymester offers one course and a one-credit pre-departure seminar. The program cost is equivalent to a full semester’s tuition and is limited in the number of students it can take.

A traditional exchange program in Cuba would give students a more substantial experience. Five months of interaction with Cuban culture beyond the boundaries of a faculty-led educational tour would allow students to form a much deeper connection and understanding. Additionally, a semester exchange would allow students to take a full course load with much less additional cost. Our governments have decided to make Cuba more accessible to Americans. UT should follow suit and make the island nation more accessible to students.  

UT and LLILAS have a responsibility to continue improving its top-rated offerings. In the coming years, Cuba will provide enormous opportunity; the University should not let it pass to someone else out of lack of effort. The University should pave the way so students and faculty can compete for the wealth of opportunities that an increasingly accessible Cuba presents. 

Burchard is a Plan II senior from Houston. Follow Burchard on Twitter @nathburch.

As the Texan recently covered, President Barack Obama has proposed a plan for free tuition at community colleges. But, as predicted, it didn’t go over well with his critics, who criticized the plan as excessive government intrusion into local affairs. 

The plan would cost $6 billion per year and provide tuition, but not other costs associated with attendance, for community college students looking to transfer to a four-year university or those who are on track to complete an associate’s degree. However, it doesn’t appear to take into account other financial factors that could potentially stop Americans from getting degrees or the present state of some community colleges. Contrary to the belief of this paper’s editorial board, which came out in support of the plan, a free associate’s degree may not be the solution to America’s education issue.  

My biggest concern is whether community college classes adhere to the same standards as four-year universities. It’s no secret that even the best of us opt for summer community college classes not only to get ahead, but to take an easier, less intensive route. With that in mind, does it really make sense to give people a free education if it won’t match the quality of a four-year degree? It just seems to create yet another problem for students who may not be able to afford a potentially better education, limiting them to the dregs at the bottom of the barrel. As the editorial board stated, Americans may get thousands of dollars off their debt with reduced load on faculty and staff, but will the instructors, curriculum and quality of what’s covered be the same?  

While not everyone is a slacker student, we don’t want college to become high school 2.0 — a major talking point of the Obama administration that conveniently leaves out the layabouts attending just to bide their time. Besides, students who attend four-year universities are far more likely to graduate on time and in general than those who begin at a community college. Only 20 percent of community college students actually end up transferring to get a bachelor’s. If that number stays the same, the two years of instruction would go toward a degree that wouldn’t get people much farther than a free high school diploma. Before offering a program for free, the federal government should first examine the workings of current community colleges that students already pay to attend. 

Those who can’t even afford community college don’t simply need help in their first two years. Post-associate’s degree, the full cost to attend a four-year university, including fees like books, housing and food, still acts as a barrier to a bachelor’s degree. The few thousand dollars off are nothing compared to the total debt they would still graduate with. As a master’s degree is becoming ever more necessary to enter the job market, underprivileged people will still be held even further back for lack of funding. Not to mention, the workforce isn’t the most stable, with many in fear of the number of guaranteed careers available to college graduates.  

Rather than making the basic requirements free, the ridiculous cost of higher education overall should be re-examined. Even at our school, on average, students incur almost $20,000 in debt even if they graduate on time, adding an additional $6,000 for every year beyond that. 

This plan is designed to give everyone equal opportunity, an idea great in theory but often not implemented correctly. The government cannot fill the achievement gap with empty rhetoric. It can inspire the country, make citizens think about the way the system works, but it won’t level the playing field as they attempt to use it for. By looking at the issue in a more pragmatic way, they would see that much more than part of 2 years’ expenses is needed to give Americans a boost. This proposal is a start, but if implemented won’t make as huge of a change as it seems. The real issue lies in affordability of education, without compromising quality or the overall experience and skills that accompany attending a 4-year university.

Griffin is a journalism freshman from Houston. Follow Griffin on Twitter @JazmynAlynn.

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio applaud President Barack Obama, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, during his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

In his sixth State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama called for wider access to higher education and implored Congress to fully subsidize the cost of community college for qualified students.

“Forty percent of our college students choose community college,” Obama said. “Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt. … I want to work with this Congress to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.”

History professor Jeremi Suri said he appreciated Obama’s emphasis on training people for higher-paying job fields, such as coding, nursing and robotics.

“More and more, anyone who wants to succeed in society needs a college education, needs to be a knowledgeable worker,” Suri said. “It’s also true many people are priced out of the market, so providing them with better aid makes better sense.”

University Democrats President Michelle Willoughby said she does not think financial burdens should keep people from going to college.

“I think that public education is the most important thing that the state and country funds, because it educates future leaders,” Willoughby said. “But public education is taxpayer dollars, so, if we stop after 12th grade, we’re not maximizing on our investment. I think it’s important that everyone who wants access to higher education can have it. Just from a financial standpoint, it doesn’t make sense.”

Suri said while access to higher education is important, he had hoped the president would address issues of quality of education as well.

“Getting [people] to school is the most important thing, but equally important is providing them with the best college education,” Suri said. “I think they could also do more by investing in research, teaching, in infrastructure of community colleges and less well-endowed institutions.”

Obama urged Congress to set aside politics to work with his “practical, not partisan” ideas. 

“We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world,” Obama said. “And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.”

Suri said Obama’s speech would not affect how well Republicans and Democrats work together in Congress.

“His saying won’t [change anything]; the question is whether voters and public interest groups start saying that,” Suri said. “What’s going to change is if those watching say we don’t want anymore government shutdowns, partisanship.”

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio applaud President Barack Obama, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, during his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Tuesday night's State of the Union address by President Barack Obama was reminiscent of — as President Lyndon B. Johnson was so fond of saying — grandma's nightgown. That is, it covered everything. In a sometimes rambling and hard-to-follow fashion, Obama laid out his legislative and political priorities for the remainder of his presidency. Of course, given the recalcitrant Republican majority in congress, none of these ideas are anything more than pipe dreams.

Most important, in our view, Obama reiterated his earlier proposals to allow Americans of all ages and backgrounds to attend community college with no cost to them. "Lower the cost of community college," Obama said, "to zero."

Obama also called for an ambitious plan to reconfigure the taxation scheme at the federal law, specifically by enacting a broad swath of tax cuts for the middle class in forms such as generous credits for childcare. The plan would pay for the relief by raising taxes on the more affluent Americans, particularly by considerably hiking the capital gains tax. At a time of growing inequality that threatens to tear apart the seams of the American dream, we stand by the President in his plan to not only address the crisis but allow most people to go home with more money in their pockets.

On other fronts, we were pleased to see Obama rehash some earlier commitments that are still important today. A major infrastructure bill is certainly a good start, though we would hope the Federal funds could be used for a myriad of purposes, both new roads and mass transit projects. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), who delivered the Republican response, made a point of dredging up the Keystone XL Pipeline, the construction of which is still held up in Congress. A pipeline is good, but like Obama said, a more expansive proposal would be even better.

Sadly, few-to-none of these good ideas will ever come to fruition, because of a Congress that cares about little other than scoring political points and staying in their Tea Party base's good graces. It would be naïve of us to think the proposals have a prayer of passage. But we hope they do nonetheless.