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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Is The State of Our Union Strong?

President Obama came into office amidst much fanfare and enthusiasm. However, a year later, the question being raised by many is whether he has kept the promises made on the campaign trail.

The campaign itself was defined by a record amount of participation and excitement from the youth. Wednesday night, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address. It was unusually long and covered a wide breadth of topics. Over the past year, he has backed a number of controversial and not often well received bills.

When the housing market started crashing and the banks started failing, he backed a major bailout that gave billions of dollars of low interest loans to failing banks. This year, most of the banks have recovered, paid back the government and even made a profit. Naturally, the ordinary citizen looks upon this bailout as unfair.

Although the economy was saved, the top banking companies have now made an extraordinary amount of money. Because of the financial leverage handed to them by the government, they continue to pay their top executives millions of dollars in “bonuses.” The citizen who has to join the Army at the age of 40 to pay for his wife’s cancer treatment has a right to feel slighted and jaded towards the people who run our country.

Many citizens, both Republican and Democrat, supported letting these big banks fail and letting the little banks fill up the vacuum. America has faced this kind of dilemma a few times before, albeit in a slightly different way. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton had a lively debate over a big national banking system and a smaller local system, championed by Jefferson.

Ultimately, Hamilton’s idea won out, but by the time the Great Depression came around, the unchecked and unsustainable lending practices of banks led to huge sell-offs and a massive depression.

The country was brought out of it when Roosevelt decided to start a stimulus program similar to the one in progress now.  The nation invested in numerous civil programs and massively boosted the money spent on projects that could spur job growth and sustainability.

President Obama has taken this same path and has pumped billions of dollars into a number of programs. Whether all of this will be effective for the nation is still yet to be seen. We do have to give credit to the president for easing the bank crisis and allowing the credit market to become unfrozen.

The health care debate has raged now for a number of months, and with the Democrats’ loss of the super majority, it’s chance for passage looks slim. This bill does not seem to have support from the Republican or Democratic majority.

Republicans still feel that this bill lets the government control day-to-day life too much, and Democrats believe that what they had originally wanted has now been watered down, due to the Senate trying to appease more conservative Democrats. All it seems President Obama has managed to do thus far with this debate is further divide Americans along partisan lines and destroy any semblance of cooperation between the two sides.

However, if one is honest, all of the blame cannot be placed on the president for this divisiveness. Fiery conservative talk show personalities who are often quite belligerent and even sometimes downright ignorant towards the president and the liberals cause people to distrust each other even more.

President Obama has now moved his focus towards the economy. He has proposed a spending freeze to go into effect in the near future. This could be an honest attempt at pulling back costs, a way to gain some conservative support, or both.

One thing that was not mentioned at length during the State of The Union was foreign policy and the two wars we are fighting. This does not mean that the president is not aware of these issues. Recently, the combat in Iraq has been drawing down greatly, the war in Afghanistan has increased in intensity and many thousands more troops are being sent there to combat the Taliban and other extremists. The United States is now considering a deal to cooperate with the Taliban. This would basically amount to paying people who have extremist leanings not to fight.

To me, it seems that the air of impending doom over the last few months that has dominated the media has seemed to dissipate. The economy is looking up, at least for Wall Street, which has enjoyed massive rallies recently, and there is now some hope of finally ending the wars that plague us.

Americans in general, however, are so divided now that I fear that more progress will be extremely slow. Perhaps we are at the point of so much division that the two sides will not pass or collaborate on a bill, just because it started with the other side, even if both agree on some issues.

As college students and as the future leaders of our country, we can begin to reverse this trend by not being at the throats of those who differ in our political views. Maybe it is time to discard the age old advice of staying out of political conversations with our peers.

If we can learn to come together and talk through our differences and try to see issues from the other side, maybe we can begin to come together and get things done. We have an obligation to be responsible adults and learn to appreciate the other persons’ views, even if we don’t agree with them.

We must remember that no matter what our country faces, no matter how much we disagree about someone’s point of view, in the end we are all American, and that unifying fact is something that can never be brought down by our arguing or squabbling over political issues.

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