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Friday, December 14, 2018

President Obama raised some very important issues but still isn’t focused on the real roots of the problems.

President Obama’s third State of the Union address was certainly a masterful performance, delivered with a sense that he’d finally gained command of both the political and policy demands of the office. (Ryan Lizza’s brilliant article yesterday on the early decision making around economic stimulus struck me as a sharp reminder of how far Obama was from that mastery in 2009. But, not to make excuses, nobody arrives in the Oval Office knowing how to do the job of President of the United States.) It also contained a wonderful statement of the social contract, the idea that people who acquire skills and work hard should be assured of the basic economic security that allows them to take advantage of opportunity.

Plenty of praise will be heaped on the speech, so instead of layering on, I have two small gripes. First, it goes without saying that Obama’s reaffirmation of the “Buffet Rule” — that millionaires shouldn’t pay a lower tax rate than salaried employees such as Warren Buffet’s secretary, who sat in Michelle Obama’s section of the gallery — resonated brilliantly with Mitt Romney’s tax returns, released the same day. Mitt Romney’s effective tax rate is not only lower than Buffett’s secretary, it’s probably even lower than Buffet’s, at just 13.9 percent.

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