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Obama: What he'll say, and what he should say

Herb Boyd | 4/12/2011, 5:29 p.m.

In a recent video, professor Cornel West of Princeton University offered some friendly advice to President Obama as he prepares to deliver his State of the Union address Wednesday evening.

West, who has generally maintained a "critical support" position for Obama, eased a bit beyond that point, insisting that the president not be a mere "colorful caretaker of an empire in decline." His admonition was presented as a form of "loving pressure," hoping that Obama will do the right thing for the "poor and working people of America."

With loving pressure coming from various sectors of the electorate, Obama is faced with an agenda overflowing with problems, and his situation isn't relieved when one of the strongest voices on the left is recording his concern.

How will Obama address the smorgasbord of issues and the cornucopia of dilemmas is being answered by a chorus of pundits, populists and plutocrats, each of them in some way stressing an old slogan: "It's the economy, stupid!"

There are reports that he will focus on the economy in the speech, with plans to help the struggling middle class, which he said "has been under assault for a long time."

Among some other proposals, it's speculated, he will double the child and dependent care tax credit for families earning less than $85,000 annually; create a new system of automatic workplace retirement savings accounts; expand tax credits to match retirement savings; increase elder care; and limit students' federal loan payments to 10 percent of income above basic living allowance, an issue that he has promised to address in the past.

But one wonders how the economic freeze he plans jibes with the proposal for job creation, and the creation of jobs seems to be a No. 1 priority for most Americans.

The national debt and the out-of-control deficit are other talking points the president is sure to cover, and then there's the war in Afghanistan that has been pushed from the headlines with the catastrophe in Haiti. That ongoing tragedy in the Caribbean is certain to get more than a wink.

Along with the setback in Massachusetts and the need to shore up his base (and that was indicated with the return of David Plouffe), the above items will get the lion's share of attention, but there are some other things that should be addressed.

Uppermost is a plan to win back the independents, which supported him so vigorously during the election. Back then, Obama commanded more than 50 percent of those who declared themselves independents, but that popularity has shrunk to 42 percent. The gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey in November indicated that a "change" was on the horizon, and the message was firmly delivered in Massachusetts.

Jobs, harnessing the gaggle of independents--and there is still no good definition of who they are and what they stand for--dealing with the economy and salvaging some form of health care reform gives Obama a full plate of issues to deal with.

Perhaps the only way to rescue health care reform is to resort to the process of budget reconciliation, which is a way around the filibuster and the "41st" senator, represented by Republican Scott Brown. Sure, this will infuriate the Republicans, since it will only require a majority vote, but isn't that the essence of democracy?

If you listen carefully to the throng of Obamaphiles, it's time for him to put some of that loving pressure he's been receiving on his adversaries, and keep repeating the "fight" mantra, talk about his accomplishments, and not to be afraid to take on the fat cats on Wall Street.