AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Park City, Utah, from the headquarters of the Sundance Film Festival, the largest festival of independent cinema in the country.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama renewed his criticism of the Supreme Court ruling, saying he hopes Congress passes legislation, quote, “that helps to right this wrong.”
President Obama delivered his first State of the Union address Wednesday night. The President did not lay out any far-reaching new policies, but instead used the occasion to call on Congress to move forward on issues already on the agenda, including economic recovery, healthcare reform and education.
A full two-thirds of the President’s seventy-minute address was devoted to the economy, the central theme of which was job creation. Obama talked through a series of steps his administration hopes to take to aid middle-class families and spur job growth. As expected, Obama proposed a three-year freeze on discretionary government spending, threatening to use his veto to achieve it.
**PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA**: Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.
I know that some in my own party will argue that we can’t address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting. And I agree, which is why this freeze won’t take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger. That’s how budgeting works. But understand—understand, if we don’t take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery, all of which would have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.
**AMY GOODMAN**: Obama went on to urge action on energy legislation, linking success to the creation of new jobs. He called for construction of new nuclear power plants, new offshore oil drilling, and passage of climate change legislation. Obama also challenged Congress to supersede the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to elect and defeat candidates. The President also vowed to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and urged Congress to pass legislation opening the military fully to gay men and lesbians.
For a response to President Obama’s first State of the Union address, we’re joined by two guests. Noam Chomsky joins us on the telephone from his home in Massachusetts. Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught for over half a century. He’s the author of dozens of books; his most recent is Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.
We welcome to Democracy Now! Noam Chomsky, What is your response to President Obama’s State of the Union address?
**NOAM CHOMSKY**: Well, one doesn’t expect to get much content from a State of the Union address, and there wasn’t very much. But that’s normal.
There were some proposals that made some sense. They weren’t very definite, but, yes, it’s a good idea to put Americans to work building the infrastructure of tomorrow, railroads, but not the interstate highway system. He said that. I don’t think that’s a good idea. It’s a good idea to take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks to give credit to small businesses and so on. It’s true that we should export more of our goods, but he didn’t mention the way that has to be done to do that, namely, lowering the inflated dollar, which the financial industries aren’t going to like, so I don’t think it’ll happen.
On freezing government spending, it’s not—it’s certainly not—it’s partially, but not totally, in accord with the public will. So, in fact, the recent, most recent poll I’ve seen by Pew on people’s priorities, the highest for increase in spending, by far the highest, over two-thirds was for education. Well, that’s being frozen. The next was veterans’ benefits; that’s frozen. Next is healthcare, which is partially frozen. Environmental protection, not there. Energy, not there. When you get down to about, I think it’s eleventh or so, you get the military defense, which is increasing—call it “defense.” Antiterrorism defense is thirteenth; that’s increasing. So, by and large, the priorities are, I wouldn’t say the opposite of, but not consistent with the spending block.
It’s a good idea to revitalize community colleges, to cut back, to modify the student loan program so it doesn’t go through banks. The childcare tax credit makes some sense. These are all—it’s also good to reverse the Supreme Court ruling, but he didn’t say—which was a horrible ruling, but he didn’t indicate how we should go ahead with that. And most of it is the kind of rhetoric you expect in a State of the Union address. There were a few scattered things like the [inaudible] be sensible if there’s—if there’s some way to carry them out.