Ralph Nader had a good take on the speech:
RALPH NADER: Well, he was too vague on that. What he should have done is said that Ronald Reagan supported capital gains and dividend taxes like ordinary income, so there wasn’t this split where the rich get lower tax on their capital gains or dividend. And he didn’t tie in any idea of revenues for the public works program that he touted.
You know, Amy, State of the Union speeches are signaling presentations. They signal by what they say, how they say it and what they don’t say. And on that criteria, it wasn’t a very coherent speech. He stressed civil liberties and never mentioned what he’s going to do about the renewal of the notorious PATRIOT Act provisions. He said that there should be more oil and gas production, and then he warned about climate change. He said there should be strengthening unions and voices of workers, and then he took it away with the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, which exports jobs, and he wants to ram through Congress a voiceless fast track that prohibits amendments and labor from having a role in that deliberation.
And he didn’t even mention the hundreds of billions of dollars of commercial fraud on Medicare and Medicaid and patients in the private sector—hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate crime he never mentioned. He could have done a convergence with the Republicans on auditing the Pentagon, which sounds dull, but it’s a huge issue that the rank and file on both sides support, in contrast to the leadership in Congress. He could have easily converged, because as senator, Senator Obama teamed up with Senator Coburn, the Republican, to put the full text of hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate contracts online, so competitors, taxpayers, the media, the academia can analyze and prune the huge waste, fraud and corruption.
Also notice that he said again, "Close down Gitmo." We’ve heard that song before. Again, he didn’t mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all.
And I think what is most troubling is what he avoided saying, like he desperately needs funding for his programs, like day care and so on. And he didn’t mention the squeeze on the IRS budget by the Republicans, so the IRS now cannot begin to collect what they say is $300 billion of evaded taxes every year. That’s $300 billion of evaded taxes, not avoided taxes, which David Cay Johnston will be talking about.
So, I think he missed a lot of opportunities. And it was not specific enough. It was not coherent enough. And he could have gone for more convergence with the Republicans, [gratuitous book plug omitted]