As State of the Union addresses go, President Barack Obama’s speech Tuesday was notable for its economic vision. The question is likely to be whether the Congress is going to enact any of the policies and initiatives that Obama called for in his speech.
The president’s vision was national rather than federal. A shift in the shape and structure of a national economy as complex and varied as America’s does not happen through federal policy alone. Economies transform through the interplay in places between private sector firms, supporting institutions like universities and all level of government.
I have taken the president’s State of the Union Address and used Wordle to create a “word cloud” of the most frequently used words.
As you can see, Obama’s focus was fundamentally the “economy.” He talked about “businesses,” “jobs,” “education” and “economic” progress. That’s not surprising. The American public is deeply frustrated with the pace of economic recovery and increasingly concerned about America’s economic position in the world.
Obama offers a level of specificity and detail to his economic vision. He is clear about the investments he believes the U.S. needs to make: “research,” “energy,” “technology,” “science” and “infrastructure.” He is optimistic about the assets and advantages our “workers,” “companies” and “colleges” possess. He is blunt about the need to “compete” globally and the necessity of striking new trade deals with rising nations like “Korea.”
In other “words,” Obama has put forth an economic vision with a clear roadmap for action —a vision remarkably similar to the one supported by CEOs of some of the largest manufacturing and export firms in the country.
We can predict the Washington reaction to the speech and the hurdles which will face many of the president’s specific legislative ideas. In the end, however, the words in this State of the Union may have far more resonance across the nation.