'Americans less willing to believe their President and Congress'
RT:At the center of President Obama's speech were economic reforms like lowering tax, raising wages and an overall improvement in conditions for the working-class. Does the US have enough funds to deliver on that?
Eugene Puryear: I don’t think they have the real ability to deliver on that. We’ve seen it so far, and why people won’t believe is that Obama is continuously telling about the lower unemployment rate but in fact we’ve seen that the unemployment rate has barely moved in five years. Primarily he is discussing issues of the minimum wage, where of course any rise is welcomed for workers, but by and large he is talking about families living in poverty. What has been proposed by President Obama and Congress in terms of the minimum wage isn’t enough. And beyond this he is begging businesses to invest, but it is contradictory because businesses in the United States are continuously saying they want lower wages, they want less secure pensions, they want all these sorts of non-union restrictions in order to create jobs. So his desire to say “we are going to create more jobs and we want to improve the lives of workers” is really in fact contradictory, and so certainly this is what we see: the American people are less willing to believe their representatives whether it’s the President or Congress.
RT:Obama is facing a serious decline in support. Will this speech do anything to change that?
EP: I don’t think it will because people in the United States know that in election years the number one politicians promise things but they don’t do anything. And certainly we’ve seen that people since 2004 almost uniformly have continued to view the country going in the wrong direction. I don’t think speeches are going to transform significantly how people view things. President Obama is certainly trying to put a good spin on things, but I doubt outside of his hard-core supporters he is going to do very much. And I think conditions in the country will probably continue to erode people’s confidence, and the ability of the Congress and the President to govern.
RT:Last year Congress ignored Obama's calls for a new job program, new gun controls and immigration reform. Could we see more frustrating gridlock this year?
EP: I think we will see that because in election years both parties attempt to speak to their base about what they wish they can do if they were elected, which means that they will move further apart in terms of what they are actually trying to propose and they are less likely to compromise. That’s why I believe they have passed the budget deal already, so that they already have a little bit of a truce this election year. I think we’ll see more gridlock. This is the country where congressional districts are essentially gerrymandered, so they [politicians] have very little incentive to reach across the aisle and make these sorts of deal. I think we’ll continue to see that the President and Congress will find that what they say, what the American people want, what improvements in the living standards, is really at odds with what Congress is willing to do because we know that politics in America is determined by big businesses, as I mentioned earlier they are really impaired and certainly conflict with what the average working class in America really needs.
RT:The NSA spy scandal haunted Obama over the last year, but he didn't mention it in his speech. Why would he keep it covered up?
EP: I think he didn't mention the thing because his case is so incredibly weak and almost at every single stage the disclosures by Edward Snowden have proved that the government is essentially lying about its capabilities. And of course we know that James Clapper lied in front of Congress. I think the credibility of the United States on the NSA issue was extremely low and we've seen that every single claim from whether it’s collecting location data to the metadata issue, to whether American data is actually able to be monitored. All these things that the government has said one thing, it has been proven another thing. And I think that the President knew that he should just completely try to keep quiet as much as he possibly could because I don’t think anyone believes anything the government says on that issue and their credibility is completely shot. They've shredded the constitutional rights of Americans and lied about it. I think they didn't want to bring attention to that.
RT: The American President claimed that, quote "No other country in the world does what we do." Is he once again back on his "US exceptionalism" hobbyhorse?
EP: I think he certainly is, though he is right on the one hand, because no one does as the US does in terms of spying on the people of the world, launching drone strikes and other military actions and things of that nature, and attempt to dominate the world with this massive military machine and in unprecedented fashion. So in that sense he is right. His attempt to whip up the American patriotism by saying “We are the greatest country” to the exclusion of all others, I think, it's odious and it’s not something that would bring more cooperation among people in the world.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.