The annual State of the Union address given by the President to Congress comes at an unusual time this year -- one day after the Iowa Democratic Party caucuses on Jan. 19. That juxtaposition should give the public a glimpse of the two visions Democrats and Republicans will offer voters in the November Presidential elections.
Each party will sell its competing economic blueprint as the only way to make America prosperous. Democrats will promise a new 21st century safety net with the government protecting people against rigged financial markets and corporate rogues, raising taxes on the rich to give tax cuts to the middle class while bolstering Social Security for all. Republicans will offer an "opportunity society" with new retirement, medical, and savings accounts so people can make their own life decisions, and push to make permanent the sharp income and inheritance tax cuts of the past three years.
The truth is, America needs parts of both visions. The retirement of the baby boomers is at hand, and a huge amount of wealth will be needed to pay for it. People have to create more personal wealth, and corporate and financial scandals show they need protection. Social Security and Medicare also must be bolstered to supplement middle-class savings and help the poor. That will require billions more in tax revenues.
The optimal political result for the nation from the November elections is a White House and Congress that can work the best of both economic visions into new legislation. The long-term health of American society demands it.