Campbell: Obama tackles reform in national address

Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address and, like most State of the Union addresses, this one was a self-congratulatory speech lauding the successes of the current administration and reciting a list of token American values. This surprised no one.

Despite the pomp and circumstance of the event, the president did tackle a wide variety of issues, and it appears that Obama's tendency to use broad arguments and sweeping declarations has given way to specific, if questionable, plans and points.

Obama mentioned his support for a number of progressive measures, which are still needed if the United States wants to bring itself to higher standards of modernity. His most impressive and progressive promise - trying to repeal the ban on homosexuals in the military - has been needed severely.

Another interesting public works project that Obama mentioned was the development of a national high-speed railway system.

Obama's suggested measures for relieving the plight of debt-riddled college graduates are particularly relevant to Geneseo students. Obama called for a bill revitalizing community colleges, and introduced a law requiring that college graduates not pay any more than 10 percent of their income to their college debts annually, and even eliminating the debt after 20 years. If a college graduate chooses a career path in public service, the debt would be eliminated in 10 years.

College students everywhere should be excited about this proposed bill, particularly as it is at last giving recent college graduates the freedom to work without having to worry about their futures being unraveled by massive debts.

Obama, however, was not very specific when referencing universities. After he proposed his bill, he added, "… by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs - because they, too, have a responsibility to help [college debt]."

This begs the question: just what, exactly, are universities supposed to do? Many public colleges, like Geneseo, are already in tight budget situations.

The president also lacked significant punch in his idea to freeze government spending in 2011 for three years. Despite the massive amount of money already spent by the Obama administration, mostly to stop and reverse the downward spiral of the nation's economy, this type of economic thinking is not in the best interests of the United States government.

"Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't," Obama said of his plan.

Balancing the national budget, however, is different from balancing a checkbook. This type of thinking seems to be more politically motivated, seems counterproductive and inconsistent given the elaborate long-term health care and economic plans already enacted, and seems too optimistic about the economy's recovery.

The overall tone of Obama's speech seems to reflect the more humbled stance of his administration. It seems that the wave of good will that Obama rode into office has finally crested and this speech outright acknowledged it.

Obama's willingness to tackle controversial issues, however, is a much-needed change from a government that all too often only looks out for the interests of individual lawmakers.