Politically-minded students react to State of the Union

Nick Glunt

Over 30 students from across Kent State’s political spectrum gathered in the Student Center’s Cyber Café Wednesday night to watch President Obama’s first formal State of the Union address.

Chadd Smith, president of the Kent branch of the College Democrats, talks about Obama’s State of the Union address.

Greg Allison, branch secretary for the Kent State College Republicans, reacts to the speech.

David Higgins, president of Young Americans for Liberty at Kent State, responds to Obama’s first State of the Union speech.

Predictions before the speech

Politically minded students like Chadd Smith, Greg Allison and David Higgins expected many specific topics to be covered in Obama’s address.

The recent announcement of a “spending freeze” will stop unneeded government spending for three years. Smith predicted Obama would address the freeze during his speech.

“A lot of critics say that after eight years of President Bush underfunding the federal government’s programs,” Smith, president of the Kent branch of the College Democrats, said, “it seems like now is not the time to cut off their (funding)…The jury’s still out for myself. Maybe he can sell me on it tonight.”

Smith said he also looked forward to hearing more about the soon-to-be-repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans openly gay Americans from enlisting in the United States military.

Allison, KSU’s College Republicans branch secretary, said he expected Obama to speak on the economy and health care reform.

“They might focus on jobs, but I don’t think it’s going to actually create jobs,” Allison said. “I don’t think letting the markets be controlled by the government ever creates many jobs.”

He went on to say, “I know it’s early in the Stimulus, but I haven’t seen anything, really.” He expected Obama to cover the effects of the Stimulus Package thus far.

Allison also expected Obama to cover health care reform. He said politicians have been thinking more center-minded lately, as opposed to liberal or conservative. Allison said health care in a large package is too liberal an issue to stay centered.

Higgins, president of Young Americans for Liberty KSU, had very specific predictions.

“He’s going to, obviously, talk about the state of the economy,” Higgins said. “How things are hard, that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

He went on to say, “(Obama)’s probably going to talk about terrorism, because he’s got to push that, because that’s never going to end.”

Overall, Higgins said from his standpoint it was going to be a letdown. He said he would love to see a State of the Union address that changed anything.

Reactions after the speech

Smith, Allison and Higgins commented after Obama’s address, explaining what they believe worked and didn’t work.

“As far as surprises,” Smith said, “I don’t think there were a lot of wildcards in his speech.”

He said people are going to have issues with Obama’s proposals, but there are things they won’t have issues with as well.

“A lot of people who are liberals are going to say the tax cuts aren’t good enough,” Smith said, “but he’s also done things like reinvest…back into the people.”

Smith believes the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is long overdue.

He said, “The arguments that people have made against repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ have been the same arguments they made against women, against minorities.”

Smith addressed Obama’s explanation of the spending freeze by calling it a good first step and a way to show he’s serious about dealing with the federal deficit.

With proposals of the lowering of college loan costs and investing in small business, Smith said he is especially happy to have a president who’s willing to invest in the American people.

Allison wasn’t as pleased as Smith.

“He sees the problem,” Allison said, “but he doesn’t see the root of the problem.”

Obama said banks took risks that threatened the whole economy. Allison said Obama has to understand why they made bad investments. Low interest rates, he said, made it “a steal” for banks not to invest.

Furthermore, he said he doesn’t see how Obama thinks the economy is getting better when unemployment is at 20 percent.

“He said he wanted to get exports up,” Allison said. “I don’t see how that’s possible with no jobs, which means no production. Two plus two does not equal five.”

On the other hand, Higgins said the address was everything he expected.

“While he talks the good talk,” Higgins said, “I can see how it resonates in the people. They’re like, ‘Yeah, that makes a lot of sense,’ but nobody asks why we’re under these conditions to begin with.”

When Obama said he would decrease college loan costs, Higgins commented that Obama was heading in the right direction, but there were still problems.

“You have to understand why tuition costs are up to begin with,” he said. “It’s closer in the direction we need to go, but it’s not the solution.”

Higgins offered his own idea as to how to solve the issues he had with Obama’s speech.

“The solution to the problem,” he said, “is getting the government out of the business of conducting our lives for us.”

 Email credit: Contact student politics reporter Nick Glunt at [email protected] .