Some Ideas for the State of the Union

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As usual, Bill Galston has some good advice for the president. Including this:

The plight of hard-working, hard-pressed Americans--those struggling to remain in the middle class and those struggling to get there--must be front and center. And the president must address it in the right way. A December 16 Gallup survey found that while 82 percent of Americans believe that it's extremely or very important to expand the economy and 70 percent believe that it's extremely or very important to increase equality of opportunity for people to get ahead, only 46 percent believe that about reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. While 72 percent of Democrats want government to emphasize measures to reduce inequality, only 43 percent of independents agree. And 52 percent of Americans say that "the fact that some people in the United States are rich and others are poor" is acceptable, actually up from 45 percent in 1998. A Pew survey released on December 16 found 58 percent of Americans rejecting the view that America is divided into "haves" and "have-nots." Another Pew survey released January 23rd found 86 percent of Americans giving "top priority" to strengthening the nation's economy and 82 percent to improving the job situation, versus 52 percent for dealing with the problems of the poor and needy. A majority of Americans will support requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share (that is, higher taxes)--but not in the name of reducing inequality. Obama's speech must address middle class anxieties, but without triggering long-standing middle class fears about redistributive measures that could deepen their plight.

Romney's tax returns are a tempting target--not least because Romney himself is evidently so embarrassed by them. (I mean, who would have guessed that all this was going to come up?) Nonetheless, for Obama it's a trap, and for the reasons Galston says.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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