In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama set out a detailed agenda for his second term–a highly ambitious and diverse array of goals that few thought had any chance of succeeding in a divided Congress. Indeed, the only achievement during the subsequent year was an easing–not a reversal–of the sequester cuts that the President called a “really bad idea” (though they came from the White House).
The president focused–as he often does–on economic inequality, declaring that despite signs of economic recovery, “we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded.” He set the goal of his administration as the restoration of “a rising, thriving middle class,” and devised a set of complex federal government policies and interventions to achieve that aim.
The president also highlighted some prominent social goals, including “background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun,” “tax reform and entitlement reform,” and “comprehensive immigration reform,” all of which seemed possible, or even likely, at the outset of 2013 but none of which was achieved due to scandals, fights with Congress over the budget and debt ceiling, and the Obamacare rollout.
The president also proposed goals that seemed less achievable–and, indeed, were ignored, such as universal preschool education and raising the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour ($10 in this year’s proposals). In foreign policy, he pledged to reach a diplomatic solution with Iran on its nuclear program–and did reach an interim deal by year’s end, though one critics said did not prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. He also promised to maintain pressure on the Syrian regime, which he failed to do over the course of the year.