The full text is available here. What struck me most was the exclusive focus on domestic matters. There were some areas that were of interest to U.S. Persons Abroad:
1. Discussion of Tax and Tax Reform:
This was mentioned (but not really addressed) very early on. It’s as though the plan was to mention the issue of tax reform early enough so that it would be forgotten by the end. All he said was:
Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit. The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring; a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America. That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together.
The question is whether any of this means anything. My guess is that it doesn’t. But it does reinforce the view that the “wealthy” should pay more. Of course without lowering corporate tax rates and moving to a territorial tax system for corporations:
1. The U.S. tax code will guarantee that corporations have strong incentives to more jobs offshore; and
2. By continuing to tax companies when they repatriate their earnings to the U.S., it will reduce incentives to create jobs in America.
In other words, he is giving all the arguments for why the U.S. needs to move to a territorial tax system. But will they? I doubt it.
2. Drone Attacks – Greater Transparency In How The Decision To Kill People Is Made
As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.
This is interesting and perhaps motivated by the recent Brennan Hearing and the series of articles by New York Times Reporter Scott Shane. The issue of drones is now in the public consciousness. What I found interesting was that the issue of drone attacks was:
1. Characterized as a domestic issue (the real issue is that the government needs to tell the American public more about how it makes the decisions to kill);
2. Not recognized as the cause of rising anger, resentment and hatred of America (which is very costly).
3. On Freedom – “There is just and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that” – “We will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights”
Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”
In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can – and will – insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.
These are the kinds of platitudes that appeal to “Homelanders”. Perhaps it is true that there are people in Burma who love the United States. The real problem is the people in Pakistan who hate the United States because of the drone strikes. (Hatred costs lots of money!) Since the State of the Union address was mainly about Americans and domestic issues, perhaps the U.S. might consider giving its own citizens their universal rights. The U.S. is rapidly and consistently evolving into a police state. But, the abuse does not stop at the U.S. border. As we all know, the U.S. has created and embarked on a program to abuse its citizens abroad. Obviously “Homelanders” believe the President. What I would like to know is whether Obama believes what he is saying is true.
4. On Voting – This is actually quite good
But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.
1. It is important to make access to the ballot easier. Those who live outside the United States know how much easier it is to vote in many other democracies. U.S. citizens abroad are able to compare the voting process in other countries (example Canada) to the process in the United States. The truth is that voting in the U.S. is not easy. High time this was addressed.
2. Access to the ballot doesn’t matter if there is no choice on the ballot. As Jesse Ventura would say, it’s time to break the grip that the Republicans and Democrats have on the political process.
5. On Immigration – No mention of FBAR but Taxes and Meaningful Penalties Required
Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.
And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.
In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.
1. What can he mean by “paying taxes and a meaningful penalty“? At a bare minimum, it confirms that it is impossible to discuss any reform with a consideration of penalties.
2. By the time the OVDI and FBAR message is out (and it is getting there) the U.S. will lose many good immigrants!
6. On the meaning of citizenship – perhaps this could be the basis for some discussion
We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.
This is the argument for citizenship-based taxation. We as U.S. citizens abroad have an obligation to “Homelanders” to support them. Furthermore, as Patriots we should not:
- have foreign spouses
- buy foreign mutual funds
- support children who are NOT U.S.citizens