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NEW YORK NEW YORK: Obama greasing the wheel


Tony Best

NEW YORK NEW YORK: Obama greasing the wheel

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Imagine Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart addressing a joint session of parliament and reporting on the state of the nation.
It would either be a lesson in candour or political theatre – take your pick.
A regular comprehensive report on the state of our country, much like what United States President Barack Obama delivered a few nights ago in Washington, would be useful because it would trigger a national debate outside of parliament.
Barbados’ parliamentary practice provides for such a periodic report but it is seldom used.
prorogation marks the end of a session and is followed by the state opening of parliament. In Barbados’ parliament all debate stops, every item on the order paper is removed and parliament starts with a clean slate when its deliberations begin again after the Governor General reopens the chambers and outlines the government’s agenda.
When Obama took to the podium on Tuesday evening and outlined his national agenda, it was clear he was delivering his opening re-election campaign speech. He delivered it flawlessly, moving from middle of the political road to centre-left with his plan for economic and social equality, focusing on such key factors as education for the youth, health care for every American, tax reform, college affordability and clean energy.
“Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and financial system that do the same,” he said. “No handouts, no bailouts and no cop-outs. An America built to last insists on responsibility for everyone.”
Of course, the President pushed for programmes he knows are non-starters. One of them is immigration reform which is a dead issue for Republicans.
Next is a tax plan which would require millionaires to pay a maximum effective rate of 30 per cent. Still, the address gave him the opportunity to outline his plan to the nation and then the road to put his case.
Of the many issues Obama covered, two are of special interest to Bajans and other immigrants in the US. First, is a call for better terms for foreign students so they can remain in the country after they have graduated.
Next is the new unit in the United States Justice Department that would investigate mortgage fraud and abuses. Eric Holder, the Attorney-General, who is known to most Barbadians must now move aggressively on complaints that banks and other firms deliberately targeted the poor, especially Blacks and Latinos, providing them with mortgages which everyone knew they couldn’t afford and then later foreclosing on their properties when they couldn’t pay.
That policy contributed significantly to the housing crisis which cost tens of thousands of Caribbean and Latin American immigrants their homes.

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