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President Obama, with no more elections left to run, has let his inner progressive out, as was seen in the State of the Union message last night.

During the weeks leading up to this annual speech, he rolled out such wide-ranging proposals such as free community college, enhanced tax incentives for education and child care. These would be funded by more progressive taxation on the wealthy, financial institutions and huge inheritances.

Most observers predict the president won't get much agreement on these issues from the Republican majority now in effect in both houses of Congress. They also note, however, that what he is trying to do is set up the national debate going into the 2016 election.

While the president was working on these proposals, the new Republican majority in Congress has been hard at work trying to undo his executive orders on immigration and "Obamacare." On Jan. 14, the House voted to roll back generations of laws with the innocuous-sounding Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015. According to the Associated Press, "federal agencies would be required to consider a proposed rule's impact on jobs and the economy while searching for less expensive alternatives."

President Obama has indicated his intention to veto this bill, as it "would impose unnecessary new procedures on agencies and invite frivolous litigation." There is already an extensive protocol on how regulations are formulated and enacted, including judicial review when finalized. The administration's statement of policy on this bill states that it "would impede the ability of agencies to provide the public with basic protections and create needless confusion and delay that would prove disruptive for businesses, as well as for state, tribal and local governments." Such organizations as the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Center for Effective Government oppose the bill.

Sidney Shapiro, professor at the Wake Forest University Law School, said the bill would add another two or three years to the process of ensuring clean air and water, safer workplaces and less toxic products for the public. "Protective rules do not impose new costs on the economy; rather they reallocate who pays the costs," Shapiro writes of the negative effects of insufficient regulations. "We pay, and the corporations who caused the problem have higher profits."

So, going forward, what will it be: Never-ending handouts and tax cuts to corporations — or efforts to reduce the ever-growing inequality between those at the very top of the economic heap and everyone else?


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