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Issue Guide: 2014 State of the Union Address

Author: Jeanne Park
January 27, 2014


President Barack Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 28 amid reports that he will seek an agenda emphasizing issues such as income inequality and the environment. The following roundup provides analysis and insight on the issues expected to dominate the president's address.

Income Inequality
(Photo: David McNew/Courtesy Reuters)

Project Syndicate: The Decline of Upward Mobility
At the core of the gap between the rich and poor is lack of upward mobility, not inequality, writes CFR President Richard N. Haass.

CFR Renewing America: New Harvard Study: U.S. Social Mobility Is Not Decreasing
A study from Harvard's Equality of Opportunity Project finds that the chance of going from the bottom income quintile to the top quintile has remained at a fairly constant 8 to 9 percent for everyone born in the second half of the twentieth century, writes CFR's Rebecca Strauss.

Gallup: 67 Percent Dissatisfied With Income, Wealth Distribution
A recent Gallup poll finds two out of three Americans are dissatisfied with current income and wealth distribution in the United States.

New York Times: Fifty Years Later, War on Poverty Is a Mixed Bag
A renewed debate over the government's role in creating opportunity and ending deprivation has been sparked by inequality comparable to the 1920s and the ranks of the poor and near-poor at record highs, writes the Times' Annie Lowrey.

Economist: Growing Apart
The Economist proposes a two-part agenda that draws on ideas from both left and right and aims to reduce boondoggles for the affluent and increasing investment in the young.

Foreign Policy

New Yorker: Going the Distance
Editor David Remnick's wide-ranging piece profiles President Obama as he enters his sixth year in office. Remnick looks ahead to the challenges facing Obama on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts as the president nears lame-duck status.

Washington Post: Why Sunnis and Shias Are Fighting
In this video, reporter Karen DeYoung gives a brief history of the Sunni-Shiite divide and what it means for Iraq's escalating violence.

CFR Podcast: Previewing the President's State of the Union Address
CFR's James Lindsay and Robert McMahon highlight issues that are expected to dominate the president's Tuesday-night address.

Brookings: Big Bets and Black Swans
The foreign policy experts at Brookings offer President Obama and his cabinet a set of policy recommendations to address the critical foreign policy challenges in the year ahead.


Project Syndicate: Stopping the Syria Contagion
If a cease-fire has not been achieved in the next three months, the Obama administration should make the case for military strikes to the American people in terms of straightforward U.S. security interests, writes New America Foundation President Anne-Marie Slaughter.

Foreign Affairs: Winning the Peace by Failing in Geneva
Former State Department officials Jeremy Shapiro and Samuel Charap argue that if Assad blocks a settlement at Geneva II, Russia may move toward greater cooperation with the United States, and together they can facilitate a political resolution among regional supporters of the regime and opposition.


CFR Expert Roundup: Prospects for Afghanistan in 2014
Afghanistan faces a critical year as NATO-led troops draw down, international aid drops, and elections could deliver the country's first democratic transfer of power. Five experts weigh Afghanistan's prospects in 2014.

New York Times Op-Ed: Grabbing the Wolf's Tail
An unraveling of the Afghan state can be avoided, but it will require the international community to stay involved, writes the International Crisis Group's Graeme Smith in this Times op-ed.


Foreign Affairs: No End Game in Sight
The world would be safer if Iran did not enrich uranium, but the United States is not in any position to prevent Iran from doing so, writes the Carnegie Endowment's George Perkovich.

Washington Post: A Deal, Not Détente
"The challenge for Washington today is to defy its history and reach a nuclear agreement with Iran while negating the Islamic Republic's regional ambitions," writes CFR's Ray Takeyh.


Financial Times: Obama Challenge on Selling Trade Deals to Resurgent Left
It remains to be seen if President Obama's economic populism can be squared with his second-term trade agenda, including massive deals with eleven Pacific nations and the EU that could well be sealed within the coming year, writes FT's James Politi.

CFR Report: Trading Up: U.S. Trade and Investment Policy
This scorecard infographic and accompanying progress report analyze the overall health of the U.S. economy by focusing on shifts in global trade and foreign direct investment in the United States.

Immigration Reform

Washington Post: For House Republicans, New Momentum on Immigration Reform
House Republican leaders have signaled that there could be an opening for the White House to achieve a major legislative deal on immigration this year, writes the Post's David Nakamura.

Time: Is There Any Hope for Immigration Reform on the Hill?
While hopes for a bill are high, experience suggests that, at most, only border security will see Congressional approval this year, writes Time's Alex Rogers.

CFR Timeline: U.S. Postwar Immigration Policy
This interactive timeline outlines the evolution of U.S. immigration policy after World War II.

Infrastructure Spending
President Barack Obama speaks in front of the Brent Spence Bridge during a visit to Cincinnati, Ohio on September 22, 2011. (Photo: John Sommers II/Courtesy Reuters)

CFR Renewing America: The Real Challenges to Growth
Achieving full-potential growth requires a shift from consumption-led to investment-led growth, and it has to start with the public sector, writes CFR's Michael Spence.

Financial Times: U.S. Public Investment Falls to Lowest Level Since War
Public investment in the United States has hit its lowest level since post-World War II because of Republican success in obstructing President Barack Obama's push for more spending on infrastructure, science, and education, write the FT's Robin Harding, Richard McGregor, and Gabriel Muller.

Domestic Surveillance

President Obama's Remarks on Results of Signals Intelligence Review
The president discussed changes to the National Security Agencies' operations regarding intelligence collection of American citizens' records at the Department of Justice on January 17, 2014.

Lawfare: The President's Speech–A Striking Omission
CFR's John Bellinger writes that the one striking omission in President Obama's NSA reforms speech was a clear statement about the national security damage caused by Edward Snowden's disclosures.

Slate: Obama's Three Ambitious NSA Reforms
For CFR Murrow Fellow Fred Kaplan, Obama's proposed reforms erect roadblocks that would slow down "the attempt by some future authoritarian president or rogue NSA director to use this treasure trove of metadata for oppressive purposes."

Energy and Climate

CFR Energy Report: Implications of Reduced Oil Imports for the U.S. Trade Deficit
Although falling imports could have significant short-term effects, any improvement in the oil trade balance is likely to be offset in the long run by deterioration in other parts of the U.S. trade balance, writes Robert Lawrence in this CFR report.

New Republic: Two Hundred Things Obama Can Do For the Environment—Without Congress
The New Republic breaks down a report issued by the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE), which suggests more than two hundred executive actions for the president to consider.

New York Times: Kerry Quietly Makes Priority of Climate Pact
The Times' Coral Davenport looks at the secretary of state's goal to become the lead broker of a global climate treaty in 2015 that will commit the United States and other nations to historic reductions in fossil fuel pollution.

CFR Energy Report: The Shale Gas and Tight Oil Boom
The U.S. "shale revolution" could leave some states more vulnerable to energy price swings, write Stephen P.A. Brown and Mine Yucel in this CFR Energy Brief.

CFR Backgrounder: Hydraulic Fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing has unlocked huge reserves of shale gas and oil, transforming the energy outlook in the United States and the world, explains this Backgrounder.

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