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What Wall Street wants from the State of the Union Address


If you use Wall Street’s oldest barometer, the Dow Jones Industrials (^DJI), it would be hard to argue that America isn’t better off today than it was a year ago. Unfortunately for the President, much of the State of the Union is about where we’re headed rather than where we’ve been, and by that measure, it is far less likely that a year from now, the same boast will be able to be made.

As my co-host Jeff Macke and I discuss in the attached video, at a time when many are touting a budding era of Congressional compromise, our lame duck President might do well to reach out with a stick rather than an olive branch.

“If he gets in their basket, that’d be fantastic,” Macke says of a gridlocked and oppositional Congress. “There’s a lot of room for an upside surprise here.”

Maybe so. But there’s also a good chance of stirring up an already jumpy investment community should the President get too aggressive or too grand in his plans. At a time when these annual updates have become more and more predictable and promoted, and resemble a greatest hits collection more than a call to arms, that might be just what the street needs to hear.

To that point, the President’s preferred topic of income inequality is sure to get prominent play, as will discussions over his desire to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour from $7.25.

The same could be said of immigration reform; an issue that seems to lose support in proportion to the amount of details being given to fix it. Again, it’ll be “TMI” or too much information, that could trigger a revolt.

As Macke puts it, “the problem is the issues are all in the weeds.”

For its part, the President’s communications team is urging Americans to watch what they call the “enhanced SOTU” online, which will feature a live stream of the address in split screen format with supporting graphics and charts (of their chosing) to accentuate the key points and statistics.

But it’s not only the White House that’s embracing new venues to promote their message.

Here’s a photo posted by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers  holding her two month old daughter preparing to give the Republican response to the President’s speech. Clearly, this 5-term representative and working mother from Washington state will bring unique perspective from a party that is often characterized as being out of touch and run by aging white men.

As in the past, issues such as spying by the NSA, where the president is at odds with public opinion, will get little or no mention as these televised events are remembered more for who sits with the first lady than for what is or isn’t said.

In some ways, the low hanging fruit, so to speak, has all been picked. Just look at the opening of last year’s speech.

“After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in twenty. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.”

- excerpt from President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address

The problem is today, some of those trends have either slowed or stalled, and a second term President with only half of Congress on his side, will have a very hard time changing them.

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