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Pioneer Editorial: SOTU: Are we ready for change?

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Give President Barack Obama an A- for delivery but a C for message in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The president tried to maintain the sensitive but firm man with a vision, as he did in Tucson, and to a large degree he succeeded. He made the most of the new bipartisan mood, exemplified by members of Congress sitting together without party separation. But the question is: For how long?

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The president labeled battling the federal deficit as a top priority, as well as "investment" for new jobs. That's where the message becomes clouded.

We can "invest" in things like infrastructure and education, but investment means money. How do we battle a $14 trillion federal deficit and at the same time find money for these investments?

President Obama gave some ideas, such as ending oil company subsidies, which need to be explored. He also called for a five-year freeze on spending, but then gave a list of exemptions. Not far enough, say Republicans. Cutting spending must take place, not just a freeze, they say.

And the president renewed his call for a competitive tax system, whereby "the rich" pay their fair share by not passing a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of the nation. That's something the Republican-led House will never expect.

President Obama did move more to the center with his speech, but it won't register as enough by the conservative House. So much for unity.

He called for a new green economy, with 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015 and high-speed rail crossing the country. It was a vision that in reality will be nearly impossible to achieve.

America's culture is wide open spaces and freedom. People like their SUVs and large cars. Interstate highways link the nation, not rail anymore. There isn't a high-speed rail built that can satisfy today's business traveler, who in more cases than not will use the Internet instead of traveling at.

President Obama spoke of this as our Sputnik moment. He's right; America is at a crossroads where a culture change is needed. But are Americans ready to embrace a culture change? Are Republicans ready to lead us in a culture change?

Are we ready for a smaller government, fewer services and pushing society's problems onto the nonprofit sector? Will $4 a gallon gasoline finally push us to smaller cars using biofuels or electricity? Will retirees learn to live on a smaller Social Security check and fewer Medicare services?

With Republicans seemingly satisfied to maintain the status quo and a liberal president -- even though he did make a move to the center -- doesn't seem like an atmosphere for change.

Will this be the generation that embraces change? Based on the president's speech and reaction to it, we doubt it.

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