Las Vegas President Barack Obama’s intense focus on jobs in his first State of the Union speech hit close to home for the millions of Americans who are in a bad mood over their financial distress a year into his term.
But it was another line in Obama’s speech that highlighted their deep skepticism that the programs the president discussed will ever lead to any real change. Obama called it a “deficit of trust — deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years.”
Many Americans wondered whether lawmakers from both parties would be politically inclined to get jobs and economic plans moving, and whether the nation would be in the exact spot a year from now.
“I just hope that he gets cooperation with it, because you know that if he doesn’t and this creates gridlock and nothing gets done, next year we’re going to be in the same place that we are right now,” said Mary Bartels, a 47-year-old registered nurse who voted for John McCain in 2008 but has since warmed to Obama.
“That’s a very scary thought.”
Obama acknowledged in his speech that the change he wanted everyone to believe in “has not come fast enough” and that economic devastation remains — in joblessness, shuttered businesses and declining home values.
Many citizens who tuned into the president’s speech ached for solutions but were wary of his words — aware that in many places voters are no better off than when they lifted Obama to the White House.
Voters have grown tired of politics and promises, and want action from Obama and other lawmakers.
“You could tell by the body language, how the Republicans just sat there for so much, that tomorrow it will be business as usual,” said Ethan Ehrlich, a 32-year-old nurse-anesthetist from Miami Beach.
Obama’s plan to create jobs was closely watched in states like Nevada and Michigan.
Anton Fellinger, 47, of Washington Township, Mich., said he thought Obama was humble and stern at different times during his speech. Fellinger, who lost his job nearly a year ago selling marble and tile for new homes, said he gives Obama “a B-minus or C-plus,” for his first year, but credits him for trying to “get things going.”
Michigan’s unemployment hit 14 percent in 2009 amid a historic collapse of the auto market.
“As I look at it, he came into a very difficult situation,” Fellinger said. “He probably got a bit of a wake-up call when he got in and saw what he’s up against.”
But 60-year-old Carolyn Briggs of Tampa, Fla., thought Obama’s speech was negative and insulted the Supreme Court, former president George W. Bush and the American people. She called the address “well-presented,” but not enough to stop her from protesting the president’s Thursday appearance in her hometown.
“He insulted the people who didn’t go along with what he wanted,” she said.
That sentiment was shared by Al Melquist, a 41-year-old unemployed software engineer from Las Vegas who had to abruptly move last year after a bank foreclosed on his landlord following 13 months of missed payments.
Melquist said he felt like he was a child when Obama was speaking to him — a far cry from the Obama he saw on the campaign trail and voted for.
“When he campaigned, it was more like me and you versus the world,” Melquist said. “Now it’s like, ‘I’m King Kong, this is the way it is and if you don’t like it, then I’m not going to give you all the other stuff you need.’”