State of the Union Part 1: Why does the State of the Union matter?

On Tuesday night President Obama will give the final State of the Union address of his first term. Much speculation precedes the address, and much analysis follows. But why does the State of the Union matter so much?


One reason the State of the Union has been important historically is that it offers highlights of what the president will include in his budget request for the coming fiscal year. The president’s budget request is released every year in early February and typically gives the country a blueprint of the federal government’s priorities for the coming year. The past couple years, however, have been anything but typical. Because of partisan strife in Washington, the budgets enacted by Congress for 2011 and 2012 did not look a lot like President Obama’s original requests. That may lead you to wonder if the president’s budget request is still relevant, since many lawmakers in Congress seem to consider it dead on arrival.

But it is still important to look closely at the contents of the president’s budget and to tune in to hear the State of the Union. Both the State of the Union and the budget tell the American people about the president’s priorities for our nation. And while President Obama may not be president in 2013, he will still be president when fiscal year 2013 begins on October 1, 2012.