• With: Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel, James Freeman, Jason Riley

    GIGOT: How should we respond politically, Dan, to this kind of agenda?

    HENNINGER: I think we should run straight at it. You have to ask yourself, what is going on here? I think what is going on here is the left and the Democratic Party -- two things. I believe they do believe this stuff. They see the American society as essentially static, that people get stuck down here and the rich are up always up there. In their view, the solution to that is to tax people, the upper middle class, flow that money down below, and equalize America. The only way they can sell that is to create enormous resentment of people up here. That's the strategy right now.

    This is not an accurate description of the way American society works.

    But they do believe it so they are determined to get this resolved.

    GIGOT: It's fascinating, Kim. The president in the State of the Union didn't use some of the same inequality rhetoric he has in the past.

    He talked about economic opportunity, which resonates I think much more with the American public. Was that a deliberate change? I assume it was poll tested.

    STRASSEL: Yes, absolutely.


    I mean, if you have approval ratings like the president has right now, you don't want to come out and sound angry. You want to have a message of hope. He adopted what is essentially a Republican language on this issue, which is, as you said, about opportunity. Now is you listen carefully though, the kernels of what is, in fact, coming from the Democratic Party in terms of a tax on Republicans. It was very evident in that speech.

    It's going to be a war on women and it's going to be, as we were discussing here, a war on the rich.

    GIGOT: Jason, what about the agenda, extending unemployment benefits, raising the minimum wage that the president offered? Do those really do anything about income mobility and inequality?

    RILEY: No. They don't add to economic opportunity either. Raising the minimum wage is going to help people who already have a job, provided they can keep it. But it's not going to help people out of work and trying to get into the labor force. That is not a way you expand opportunity for people who want to climb the economic ladder.

    GIGOT: Yeah. It seems focus should be on upward mobility, economic opportunity and on growth. Because if we don't have growth, you'll never get that economic mobility.

    HENNINGER: And education.

    GIGOT: And the key thing about economic mobility, education reform to make sure the poor can have the skills to get ahead.

    All right. Still ahead, on this Super Bowl weekend, renewed debate over the dangers of football. America's fan-in-chief has once again weighed in, saying he wouldn't let his son play in the NFL. So just how dangerous is the game?


    GIGOT: Just in time for the Super Bowl, a renewed debate over football safety. President Obama, a well-known fan of the game, recently reiterated his feelings on its dangers, telling "New Yorker" magazine he would not let his son play on the professional level. The NFL has been sued by more than 4,500 players for issues relating to head injuries.

    College and high school play is coming under increased scrutiny. Youth leagues in the United States are even seeing a drop in participation. So just how great are the risks?

    We are back with James Freeman and Jason Riley.

    So, Jason, long-suffering Buffalo Bills fan.


    Will not have a firm rooting interest here. But what do you make of the president's remarks?

    RILEY: Well, first, Paul, I think I prefer him talking more about football and less about health care and the economy.


    GIGOT: That's an ideological aside.


    RILEY: Listen, I don't think concussion studies can be dismissed out of hand. I don't have a problem with the league trying to make the game safer; saying don't hit with your helmet, hit with your shoulder; hit between the knees and the neck, that sort of thing. I think that doesn't ruin fundamentally the game. And I don't also think that these head injury studies suggest football needs to be banned or anything that drastic.

    But when it comes to parents and where they steer their children in terms of which sports, I can say that my father played professional football in Canada back in the '60s.

    GIGOT: Right.

    RILEY: He didn't suffer any head injuries, but he did have constant shoulder surgeries and knee surgeries and wrist surgeries over the years.

    It took a toll on his body. He steered me consciously towards other sports growing up. And he said, if I had to do it over again, I probably would have gone with the baseball or basketball instead.

    GIGOT: James, the Freeman household, you've got rambunctious boys.

    What do you tell them?

    FREEMAN: Yeah, they play football. I think all of life is a trade- off. It's a balancing of risks. I think the problem, when people focus on some of these stats -- and I think we are going to get more research and we're going to learn more. There is cause for concern. But you have to remember, there is no risk-free alternative. If you were saying my number- one goal is to prevent deadly threats to children, you would say stop bike riding. You might say keep them far away from automobiles under any circumstances.

    GIGOT: What about the concussion evidence?


    FREEMAN: There is --

    GIGOT: Is it unique? Is it worse in football than it is for other sports?

    FREEMAN: I think that's fair to say. But it's a complicated picture the more you look into it. Your alma mater, Dartmouth, an interesting study showing really cause for concern recent around both football and hockey, that you may have some effect on the brain, not from concussions but repeated strong hits.