President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address tonight, Obama's first since he was elected to a second term, stood out for its aggressive tone. President Obama pushed an agenda that embraces an active role for effective government in order to improve America’s economic and other problems. This agenda included the following:
- An increase in the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour. The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, or $14,500 per year assuming 2,000 hours per year. The minimum wage has not increased since 2009. According to President Obama, no one in America “who works full time should have to live in poverty.”
- Action to reduce climate change. According to President Obama, the extreme weather that has hit the U.S. in recent years, such as Hurricane Sandy and the drought that has encompassed large parts of America, as well as record heat, is not “a freak coincidence.” Obama called on Congress to help “speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.” This included so-called “cap and trade,” originally a Republican idea whose purpose is to lower greenhouse gases. President Obama singled out Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona as one who previously supported such action on climate change. Obama stated that, if Congress did not act on climate change, he would do so, the implication being that Obama would take executive action that would go around Congress where allowable.
- A non-partisan commission "to improve the voting experience in America." President Obama noted that, on Election Day 2012, many Americans had to wait in extremely long lines to vote. In fact, blacks and Hispanics had to wait nearly twice as long on average to vote as whites, and some Republican officials were criticized for allegedly making it harder to vote.
- Continued federal funding for scientific research. President Obama argued that American leadership in scientific research in health care and other fields has led to many U.S. jobs, thus now is the time to continue rather than cut funding for science.
- A “Fix it First” economic rebuilding program to create more jobs by fixing the more than 70,000 American bridges and structures that need repair, modernizing the U.S. electrical grid, etc.
- A call to Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would prohibit wage discrimination between women and men for equal work.
President Obama also struck an aggressive and emotional note in calling for gun safety legislation, such as the renewed assault weapons ban, limitation on high-capacity magazines and universal background check bills currently pending or soon to be proposed before Congress. Obama noted that over two dozen members of Congress in the room had brought along family members of recent mass shootings, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and the shooting in Tuscon, Arizona that almost took the life, and ended the Congressional career, of U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords. Obama repeated numerous times that these family members “deserve a vote.”
© 2013 Matthew Emmer -- All Rights Reserved
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