As President Obama moves towards his six year as president and faces a divided Congress that has been reluctant to support nearly all of his domestic policies, during his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, he urged Americans to make 2014 “a year of action” while pledging to make Washington work better.
Criticized for being indecisive over the handling of Syria in 2013 and the ineffective rollout of Obamacare, Mr. Obama sought to use his State of the Union address to strike a chord among the American public and rise above the near record low approval ratings of 43 percent over the handling of his job as president. (Poll conducted by Pew Research Center from Jan. 15-19th among 1,504 adults).
Mr. Obama acknowledged the past vicious fiscal debates that have occurred on Capitol Hill over the funding of the government which placed the credit rating of the nation at risk and hurt Americans.
“It’s an important debate — one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy — when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States — then we are not doing right by the American people” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Obama addressed the thorny topic of income inequality and highlighted the growing disparity between the rich and poor in America.
“Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled.” Obama admitted.
“The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all” Obama continued.
Mr. Obama made several proposals to reverse those inequality trends that include reforming the corporate tax code by closing loopholes, raising the minimum wage for future federal contract workers, finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer, and investing in high-tech manufacturing jobs.
“We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender” Obama said.
Mr.. Obama announced an executive order increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for future federal contract workers.
“Today the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here” Obama explained.
During his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama explained that one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back to America is through its commitment to American energy.
“The ‘all the above’ energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades” he said.
After pledging to extract natural gas safely and setting new fuel efficiency standards for trucks, Mr. Obama said that Congress could help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas.
He encouraged investing in clean energy by redistributing a $4 billion federal subsidy that the fossil fuel industry receives.
“Every four minutes another American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do” Obama said.
Aware that many Republicans will fight his clean energy proposals, Mr. Obama acknowledged that the shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight and will require some tough choices along the way.
After pointing out that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have already acted on immigration, Mr. Obama urged politicians in the House of Representatives to do the same and fix the broken immigration system which will help grow the U.S. economy.
“Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades” Obama said.
Most undocumented immigrants still have no pathway to legal citizenship. The House of Representative has yet to pass a legalization program.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said previously that he wants to bring immigration reform legislation up or a vote, but he has yet to explain his proposal.