“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient…”
For 224 years, the President of the United States has given annual reports to Congress as to the state and future of our union. President Obama delivered his state of the union address to Congress and to the people of the United States February 12th, revealing the left-from-center agenda of his second term, and the steps his administration plans to take to meet this lengthy list of goals.
- Deficit reduction/stop the sequester. “Sequester” is a term you will be hearing frequently in the weeks to come. It refers to a law Congress passed back in 2011, stating that if Democrats and Republicans could not agree on a method of deficit reduction, spending cuts worth about a trillion dollars would reign down in 2013, cutting funding for our military, education, clean energy initiatives, and medical innovations. Obama pleaded to Congress to stop the sequester, which he called “a really bad idea”, in favor of a “balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share”.
- Tax reform. In the effort to reduce the national deficit, President Obama is calling for extensive tax reform. The first step would be to close tax loopholes which allow the wealthy to sidestep tax percentages and pay less than they really owe. Tax breaks would be given to businesses who create jobs and manufacture products in the United States, rather than those who outsource jobs to China and Mexico. It is a bipartisan agreement that a reform such as this could thoroughly reduce the deficit, and in the words of the President, “That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together”.
- Gun control. The President and his colleagues in Washington have conjured comprehensive gun control legislation as a result of the Newtown massacre. These reforms will implement background checks – a move which eighty percent of Americans agree with – , create harsh laws against the resale of firearms, and reintroduce an assault weapons ban.
- “…making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing”. Perhaps some of us remember the long since stale American Jobs Act – a piece of legislation the President introduced a year and a half ago, only to have portions of it passed through Congress. This time around, Obama is pushing Congress to approve the remaining provisions, boasting the opinions of economists who say “…it would create more than one million new jobs”. Recently, big names such as Ford and Apple have roped in their foreign manufacturing networks and are giving jobs back to Americans. The President proposes to “accelerate this trend” by creating as many as fifteen new “manufacturing hubs”, ran by businesses which partner with federal departments, which will produce high-tech products that keep pace with the growing technology of the modern age.
- Clean energy. During the campaign, Obama made it clear that he is all for clean energy. He proposed allocating national revenue from natural gas obtained from American land into an Energy Security Trust which will work to wean our vehicles off of oil. Federal subsidies are also going to be offered to states which build more energy efficient buildings that effectively lower energy costs.
- Improve infrastructure. “Fix-It-First” was proposed as a program which would put private citizens to work on structurally deficient public property such as bridges, schools, and pipelines. A Partnership to Rebuild America is going to be established to encourage private investment for these projects, so the responsibility of the bills does not belong to the taxpayers.
- Education for all. President Obama proposed, in one of his more controversial statements, “…working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America”. He presented the argument in a very blunt manner, “Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. …students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job and form more stable families of their own”.
- Improvements to the Higher Education Act, which will change the way institutions of higher education receive aid from the federal government. The proposal is to distribute financial aid to colleges that provide “the most bang for your educational buck” – essentially, the level of affordability and the quality of the education offered.
- Immigration reform through tightened border security and a responsible path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
- Raising the minimum wage to $9.00 to “match the price of living”.
- Ending the war in Afghanistan by 2014. Afghan security forces have slowly been taking control of the situation in their own country, and as America’s role decreases and our troops come home, the war is expected to draw to a close by the end of next year.
Obama appealed to Congress to consider his propositions, asserting that “Each of these proposals deserves a vote”. At the same time, he conceded that no legislation will obliterate all of society’s problems, but also that “We were not sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, to expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government. We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day…”