President Barack Obama delivered his ‘State of the Union’ report to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. His domestic agenda was promoted to permit government to benefit the many, not just the well connected few. Declared the President, “Our job is to re-ignite the engine of economic growth by re-establishment of the American middle class.”An important proposal was to increase federal minimum wage standards from a current $7.25 per hour up to $9.00 per hour. If Congress acts, this would put $3,640 per year in the annual budgets of low income employees. This rise in minimum wage would place about $575 billion at the bottom level of the domestic economy, which is a very good way to re-energize middle class consumption.
Another important proposal was to provide high quality pre-K education assistance to low income families. Studies have reported that a 4 year old child with pre-K experiences does very well later on with reading comprehension skills. The impact later on is lower school dropouts and higher high school graduation levels. An accompanying proposal was to redesign the core curriculum content leading to a high school diploma, which today does not result in a student being ready to become employed. A model to emulate would be that of Europe where a high school diploma is the equivalent of an Associate of Arts community college degree. These students are ready to assume a job.Other education proposals dealt with the need to rank academic institutions in terms of effectiveness and affordability. These parameters will be included in the future evaluation of academic institutions receiving federal funds.
Comprehensive immigration reform legislation was requested to fix the current broken system which has resulted in 11 million undocumented residents. The President asked for legislation to be crafted for his signature within the next three months. It needs to include a path to becoming an American citizen; deal with border security, and permit visas for those with the necessary STEM skills. Many of these individuals would be needed for proposed efforts to invest in infrastructure improvements such as those 70,000 bridges which need replacement.
President Obama spoke to ending the war in Afganistan by 2014; limiting nuclear proliferation in Korea and Iran; and supporting rebels in Syria with humanitarian aid rather than military assistance.An adequate voting process and system was addressed to permit all voters to exercise their right to vote.With respect to the national budget and income tax reforms, the President stated that this will not be done on the backs of ordinary American citizens. Tax loopholes, entitlements and subsidies must be reviewed together in a bipartisan manner. What are smart public investments? A balanced approach was promoted (tax revenue income balanced with payment of obligations on time). Sequestration must not be allowed to happen. Congress must act to prevent severe Pentagon budget cuts.
The President addressed the need for ‘gun control’ by asking Congress to craft legislation which would remove military weapons and high capacity magazines from our communities. About 1,000 individuals were killed with gun violence since those 20 school children were killed in Connecticut. He introduced the parents of several victims (some 30 were present in the gallery) and declared, “They deserve a vote. Let’s get this done.”