Did you miss the State of the Union address last night? Don’t worry, we’ve got the short and sweet of it here, plus responses from Michigan Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
Highlights of President Barack Obama’s Tuesday Jan. 20 State of the Union address followed by responses from local representatives.
“Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999,” Obama said. “Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis.”
The president said businesses have created over 11 million jobs in the past five years, in addition to American energy producers reducing dependence on foreign oil, and as a result, Americans should save nearly $750 per family on gasoline alone this year.
“Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008,” Obama said.
The president called for an end to legal loopholes which reward companies which outsource their labor to foreign lands.
“And, let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth,” Obama said. “We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college.”
Obama also pledged to push for a child care tax cut of up to $3,000, and paid sick and maternity leave.
“(W)e’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years,” he said.
The president also called on Congress to pass an equal pay law for women, and that workers receive overtime pay they’ve earned, as well as giving a nod to raising the minimum wage.
“If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise,” he said. “These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government.”
He also called for laws that would strengthen labor unions.
The president also discussed moves to get veterans medical and financial aid, and he called on employers to hire more vets.
“Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined,” he said. “Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs.”
Obama also called for a bipartisan infrastructure plan.
According to the president, American students earned the highest math and reading scores on record.
“Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high,” he said. “And more Americans finish college than ever before.”
The president called on Congress to pass a law to provide more education and affordable college.
“That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero,” Obama said…. “Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.”
He added, “Understand, you’ve got to earn it—you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time.”
Obama pointed to Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, which he said prove free community college is possible.
“I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world,” Obama said.
The president said that, in the past year alone, nearly ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage. He added that he will veto any attempts to weaken the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare.
With just under 15,000 American troops, of the 180,000 six years ago, who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the president discussed the need to address the threat of ISIL aka ISIS.
“Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group,” he said. “We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism.”
He added, “I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.”
The president also said America is opposing Russian aggression against Ukraine.
He also touched on the recent developments in America’s foreign policy on Cuba, saying that it was “long past its expiration date.”
Vowing to prevent a nuclear Iran, Obama said this spring will offer a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement on the matter.
“There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran,” he said. “But new sanctions passed by this Congress … will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails.”
Obama added, “I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.”
He once again pledged to see GTMO closed.
“(I)t makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit,” he said.
“I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable.”
“2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record,” Obama said. “Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does—14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.”
He added, “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”
DAN BENISHECK’S RESPONSE
Republican U.S. Congressman Dan Benishek’s response:
“What I heard from the President tonight was a plan to continue the top-down, Washington centered approach of tax, spend and regulate that has failed to produce positive results for seven years,” said Benishek. “In Congress, I am focused on what is important to families in Northern Michigan: growing the economy, having good paying jobs, making health care more affordable, and helping our veterans receive the care they’ve earned.”
He added, “I remain hopeful that the President will come to the table in good faith to work with our nation’s new Congress to develop solutions to address the many challenges we face.”
Benishek is now in his third term as a congressman.
“As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Veterans Health, I know for a fact that there a many bills where Democrats and Republicans can work together to get something positive done for our heroes.” he said. “I look forward to working with the President, especially when it comes to improving care for our nation’s veterans.”
GARY PETERS’ RESPONSE
Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters response to Obama’s speech is as follows:
“In the six years since our nation faced its toughest economic crisis in decades, our economy has made great strides toward recovery,” he said. “We must keep working to ensure that middle class families, and those aspiring to get there, are also benefitting from our economic recovery.”
Peters said many middle class families feel squeezed, and are finding it harder to feel like they are getting ahead.
“Improving the child care tax credit, expanding paid family leave and making home ownership more affordable are all positive steps that will help boost middle class families,” said Peters. “Congress and the President must work together to focus on creating jobs, growing the economy and strengthening the middle class so that America is truly a country where if you work hard and play by the rules, you can build a better life for yourself and your family.”
He added, “Our nation faces serious challenges, and we must address those challenges together. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to find meaningful, bipartisan solutions to our nation’s toughest problems.”