Obama delivers 2013 State of the Union; focuses on economy, climate and education

President Barack Obama speaks before Congress and millions of Americans. Climate change, education, the economy, immigration and international affairs featured prominently in his speech. Photo By: Charles Dharapak

 

President Barack Obama speaks before Congress and millions of Americans. Climate change, education, the economy, immigration and international affairs featured prominently in his speech. Photo By: Charles Dharapak
President Barack Obama speaks before Congress and millions of Americans. Climate change, education,
the economy, immigration and international affairs featured prominently in his speech. Photo By: Charles Dharapak

MARIE SOLIS CONTRIBUTED REPORTING

“Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report.”

Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama delivered the 2013 State of the Union address before Congress and an international television audience of millions.

He began with the economy.

“Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger. But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs – but too many people still can’t find full-time employment.”

The debt-ceiling budget crisis is expected to arrive in late-February or March, and Obama was quick to address the issue. Just minutes into the State of the Union, he began outlining his plans to prevent the “sequestering” policies that many economists fear will cripple the nation’s economy. These policies were passed into law by Congress, and include substantial cuts to defense, energy, and education spending, among others.

On Medicare, Obama will pursue the reforms suggested by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission, which include lumping Medicare with other government health spending, and imposing a cap on its annual growth at the level of growth in GDP, plus 1 percent.

“Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.”

To reach his goal of reducing the deficit, Obama went further, adding that he also hopes to work with Congress to close tax loopholes that cost the government billions and send American jobs overseas.

After outlining his plans to add new manufacturing and research jobs to the economy, Obama shifted to climate change.

Citing last year’s success of wind and solar energy, Obama urged Congress to seek bipartisan solutions for curbing pollution and investing in sustainable energy research. For Obama, keeping up with foreign countries on this issue is a priority.

“We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”

Obama went on to announce the “Fix-it-First” program to improve America’s infrastructure, including ports, pipelines and schools. He hopes to attract private financing for these projects to ensure that taxpayers do not carry the full burden.

Next came education. Obama set a goal for the federal and state governments to develop effective preschool programs throughout the country, arguing that children who begin their education at a young age are more likely to graduate high school, and less likely to commit violent crimes.

Obama also urged Congress to reform the Higher Education Act so that affordability is included in determining which colleges receive federal aid.

After education, Obama briefly touched upon immigration and equal pay for equal work for women; and then returned to the economy. He announced his hope that the minimum wage be raised to $9.00 per hour, or tied to the cost of living, as he and Governor Romney both suggested during last year’s presidential campaign.

He closed by outlining plans to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by 2014, strengthening diplomatic and military relationships with foreign countries, and reflecting on the recent gun violence tragedies in Aurora and Newton.

In Poughkeepsie, the Vassar Democrats hosted a live screening of Obama’s speech in Rockefeller Hall last Tuesday.

Alyssa Aquino ’15 approved of Obama’s plans to reform immigration, environmental and domestic violence law. However, she was disappointed that he did not mention drone warfare, saying that, “He didn’t really say he was going to stop it or build a legal framework. That’s not really addressing the fact that he’s used drones  more than other presidents.”

Other students, such as President of the Vassar Democrats David Lopez ’13, were optimistic.

“What we saw was a President Obama who was now looking at a lot of big issues that people who voted for him in ’08 were waiting for and weren’t sure were going to happen. Now with his second election, he’s really confident now, he’s not cautious,” said Lopez.

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