Southwest News Herald
President Barack Obama, in his sixth State of the Union address, told the Republican-controlled chamber Tuesday night that the nation is headed in the right direction and that more is needed to assist the middle class.
“The shadows of the crisis has passed and the state of the union is strong,” said a confident Obama, who told the assembly that the economy has improved and the unemployment is at its lowest rate since the recession hit in 2007. He also added that the nation is “free from the grip of foreign oil for the first time in 30 years.”
But Obama focused the major part of his hour long speech on helping the middle class. He referred to Rebekah and Ben Erler, of Minneapolis, who struggled through the recession to make ends meet. Ben, who works in construction, had a difficult time finding consistent work during this period. The Erlers have two children.
The president used a statement attributed to Rebekah in which she said her family is a “strong, tight-knit family.” Obama used her comments as a metaphor that he said exists now for the the country. The nation has weathered the storm during a difficult economic period and prospects are much brighter now, said Obama.
Obama said that more Americans are attending college than ever before and that the U.S. has created 11 million more jobs. He also pointed to the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare” as a plus for Americans who could not previously afford health care. He also asked Congress to approve additional funding for child care for parents.
Stating that more jobs have been produced in the U.S. since 1999, Obama said providing assistance for the middle class is the right thing to to do.
“We need affordable child care than ever before,” said Obama, alluding to the fact that both parents usually have to work. The president also said a bill should be passed providing seven sick days for employees. He added that the minimum wage should be raised.
“I say to the members of Congress, if you think you can raise a family on $15,000 a year, then try it,” said Obama.
The president emphasized the need for higher education. Obama said that he will sponsor a bill to provide free tuition for community college students. The president added that students will be required to work hard and complete their studies on time. His proposal for free community is college is modeled after Tennessee and Chicago.
Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) said that overall he liked what the president had to say.
“Well, I thought it was a good speech for the most part,” said Lipinski during a phone conversation from Washington, D.C. Tuesday night. “I always believed we should be working together for America. What we are going to do for the middle class. That was all good.
“I was a little disappointed that he did not talk about this in specifics. But he discussed a transportation bill and how important it is to improve our infrastructure,” added Lipinski. “It’s something we need, especially in Chicago in the area where my district is.”
The congressman was mostly in agreement with the president on his call for higher education.
“I know how important education is, I used to be a teacher,” said Lipinski. “My concern is that the community college dropout rate is very high. But I’m certainly interested in this.”
Lipinski added that he was pleased that the president wants to push for a transportation bill to deal with the nation’s aging infrastructure.
Cong. Bobby Rush (1st) supports the president’s message at the State of the Union address.
“President Obama laid out a strong path to help move our country forward and continue to strengthen the middle class,” said Rush. “The president pointed to concrete results of the work he has done while in office. The creation of new jobs over the past five years has employed more than 11 million Americans. Lower gas prices and higher fuel standards have saved American families more than $750 at the pump and the country is now number one in oil, gas and wind power.
“I appreciate the president’s policy on raising awareness of the increased number of uninsured Americans where over 10 million more families have access to the security of health coverage. Congress cannot put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance.”
Rush went on to say that he supports the president’s efforts to increase the minimum wage, guaranteed sick leave and maternity leave, and addressing the reality of climate change.