President Barack Obama delivered a powerful State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday night that laid out his vision for a second term on several major issues from unemployment and gun control to immigration reform, climate change and voting rights.
The president’s address built on themes from his inauguration speech last month.
It was important that the president’s speech highlighted the economy. Polls continue to show the economy is the top concern of most Americans.
From 1979 to 2007, the wealthiest 1 percent of the population saw their after-tax income grow by 275 percent, according to a 2011 study by the Congressional Budget Office. During the same period, the 60 percent of the population considered middle-income saw their after-tax income grow just shy of 40 percent.
With unemployment still near 8 percent, the president and Congress must give top priority to job creation and income inequality.
“We gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded,” Obama said. “Our economy is adding jobs – but too many people still can’t find full-time employment. Corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs – but for more than a decade wages and incomes have barely budged.”
The president declared it was “our generation’s task” to reignited the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.”
“A growing economy that creates good middle-class jobs – that must be our North Star,” he said. “Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”
The president proposed several initiatives that congress should take action on to improve the economy including a proposal to help homeowners refinance their mortgages at lower rates; investing in infrastructure, advanced manufacturing and new sources of energy and investing more in education and skills training.
The president also proposed raising the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 by the end of 2015 and linking future increases to inflation.
“Working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher,” Obama said. The president also made a credible argument that higher wages would mean more customers for businesses.
The president also made a powerful plea for common sense gun control legislation.
Among the guests of the first lady Michelle Obama in the gallery were survivors of the Newtown shooting and the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15 –yea-old whose shooting death in Chicago has reminded the nation of senseless gun violence.
At a key emotional point in his address the president gestured to Pendleton’s parents, Obama said: “They deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote.”