?The shadow of crisis has passed. The state of the union is strong?we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth,? President Barack Obama told Americans last night in his second to last State of the Union address.
In a delivery that many agree seemed easy and confident, the president, whose approval numbers have improved lately, made ?Middle-Class Economics,? the backdrop of his speech and cited signs of steady progress since he took office: a growing economy; a thriving workforce of 11 million new jobs created since 2007; consumer protection against predatory lending; lower gas prices; student job training; and the millions who now have health insurance.
?That?s good news, people,? the president noted.
And he vowed to veto any bill that would potentially undermine that progress.?
He went on to propose affordable, high-quality childcare; tax credits for working families; free community college tuition; lower mortgage premiums; a reform of tax codes that currently favor the wealthy; paid sick leave; and protection of our civil liberties through increased cyber security initiatives. He also pointed to voting rights, incarceration rates and the Ferguson protests as civil rights issues that are in great need of improvement in order to gain ?a better politics? and an effort towards rebuilding trust.
?We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American,? he said.?
This point resonated, particularly, with NAACP President & CEO Cornell William Brooks who released the following statement on the president’s push to improve the lives of the middle class and protect the sanctity of voting rights:
?We heard President Obama issue a clear and resounding call for the future of our nation, anchored in economic equality for the middle class and academic excellence for those who want to join the middle class. The NAACP applauds President Obama for taking the first steps toward reforming a tax code that causes low and middle class Americans to bear the brunt of the tax burden and for announcing several much needed mechanisms for job creation. The president?s commitment to making both home ownership and community college more affordable and accessible to communities of color should be lauded. The president is steering our country in the right direction by placing comprehensive immigration reform, a fairer tax code and an increase to the national minimum wage at the top of his legislative agenda. Given President Obama?s ringing endorsement of the?right to vote as ‘sacred,’?we expect his continued push for strengthening voting rights. We look forward to working with Congress and President Obama to create social, educational and economic opportunities that build a solid and inclusive middle class for all people.?
On the small business front, the president said small business owners are in a position to raise their pay rates for the first time since 2007 and appealed to business owners to sell more American products overseas. And the National Small Business Association (NSBA) said it was “encouraged by Obama?s commitment to global trade, specifically the need for Congress to reauthorize the President?s Trade Promotion Authority.” Further, according to NSBA, small businesses stand to benefit from the president’s bold moves towards cybersecurity since nearly half of small businesses have encountered cyber attacks that have accounted for losses of up to $8,699 per attack.?
But in a House that is majority Republican, it?s hard to say what, if any, of the president?s recommendations will actually see the light of day.
Still, ever the optimist, President Obama made his case for unity wherever possible.
“I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol ? to do what I believe is best for America. If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger,” he said.
(CLICK HERE for a related article about a law the president signed to help women-owned businesses.)