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In his annual State of the Union address Tuesday – his second to last of his presidency – President Barack Obama issued several liberal proposals that would be very difficult to pass in the new Republican-led Congress. These programs include a child-care tax credit, free community college, and paid family leave.
Obama also said Tuesday he planned to veto any overhaul taken on his executive actions on immigration.
We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will have vetoed it. It will earn my veto.
The president set a divisive tone early in the address. “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?” he asked rhetorically. “Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”
Obama reaffirmed his call for a $3,000 child-care tax credit, calling it a “must have.”
It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality child-care more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America — by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.
While not outlining his tax plan reported over the weekend specifically, Obama alluded to it with familiar language.
That’s what middle-class economics is – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success – we want everyone to contribute to our success.
The president also called for universal paid family leave, noting the U.S. is the only advanced country whose government does not provide it to their citizens. “And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home,” he said.
Along the same lines, Obama called for Congress to pass a law that ensures a woman is paid for the same work as a man along with a minimum wage.
That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.
“And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it,” Obama added.
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The president also reiterated his community college program, which he announced earlier this month. He aims to reduce the cost of community college for those who maintain decent grades “to zero.”
By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future.
Obama also called for companies to offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships, citing the efforts of CVS and UPS. He later took a not-too-thinly-veiled shot at the Keystone XL pipeline:
Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.
Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.
There were some glimmers of consensus, however. One notable issue is the overhaul of America’s cyberdefense system in the wake of not only the hacking of media giant Sony by North Korea, but U.S. Central Command’s Twitter account:
“No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism,” Obama said Tuesday.
And tonight, 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. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed opportunities for people around the globe.
The president also called for a renewal against the global war on terrorism and ISIS – The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“We stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists – from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris.” he said. “We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.” He continued:
In Iraq and Syria, American leadership is stopping ISIL’s advance. 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. 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. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed.
Obama did not use the term ‘Islamic extremist’ in the speech. He did, however, make a renewed call for the close of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.
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“Since I’ve been president, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half,” he proclaimed. “Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It’s not who we are.