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State of the Union Address - 2010

                STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS - 2010.  

     The state of the union address is an annual message presented by the President of the United States to a joint session of Congress in which the President reports on the state of the nation and outlines a legislative program: required by the Constitution and held in the House of Representatives chamber at the United States Capitol. The 2010 State of the Union Address was given by President Barack Obama on January 27 2010 and aired on major networks at 9pm EST.  

    The President touched on various subjects and issues affecting the current economy of the United States. Most of President Obama's policies, plans and programs were aimed at improving the status quo of Middle to Low class citizens. 

He spoke on policies he planned to set in effect; legislations, plans and prior actions that had been taken to help make the United States the number one economy.  In his address, he said the main focus of this year would be on jobs, though he also called for continued efforts to pass health care reform and revealed plans to reduce the deficit, to improve education and to encourage clean energy development. The tone of the speech was confident and optimistic, despite the president's admission that the country has been "tested" by the economic troubles of the last few years. Although I think overall, the President's speech was impressive given the enormity of the economic crisis and its destructive impact on tens of millions of Americans, Obama’s recourse to evasions and platitudes was all the more extraordinary.

     Unemployment is hands-down the most important and most serious problem our country is facing as of late. The president spoke on creating more jobs targeted towards the unemployed. During his administration, he said - in the past one year - 2 million jobs had been created for Americans. The President spoke on penalizing companies who send jobs overseas. He promised tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the US. President Obama spoke on  providing loans to small businesses by extending funds from TARP to community banks. This new job-creation plan, would include using $30 billion paid back by large banks (from TARP) to help community lenders extend credit to small businesses. He also called for a small business tax credit, for the elimination of capital gains taxes on small business investment and for tax incentives for companies to invest in new plants and equipment.As a method of creating more job opportunities,and keeping the United States as the number one economy in the world, President Obama proposed building clean energy facilities - that would provide more job oportunities as well as increase energy efficiency and in turn give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient. 

    I was most interested in President Obama's remarks concerning education, as a student struggling with college tution and expenses on books and living, I found it encouraging and hopeful that the President shared a view of mine: " one should go broke because they chose to go to college." He spoke on college affordability and made a proposal that mandates all student loan debt to be forgiven after 20 years, or after 10 years if they choose a career in public service and called upon individual colleges and Universities to cut the costs of attendance. He proposed an increase in Federal Pell grants and a $10,000 tax credit for families for four years of college attendance. He made a promise to make only 10% of one's income go towards paying for student loans - allowing the new graduate to have money for other expenses. Relieving the albatross of student loans for the educated poor is only one step in a series of institutional reforms which can provide a healthy stimulus for our long term prosperity. Across America, the impoverished educated class can only hope that the stigma and burden of their debt will at last be recognized as a national investment which, if relieved and partially forgiven, will bring more immediate health to our shared economy than their continued long-term servitude to personal debt. He discussed the need to “renew” the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) and pass a bill to revitalize the community colleges. 

    President Obama likened the state of the economy to that of a family on a tight monetary budget and made it clear that the government would act as such; tighten their budget to attend to needed priorities and sacrifice the unimportant.  He spoke on doubling the exports of the United States than it has seen in 5 years - a National Export Initiative is to be lauched to commence attaining this goal. He announced that starting in 2011 there'll be a freeze on government spending for 3 years on discretionary programs (excluding national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security). I admired President Obama's willingness to establish a bipartisan fiscal commission to provide solutions (by Veto, if necessary). He urged Republicans in the House of Representatives to work with him on major national priorities, saying cooperation is essential to the country's economic recovery.

    On healthcare reform, President Obama urged Congress not to back away from the present plan, but said he was still open to other ideas that would stregthen Medicare, cover the uninsured and bring down the deficit. His present plan propounds providers supporting health reform.  In general it expands the number of people with insurance (i.e., it expands their potential market).  Further, because there is little cost cutting, doctors and nurses should see an increase in profits.  Doctors and nurses may also believe that health reform is good for their patients, but without a doubt it will benefit the provider’s pocketbook.He also praised the First lady on her efforts towards working towards reducing childhood obesity, which, while I do praise, I do not see its major impact on a broader scale on the healthcare reform. 

    As much as I applauded the President's remarks on education and his plans to make student loans bearable for students, I feel all that was said were a list of things the president has done for the country and how much he has helped the current state of affairs. The consistent 2-second applauses made it harder to follow the President's address. President Obama's remarks were well received by Democrats, who gave the President more than 40 standing ovations in the speech. Congressional Republicans were less pleased, many a times mostly Democrats were the only ones giving ovations while the GOP stood only a handful of times.  The speech had everything and yet in a way it had nothing. People could hear in it what they wanted to hear and take from it what they wanted to take. What it didn't have were details about a path forward on actually passing healthcare reform or forging bipartisan solutions to the problems and issues the speech raised. As Frank Rich said, Americans like Obama far more than they like any Congressional leader. They might even like more of his policies if he spelled them out. But none of that matters if no Democrat fears him enough to do any of his bidding and no Republican believes there’s any price to be paid for always saying no.

     More detail on the President’s proposals will be included in his FY 2011 budget proposal, which will be released Monday. Education advocates know to expect a request for an addition $1.35 billion for the Race to the Top program, but they are also bracing for some proposed program eliminations, since the White House has indicated that while education may not be subject to the budget-wide spending freeze, some of the proposed reallocations could upset some stakeholders.

This is my Two-Cents ...

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