President Barack Obama is greeted before giving his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on February 12, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Facing a divided Congress, Obama is expected to focus his speech on new initiatives designed to stimulate the U.S. economy. (Photo by Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images)
JOBS — Obama touted the progress the economy has made over the last four years, adding 500,000 in the manufacturing sector just in the last three. But he pushed Congress to pass the remaining portions of his American Jobs Act, called for an increase in the minimum wage (to $9), and announced the formation of a trade partnership between the U.S. and the European Union, intended to boost trade-based employment. He also called for investment in science and technology innovation, which he said would create jobs. No word, though, on specific proposals to address persistent black and urban unemployment, however… (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MEDICARE — The president said he is ” prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission,” indicating a potential willingness to cut costs in the program serving the nation’s elderly, including changing the way the government pays for Medicare services (moving away from “fee for service” billing, whereby doctors charge for every procedure, rather than for the entire “continuity of care,” reducing taxpayer subsidies to drug companies and adjusting the benefits wealthy seniors receive. But the president said he opposes any plan that would cut benefits directly, particularly to poor seniors. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
VOTING REFORM — Obama stated that he would create a Presidential Commission on Election Administration tasked with “improving the experience of all voters” be addressing the causes of long lines at the polls (faulty machines, too many people assigned to precincts, problems with voting rolls and poll worker training, complicated ballots, etc.,) and creating “commonsense, non-partisan solutions” to problems at the polls. The commission will be chaired by Bob Bauer, the attorney who represented the Obama campaign in 2012, and Ben Ginsberg, who represented the Mitt Romney campaign. No word on whether or how the commission will address efforts by Republican-controlled legislators in swing states to cut early voting days, enact draconian Voter ID laws, or change the way the Electoral College votes are apportioned, in order to create partisan gain… (Photo of long 2012 early voting lines in Florida, by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
VETERANS — The president gave a shout-out to First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden for their work on behalf of military families, and pledged that “we will keep faith with our veterans – investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors; supporting our military families; and giving our veterans the benefits, education, and job opportunities they have earned.” (2006 Photo of wounded Iraq war veterans participating in an innovative outdoor recreation-based physical therapy program, by Brent Stirton/Exclusive By Getty Images)
GUNS — The most moving part of the President’s State of the Union address was his riff on gun control. Obama said the parents of slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton deserve a vote in Congress on measures that would stop gun violence. And he said the same about the families of Newtown, Aurora, and all the other cities that have seen horrific gun deaths over the past year.
“It has been two months since Newtown,” Obama said. “I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.”
The question remains: will such proposals get that up or down vote in the Senate or more importantly, the Republican-controlled House? (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
AFGHANISTAN — The president stated that the U.S. will cut its troop presence in Afghanistan in half over the next year, bringing home roughly 34,000 troops. (2009 Photo of Navy Corpsman Damien Bertrand, deployed in Khan Neshin, Afghanistan, in Afghanistan, by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
COLLEGE — The president stressed the importance of a college education to the job prospects of young Americans, and touted the tax credits, grants and other federal programs the administration has used to make it more affordable.
Now, Obama is seeking changes to the Higher Education Act that will make affordability and value new criteria to determine which colleges get different forms of federal aid. And the Obama administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that will allow parents and students to compare colleges based on “where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.”
Research shows that black Americans with a college degree earn 95 percent of the median income of white Americans, and blacks who lack a degree are far more likely to be unemployed or underemployed. (2009 Photo of Princeton student Nneka Offor, by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
INFRASTRUCTURE — Crumbling roads and bridges, like the aging Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge in Washington D.C., present both a challenge an an opportunity for the U.S.
The president said in his State of the Union speech: ” ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids.” And he added a dig at Congress, saying: “…I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts. I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.” The question is, will Congress pass the president’s “Fix-It-First” proposal, which aims to “put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.” And will African-American workers be able to compete for these jobs if the program passes. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION — the president proposed “working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America,” adding that “every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.”
The idea of universal pre-K is supported by education experts, and advocacy groups like the Urban League, particularly given the higher dropout rates, and lower graduation rates plaguing black Americans.
It appears the plan will be modeled on one proposed by the Center for American Progress, which centered around giving parents financial help affording childcare and adding funding to Head Start. The approximately $10 billion program would also involve helping states fully fund early childhood and preschool programs. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Newsmakers)
CLIMATE CHANGE — The president said: “…for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”
Storms like Hurricane Katrina, which has left a lasting and devastating imprint on Louisiana, particularly in impoverished black communities, is just one example of the cost of doing nothing.
So what can be done? The president called for Congress to pass a “cap and trade” bill, which taxes carbon emissions, and which was once championed by his rival, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain. (Photo of FEMA camps in the aftermath of Hurricane Katria, by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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President Obama hit the road Wednesday to stump for the ideas he outlined in his first State of the Union address of his second term the night before.
In that address, Obama presented a number of ideas that he challenged Congress to get behind, from early childhood education to gun control. So what are the ten big takeaways from the speech, that could impact your life?