Obama: "The State of Our Union is Stronger"

By Laurel Schwartz ’15Politics Columnist

Just weeks after delivering an inaugural address focusing on civil rights in America, President Obama shifts gears in his State Of The Union address, making a thriving middle class one of his top priorities.

Obama acknowledges recent progress, saying, “The state of our union is stronger.” However, he admits that there is still a lot of work to be done, as wages and incomes have barely moved in over a decade.

The president calls a thriving middle class “America’s unfinished task.” Here is how he hopes to complete the task:

1. Bi-Partisanship: The president calls for an effort to resort the middle class that involves bi-partisan efforts, saying: “They [the American people] expect us to put the nation’s interest before party.” Obama acknowledges that this will involve compromise and that the nation can only move forward if we do so together.

2. Stop Budget Cuts: The popular opinion in Washington is that the currently proposed budget cuts to education, defense, Medicaid and much more would be detrimental to the growth of the nation. The president argues that in order to continue such programs, “those who care deeply about them must be willing to face modest reforms.” Modest reforms to programs across the board will reduce the need for such drastic cuts

-Medicaid: Obama proposes reforms to the program that he argues will enact the same amount of healthcare savings as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. Reforms, which include the continued implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act, would slow the growth of healthcare costs. The President promises that the underlying goal of Medicaid will always be based on the quality of care that seniors receive, rather than the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital.

-Taxes: Getting rid of special interest tax breaks for the wealthy will provide more funds for federal services like education. The president asserts that loopholes in the tax system need to be closed in order for federally funded programs to grow. Obama calls “for bi-partisan comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit.”

3. Share the burden: Too many cuts to programs that help the middle class will prevent economic growth; instead, Americans must be willing to share the burden. Obama explains, “We can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction, while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful.”

Obama’s propositions should come as no surprise to many Americans. His proposals regarding the economy have been heard for months leading up to his re-election. However, this address includes an added emphasis on the fact that the effort to restore the economy must be a bi-partisan initiative. With many Republicans speaking out against the president’s proposed reforms, bipartisanship in terms of restoring the economy may be easier said than done.