President Obama's State of the Union speech had a special relevance to me also, as it did several people he mentioned. Today in America, I went to have my first wellness, or preventive medical exam. All my adult life I have not been able to afford health care. Now that had changed and thanks to this president and a Democratic majority in the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives at the time of the Affordable Care Act's passage, I can afford health insurance.
I understand that Republican lawmakers would like to take that away from me and I too understand that as long as they do not obtain a majority in both houses of Congress and the White House, they will never be able to do that.
Much of the president's speech had to do with equality, especially income equality. So many Americans in this country struggle to get by. Rent goes up, the cost of living goes up, and even though corporations and Wall Street are making more profits than they ever have, wages are not going up. Republican lawmakers' response is to let market forces raise wages. If market forces were going to raise wages, they would have already raised them. Instead, wages have been stagnant.
The president said, "…in the coming months, let's see where else we can make progress together. Let's make this a year of action. That's what most Americans want, for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all, the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead in America."
The president had several proposals to lift America up and to provide opportunity for all Americans, not just those at the top; jobs, education, a raise in the minimum wage.
"Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by, let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all," said the president."
This is "the cold, hard fact" and this is what needs to change if America is going to move forward. The distribution of wealth needs to be more balanced so that more Americans have more to spend to move our economy forward. The president went on to say,
"The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams."
President Obama went on to give specific details on creating jobs and job training for the long-term unemployed. Increasing manufacturing , technological advances, infrastructure, green jobs such as the increase in the installation of solar panels, were only a few of the many ways he suggested that we could grow the job market in the United States and even bring more jobs back home.
Obama also talked about much-needed immigration reform, pointing out how it would help to move the country forward:
"Finally, if we're serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement -- and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted, and I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: When people come here to fulfill their dreams -- to study, invent, contribute to our culture -- they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let's get immigration reform done this year. Let's get it done. It's time."
Women in the workforce was also something the president touched on, saying,
"You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work."
Obama went on saying,
"You know, she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a "Mad Men" episode. This year let's all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity she deserves, because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds."
Then the president talked about the minimum wage. This is something Republican lawmakers have a problem with but if the minimum wage does not go up, while the cost of living does, many Americans who are struggling to just pay their bills will become more resentful as they see the profits of corporations and Wall Street keep growing extensively. The president said,
"Today the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. And Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. It's easy to remember: 10.10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It does not involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise. Give 'em a raise."
President Obama's speech stayed centered on income equality through most of the speech. He talked about expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, creating automatic IRAs under a new directive to the Treasury Department to create a program called "MyRA" to help low-income workers save for retirement. Then he talked about the success of the Affordable Care Act, with its implementation bringing health insurance to over 3 million of uninsured Americans under the age of 26 and more than 9 million more Americans through private insurance or Medicaid.
"And here's another number: zero," said the president. "Because of this law, no American, none, zero, can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a pre-existing condition like asthma or back pain or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she's a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare's finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors."
He also pointed out to Republican lawmakers, "Now, I do not expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people are not interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice, tell America what you'd do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up. But let's not have another 40- something votes to repeal a law that's already helping millions of Americans"
The president spent some time talking about foreign policy, giving much credit to our troops and the sacrifices they have made. There was a special guest in the audience that night who sat by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, which the president recognized. Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger and been severely wounded fighting for his country, by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. The president had met him before because the young man on the 65th Anniversary of D-Day had walked him through the ceremony.
The young man lay in a coma for months and had to go through several surgeries to repair the damage done to him. Cory is a fine example of the bravery and selflessness of our young men and women who go into harm's way to protect our rights to be free and to enjoy the equality promised to us by our Constitution.
The president quoting him in saying, "My recovery has not been easy," he says. "Nothing in life that's worth anything is easy."
With that quote, President Obama concluded his speech with this:
"Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.
My fellow Americans -- my fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged.
But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress: to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice and fairness and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.
The America we want for our kids -- a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us -- none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, the way Cory summoned what is best in him, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it's within our reach. Believe it."
Equality - as the president made clear in his speech - is the ingredient needed if this nation is to be the land of opportunity for us all, or for just the few.
This is a republish from my website: Fidlerten Place