Immigration reform, gun reform and ending the war in Afgahnistan are legislative priorities, said President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
He touched on the greatest issues of concern for most Americans right now. But he had the most to say around the pervasive issue of income inequality:
He said he wanted to raise the minimum wage to lift families out of poverty, increase employment opportunities, job training programs and expand the earned-income tax credit for low-wage workers without children.
“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 get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all,” said President Obama.
But his big announcements around poverty came as an executive order to raise the minimum wage of federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour and the creation of a new Treasury savings bond for workers without access to traditional retirement options.
He credited “American diplomacy backed by pressure” for Syria’s relinquishing its chemical weapons and for Iran’s willingness to negotiate. And he defended Obamacare, stating, “Let’s not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping Americans.”
He proposed incentives for employers to use alternative fuels and other eco-friendly measures. He pushed for closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
If many of the items he listed during this address, his fifth, sounded like a repeat of his 2013 address, it’s because they were.
The president hasn’t gotten much done since his election, and his approval ratings have slipped significantly. But he was unflinching in casting the blame on what he described as an obstructionist Congress.
And his speech showed the his frustration: It was 65 minutes of diatribe on what still needs to get done, peppered with stern warnings to Congress that he’s prepared to move ahead and take action on key bills without legislative approval.
“America does not stand still — and neither will I,” said President Obama. “So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”