STATE OF THE UNION 2013: HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PRESIDENT’S SPEECH
Update February 14, 2013: Edited to add reactions to President's speech; scroll to bottom for links to local and national reactions and analysis
February 13, 2013 (Washington D.C.) – President Barack Obama last night delivered his State of the Union speech. View video and read full text: http://www.whitehouse.gov/state-of-the-union-2013 . For highlights of the speech, scroll down.
The President opened by citing progress made during his administration, then announced new goals ranging from raising the minimum wage to putting Americans back to work, from reining in college costs to reducing global warming.
“After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before,” the President stated. “So, together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the State of our Union is stronger.”
But he noted that much remains to be done, with many people still out of work. “Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs -- but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged. It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth -- a rising, thriving middle class.”
He called for an increase in the federal minimum wage, as well as closing corporate loopholes for the wealthy to raise revenues and reduce the deficit.
He also warned of dire consequences if sequestration cuts occur.
“In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness,” Obama stated. “They’d devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
He stood firm against many proposed cuts but noted some “modest reforms” in Medicare is needed due to high costs of caring for an aging population. But he added, “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.”
He called for streamlining of the tax codes to help small businesses and provide incentives to create jobs in the U.S. He noted that the trend of shipping jobs overseas has begun to reverse, with a half million U.S. manufacturing jobs added in the past three years. “Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.”
The president continued, “There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns.
So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America.”
He also called for investment in ideas. “Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy -- every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.”
The President said that no area holds more promise than investments in American energy to control our own energy future. “We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar,” he stated, adding that carbon emissions have fallen, though more must be done to combat climate change.
“ 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,” President Obama said. If Congress won’t act to protect future generations, he pledged to take executive actions to reduce pollution, prepare communities for consequences of climate change, and speed transition to sustainable energy sources.
He called for more wind generation, driving down cost of solar, as well as cutting red tape for new oil and gas permits. The President also pushed for more energy developments on public lands and a major effort to conserve energy.
“I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good,” he added. “I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. We'll work with the states to do it. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.”
To shore up America’s aging infrastructure, the President announced he will propose a “Fix-It-First program 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 to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children.”
The President cited signs that the housing market is rebounding; home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years and home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, he said. But he added that even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, “too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back.”
He urged Congress to support a bill that will give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates.
On education, he called for more preschool, noting, “Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on -- by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”
He added, “Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. And we’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math -- the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.”
He cited rising college tuition costs, adding, “I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria -- where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.”
The President also called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform..
”Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration has already made -- putting more boots on the Southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years,” he said. Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship -- a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally. And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.”
He praised the Senate for passing the Violence Against Women Act and urged the House, which has blocked the measure, to get it passed. He also urged Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act for women.
As for raising the minimum wage, the President stated, “We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher. Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour….:Here’s ab idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year -- let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.
He announced plans for his administration to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. He also pledged new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest.
He offered praise to American troops and noted that this year, another 34,000 Americans will come home from Afghanistan. “By the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over,” he declared. Training and equipping Afghan forces, along with counterterrorism efforts against remnants of Al Qaeda and its affiliates, will continue.
He warned that provocations by North Korea “will only further isolate them, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats. Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.”
The President announced that earlier in the day he signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy. He also called on Congress to pass legislation to secure networks against cyber attacks.
To boost American exports, he announced plans to launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European.
He also spoke on the need to work with international allies to eradicate extreme poverty around the world. :We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all -- not only because it creates new markets, more stable order in certain regions of the world, but also because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change.”
The U.S. would stand up for those seeking democracy, he emphasized, adding that the U.S. will continue to pressure the Syrian regime to respect human rights and will stand “steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace…These are the messages I'll deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.”
He pledged to invest in better mental health care for wounded warriors and support for military families to assure that veterans will have “he benefits and education and job opportunities that they have earned.”
President Obama also announced formation of a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America, citing long lines in some polling places. “I’m asking two long-time experts in the field -- who, by the way, recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign -- to lead it.”
Recalling the Newtown school massacre, he also noted that Americans overwhelmingly support “common-sense reform” and called on Congress to give each proposal a vote. “These proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun -- more than a thousand.” Those murdered include Hadiya Pendleton, 15, who performed at Obama’s inauguration. “A week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house,” said the President, noting that families of gun violence were in the audience.
He concluded that as Americans, we have a duty to future generations, adding that “it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter of our American story.”
REACTIONS TO STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH:
Reactions to president’s speech split along party lines (Washington Post):
San Diego Republicans, Democrats react to President’s State of the Union (KPBS):
President’s agenda—easier said than done (Politico):
Reactions and analysis (Brookings Institute):
State of the Union poll shows largely positive analysis (Huffington Post)
State of the Union live blog (Heritage Foundation)
Libertarian party responds to State of Union (Examiner)