State of the union unveils 2015 plans


photo by Pete Souza

Jessica Jeffers, Opinions Editor

Barack Obama took to the the podium to give his yearly State of the Union address on Jan. 20 in Washington D.C, showing his attention towards middle class economics, foreign affairs, and climate change.

Immediately upon taking the podium, Obama started talking about the gas situation. With prices dropping to an century-low $1.97 a gallon, families are now able to save as much as $750 at the pump. This is fueled from America now having the biggest oil reserve with 14.2 million gallons compared to both Saudi Arabia (11.7 million) and Russia (10.5 million). This is hitting everywhere in America with the lowest local price so far being $1.87 at Wawa on Alafaya Woods.

His next several points all pushed the concept of middle class economics. Obama announced future legislation that will benefit families that identify themselves as the middle class, currently 44 percent of Americans identifying themselves as middle class with an income range of $30,000 to $100,000. He proposed lower taxes for working families, affordable childcare, paid leave laws for each state’s constitution and equal pay for women and men.

In 2014 Obama prevented an income tax hike for 98 percent of Americans, which ended up saving families $2,000 or more in taxes. He also vouched for an affordable yet high-quality child care which can normally cost about $11,666, but with the proposed tax cuts, families would save $3,000 per year for each child. He then proposed a higher minimum wage since the current wage is $7.25, although he did not state what this higher wage would be.

His second point on middle class economics focused on “Americans upgrading their skills.” This unveiled his plans to make community college not just cheap, but free. With a 47 percent approval rate, the policy also aimed to reduce student loan debt, which [for a student graduating from college this year] would hit an average, $33,000. Obama also stated he wants to reduce the monthly payment plans for people paying off student debt, which currently average about $242 a month for about eight years for a student to pay off his/her debt entirely.

His third point on middle class economics was to bring jobs to America and to export more products to Asia and Europe to be sold there. But when covering his last point of the economics, he brought up precision medicine initiative, which is a more personalized style of medicine. The doctor looks at an individual patient’s genes and looks for an increased risk of certain conditions which would allow a doctor to make a personalized plan for a prevention of this disease or condition or even a treatment plan for when it occurs.

After he spoke on this initiative, he went into his three points of foreign affairs to fulfill his Commander in Chief duties, his first goal being to “Unite with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists.” At this point he mentioned Paris and ISIL (ISIS), topics that are on plenty of American minds. This brought up Obama’s claim to authorize the use of force against ISIL.

Next, Obama mentioned the need for a “shift in Cuba policy,” described as the “Cuban thaw.” This would include the lift of U.S. travel restrictions, restrictions on remittances, U.S. bank access to Cuban financial systems and a U.S. embassy.

But the president stressed the topic of climate change most of all. The year of 2014 was the hottest year in history, with the average temperature 1.4 degrees hotter than it was in 1880. Obama mentioned the amount of carbon emissions the U.S. puts out each year, rounding up to 5 million tons of emissions, and his plans to cut our emissions in half.

But to close his speech, Obama mentioned the upcoming election and made a call to the current way of politics that has been controversial within past elections. He said politics would be better if politicians spent “less time drowning in dark money for ads,” and spent more time worrying about the politics they are backing up.

The State of the Union address raised of Obama’s approval rate 10 percent, from 40 to 50. But whether the policies pass or not will depend on Congress.

According to the post-speech discussions, the State of the Union address has left many uneasy. U.S. Representative Randy Neugebauer in a post-speech press conference in Texas said, “It’s basically a difference in philosophy and the president has been singing [the same] tune since he ran for office.”

Neugebauer went on to say the president will veto anything that does fall in accordance with ideal Democratic motives, even at the expense of true republican ideals, which will only come to light when the majority of congress is republican come spring.