President gives State of Union: Obama reports high graduation rates, more jobs and fuel efficiency

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For the fifth time during his tenure, President Barack Obama addressed Congress and the American people about his agenda for the next year in the  Address.

Some, such as the Voice of America, found Obama’s tone on Jan. 28 optimistic. According to the Associated Press transcript, Obama’s opening statement cited the high graduation rate, the rising number of jobs and increased fuel efficiency.

“I think this was kind of an attempt to restart things, and I think also beginning to talk about what he wants his legacy to be,” Dr. Kelly McHugh, assistant professor of political science, said.

In October, the federal government shut down over disagreements about  the budget. One of the biggest disagreements was over funding the new health care bill.

Obama touched on the new bill, saying that 3 million Americans under 26 gained coverage under their parents’ plans and how 9 million Americans had signed up.

“I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31,” Obama said.

Currently the government is trying to get younger adults to sign up to offset the costs of older, less healthy adults.

Younger adults may also find some help with their student loans as Obama said that he was working with Congress to help ease student debt. Obama spoke about an initiative for some students to “cap their monthly student loan payments to 10 percent of their income,” but little more was said on the issue.

“There was a much bigger push about student loans I think in 2012, because younger people were a key part of Obama’s base in 2008 and they wanted those people to come back out,” McHugh said.

During his speech, Obama said that Congress can create over 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and waterway projects.

“But I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible,” Obama said.

The New York Times and USA Today have speculated that this referred to the President’s ability to issue executive orders, such as his intent to use an executive order is to raise the minimum wage of future federal contract workers to $10.10.

“That’s what it sounded like,” McHugh said. “He outlined a couple of places where he can use executive orders to change policy, I think making the point that he doesn’t think Congress is going to do anything, that Congress is pretty much gridlocked, that he can’t rely on Congress to pass things.”

Several times during his speech Obama referred to guests that he had invited to the State of the Union Address, such as Sgt. First Class Cory Rembsburg, an injured Army Ranger. Other members of Congress brought their own guests.

“It’s kind of a battle of the guests: you try to make a point with whoever you bring,” McHugh said.

With the House of Representatives in Republican control, Obama has found it difficult to get some of his legislation passed. McHugh says that if the Republicans retain control of the House and the Senate in the coming years, Obama might find it even more difficult to pass legislation.

“The absence of compromise is basically what we have now,” McHugh said. “I think we’ll see a lot more of that in the coming years.”

 

Photo Credit: Leah Schwarting