The State of the Union

A few things stood out to me during President Obama’s State of the Union address.

by Hemang Sharma

President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union address last week. His message — let’s try to make it work, America, for the middle class.

In a speech that has already been subjected to trivializing, out-of-context sound bites, partisan spray painting and dubious punditry on right-wing radio, the president managed to raise a few good points about his, and hopefully Congress’, course of action.

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change,” remarked the president to a nation that has taken quite the beating from natural disasters lately. Obama called for a bipartisan effort to tackle the issue of climate change — an issue that didn’t even come up in the presidential debates. The problem is ‘bipartisan efforts’ and ‘climate change’ are not something that the Republican Party believes in.

The kind of bipartisan effort that the president is hoping for would be the Climate Stewardship Act, an effort championed by the moderate Sen. John McCain along with his pal Sen. Joe Lieberman. This kind of reform made sense environmentally because it called for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and implementing a cap-and-trade-style U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforcement strategy. The fate of this act, on three separate occasions, was stomped electorally to death by House and Senate Republicans who continue to disregard the overwhelming majority of scientists’ reports clearly documenting climate change.

The 12 hottest years on record have taken place in the past 15. Historic droughts, storms and other climatic revelations continue to ravage this planet and demand our foremost attention. Yet, the president is stuck with people like Sen. Marco Rubio, his official rebuttal man, who answered a scientific question about the Earth’s age by offering theological accounts from the Bible. The Republicans have behaved like spoiled children who continue to ignore scientific facts. The thing with children is that you can actually teach them science. Maybe if the president’s push for universal preschool passes, we would have kids that depict a basic understanding of the world and science at an earlier age.

“Today a full-time worker earning the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year,” the president enlightened a chamber full of people whose salaries come out of the pockets of many of those minimum-wage workers in America. His call to raise the federal minimum wage to a more-livable, mere $9 per hour is seen by the likes of House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy as potentially devastating to small businesses, resulting in ‘job creators’ feeling the pain and a stagnant economy.

On the contrary, giving a $1.75 bump to some of the hardest working Americans would provide them with increased purchasing power and inject more money into the economy. The people living paycheck-to-paycheck would spend it to make ends meet. It would be a matter of shame if the Republicans don’t get behind this proposition to help the self-reliant, hardworking Americans they claim to represent. I urge the skeptics in Congress to live on $7.25 per hour for the next year and see how they can provide for their families.

“Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges or one with high-speed rail and Internet, high-tech schools and self-healing power grids,” asked Obama rhetorically.

The fact is that in order to remain a first-rate country, we must continue to invest in our infrastructure. Obama’s Fix-It-First program believes in fixing our 70,000 broken bridges and then steadily building new projects that would help us in the long run. This is a claim backed by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which has laid out detailed reports of our crippling infrastructure. He has, before this address, on numerous occasions proposed bills that would further increase our cities’ ability to facilitate safe and economically efficient commerce, something which the Republicans continue to mock as overreaching government.

“Send me a comprehensive immigration-reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away,” urged the president. Illegal immigration is now at a 40-year low, hence all the Republicans who scream ‘secure our borders first’ every time immigration is debated have nothing to complain about now. It would have to be absolute political mudslinging if they do not pass a bill just to make the president look bad.

The president talked about the victims of gun violence and how they deserve a bipartisan voice. Here is one word the president should delete from his dictionary: compromise. He must recall how compromise got him nowhere in his first term and operate with absolutely no care for hurting their feelings. Last week, Republicans held Chuck Hagel’s appointment for secretary of defense over Benghazi. If the Republicans had asked this many questions about 9/11, we’d have dodged the Iraq War.

He has been more than  fair to the Republicans who have delivered to him much less respect than the office of the president of the U.S. deserves, regardless of the party. Almost all the efforts in his political caravan continue to get pulled over by a gang of Republican outlaws, dressed as sheriffs, who then rob him of all his political substance before allowing him to embark on another journey, hoping this time they would let him pass without paying a toll to the political thugs.