I found President Obama’s State of the Union Address last night to contain some noteworthy comments. While I could comment extensively on many parts of the speech, for now I will indicate excerpts that I found most relevant with regard to the economic situation, and may comment upon them at a future point. I am highlighting these excerpts for many reasons; it should be noted that I do not necessarily agree with all of them.
Here are the excerpts I found most relevant, in the order they occurred in the speech:
But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs — but too many people still can’t find full-time employment. 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. (Applause.)
It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country — the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love.
It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation. (Applause.)
Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear, deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. (Applause.) A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs — that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. (Applause.) Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?
Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. 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. (Applause.)
America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. 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, self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America — a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina — said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world. And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district. I’ve seen all those ribbon-cuttings. (Laughter.)
And part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. The good news is our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years. Home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.
But 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. We need to fix it.
Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education. It’s a simple fact the more education you’ve got, the more likely you are to have a good job and work your way into the middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.
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. (Applause.) We should be able to get that done. (Applause.)
Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.
The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation
SPX at 1519.43 as this post is written