In his annual State of the Union address U.S President Barack Obama announced that he would address the nation’s economic inequality by sidestepping Congress if need be.
Obama promised “a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class”. He also said that “America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
His aims to improve social mobility include increasing the minimum wage for new federal contract staff to $10.10 per hour, up from the $7.25 that current are on.
Part of his address was aimed at boosting the country’s confidence in him after receiving the lowest approval ratings since 2009 when he first took office. The Republican Party remains strong opposition, controlling the House of Representatives and occupying a number of seats in the Senate as well.
In contrast to the big changes he promised when he was first elected, Obama directed his attention to the essentials of living. Aspects such as health insurance, training schemes, the minimum wage, and savings plans for workers without them were touched upon, all of which would be a massive improvement on the lives of many poorer U.S citizens. The importance of equal gender opportunities in the workplace, infant education, and universities providing better value study were also emphasised.
To Congress Obama bid them to re-establish unemployment insurance that 1.6 million Americans lost when it recently ran out, and urged the Republicans to stop attacking his Obamacare healthcare plan.
In terms of immigration the President has intentions of modernising the U.S immigration system with a view to making the “country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone”. He asked the Republicans to support him on this to expedite changes.
Following the State of the Union address it is traditional for the opposing party to select one spokesperson to rebut the President’s speech. This year three Republicans spoke, representing the official response, a 2016 presidential hopeful, and the tea party movement.
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers who gave the official Republican response said that Obama should be “empowering people, not making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes, and fewer jobs”. Rand Paul the favoured 2016 presidential hopeful denounced government spending in his taped response.
The U.S political system has been locked in opposition throughout most of Obama’s presidency, making it almost impossible to pass legislation. By promising to bypass Congress Obama seems set on taking action against the U.S economic inequality which, if it transpires, will benefit many areas of the country.
You can read the full text of the 2014 State of the Union address here at CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/obamas-2014-state-of-the-union-address-full-text/