President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday was strong for consumers in many areas.
Obama's emphasis on immigration reform, family wage jobs, early childhood education, a $9 minimum wage, tax code reform, voter rights, and loophole reduction will help move America forward.
The actions he called for on gun violence, energy independence, clean energy, climate change, infrastructure, higher education, violence against women, equal pay for women, stronger families, poverty eradication, and equal benefits for all are of tremendous importance.
However, Obama fell short in his address on benefits for older Americans and housing.
Benefits for older Americans
He began his talk by saying, “It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few.”
Americans don’t expect Congress to agree on everything, Obama said, adding “They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can.
On balancing the budget, he said:
The biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms – otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations…
We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.
And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.
I’m concerned that Medicare is “on the table” and will be cut in a compromise deal. Medicare and Social Security are minimal programs. Even “modest reforms” will have disastrous effects on seniors.
For more than half of Social Security recipients aged 65 or over, the program provides more than 50 percent of their family income and, because of its lifetime income protection and survivors benefits, Social Security is particularly important for elderly women.
On housing, Obama said the housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. 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, he said, adding:
Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill.
And Obama said:
Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.
What’s needed that the president didn’t address is that banks aren’t willing to refinance homes for consumers who are underwater. And, mortgage reform is still needed and consumers who are in danger of foreclosure must receive help.
Banks continue to prefer to kick homeowners out of their homes if they are behind on their payments. Federal programs that have been set up are only helping a fraction of those who need assistance.
And the comment about overlapping regulations for first time homeowners? It sounds like the president was throwing a bone to the housing and real estate industries.
We just had a Great Recession based at least partially on banks and other financial institutions selling mortgages to anyone, regardless of their qualifications.
Certainly the president didn’t mean those rules are going to be eliminated?
More help is needed for homeowners. This is part of the assistance for Main Street that has never materialized after Wall Street was bailed out.
In last year’s State of the Union address, Obama announced the creation of a working group aimed at exposing and prosecuting financial fraud behind the housing crisis.
While some action has been taken, the group needs to do more to charge and convict those responsible for the housing crisis.