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State of Union speech gives laudable economic-jobs goals, but lacks specifics on protecting consumer rights and the environment as growth occurs

After five years of dealing with Republicans who want only to block his every action, Pres. Barack Obama strongly reaffirmed in his State of the Union speech his commitment to equality, job creation, a livable wage, immigration reform, veterans, and affordable health care.

His promise to increase use of executive power is welcome in light of years of turmoil from a “do nothing” Congress, which even shut down the federal government and caused great harm to consumers.

Obama praised the growing economy and an increase in energy interdependence by the production of more energy in the United States. He was positive about the growth of the natural gas industry in America.

However, while he said natural gas production should continue to grow if it can be extracted safety, I think he skipped over the fact that many are critical about fracking and the damage it’s doing to the environment.

Obama said he’ll cut red tape to help states get almost a hundred billion dollars in new factories built that use natural gas.

I’m concerned that the Obama administration won’t protect the environment adequately in its quest to improve the economy.

On job creation and education, he called for decent jobs for everyone and training programs.

He said women should be paid more for because when women succeed, America succeeds.

Obama also scolded Congress for failing to enact his pre-K program, pointing out that research shows its effectiveness in helping children rise out of poverty. He complimented 30 states that have enhanced their pre-K programs, and urged others to do so, too, pointing out they shouldn’t wait for Congress to act.

When he called on Congress to restore cuts to basic research made last year, Obama said America needs to have the next discovery. As an example he said there are entire industries to be built based on vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria.

I’ve written many times about inadequate public policies on the overuse of antibiotics, especially in food for animals, which cause drug-resistance pathogens. What’s needed are regulations to curb antibiotic use, not continuing to use them then hoping a vaccine can be developed against the pathogen. (See my article “FDA Issues Voluntary Rule to Phase Out Antibiotic Use in Animals That Aren’t Sick, But Consumer Groups Say It Does Little to Protect Human Health.”)

On the minimum wage, Obama called on Congress to raise it so that people who work full time don’t have to raise a family in poverty. He said he is raising the minimum wage in federal contracts to $10.10 saying people who cook for American troops shouldn’t live in poverty.

Additional positives for consumers in Obama’s address:

  • Establish higher fuel standards for trucks
  • Fix a broken immigration system.
  • Improve Affordable Care Act.
  • Create MyRAs, a new type of savings account for retirement.
  • Pass legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations.
  • End of the war in Afghanistan, America’s longest war, at the end of this year, except for a small force of American and NATO troops to train and assist Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations.
  • Close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

In closing, Obama said no one does what America does:

On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might but because of the ideals we stand for and the burdens we bear to advance them.

While it’s all good rhetoric, my concern for consumers is that in achieving the goals to continue economic growth and job creation, the Obama administration will neglect consumer and environmental regulations.

I’ve written dozens of articles in the last year about million dollar fines against banks, pharmaceutical companies, and other corporations. These are “slaps on the wrist” for these prosperous companies.

Government regulators always seem to be a step behind corporations. For example, Obama didn’t mention home foreclosures and how the government programs that he promised would help in last year’s State of the Union address are largely unsuccessful in helping homeowners in trouble. Meanwhile, banks and other financial institutions are walking away after paying their fines.

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