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What did Obama offer consumers in State of the Union address?

Each year, I write about the president’s State of the Union speech to try to get an idea of what’s in store for consumers in the coming year from the federal government’s point of view.

This year, I wasn’t expecting much because Congress is so deadlocked, and in this presidential election year, we’re getting nothing but political rhetoric. And, shockingly, some Republican candidates continue to spew hate speech.

Surprisingly, Pres. Barack Obama offered a solution that is important for the American consumer. Obama called on Americans to vote, speak out, and stand up for others.

He said we need every American to live a public life, adding democracy is difficult, and Americans need to do daily acts of citizenship.

I’ve always believed in the importance of consumers being informed and taking action in their interests.

I think Obama is right. American consumers need to be involved, not give in to cynicism, and not give up.

Obama also was right on when he said working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks, big oil, or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.

He said the recklessness of Wall Street caused the Great Recession. He said the decisions to keep salaries stagnant are made in boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.

On specific that would benefit consumers, Obama said he would work to:

  • Get better employment policies including paid leave, equal pay for equal work, and an increased minimum wage.
  • Protect children from gun violence.
  • Give everyone a fare shake in the new economy.
  • Make technology work for us not against us.
  • Provide Pre-K for all.
  • Offer every student hands-on computer science and math classes.
  • Recruit and support great teachers.
  • Make college more affordable for every American.
  • Provide two years of community college at no cost.
  • Strengthen Social Security and Medicare.
  • Provide wage insurance when people move from job to job so they can pay their bills.
  • Reduce poverty with policies such as expanding tax cuts for low-income workers without children.
  • Promote clean energy.
  • Cut carbon emissions.
  • Reduce the infusion of money in politics.
  • Make it easier for citizens to vote not harder.

Obama also spent a lot of time during his address talking about the military and foreign policy. I agree that it’s better to use diplomacy rather than go to war. America spends so much on its military, more than the next eight nations combined, that domestic programs – and the American people – suffer.

On Obama’s proposal to cure cancer, I’m not optimistic. I think the Cancer Industry has focused for 50 years on medications they can use and money they can make. I don’t see that much can happen when researchers and those who treat cancer continue to use the same ideas, methods, and medications.

On the state of the nation, Obama said we’ve gone through big changes: wars, depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time we overcame fear, he said, adding we thought anew, we acted anew. He said:

We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did –  because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril –  we emerged stronger and better than before.

What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation  –  our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery and innovation, our diversity and commitment to the rule of law  –  these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

The future we want  –  opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids  – all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.

Obama called on the nation to fix its politics:

Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

Changes in the political process   –  in not just who gets elected but how they get elected   –  will only happen when the American people demand it, he said.

“It will depend on you,” Obama said. “That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.”

Copyright 2016, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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