Monday, February 17, 2014

State of the Union: Obama Pulled His Best Punches

By Harry Targ and Carl Davidson January 31, 2014
Progressive America Rising

 In the lead-up to President Obama’s speech Chris Hayes, MSNBC host, presented a segment on the national mobilization of low wage workers in 2013. He described courageous work stoppages by fast food workers, campaigns by public employees, particularly health care and home care workers, and how seemingly isolated pockets of protest spread like wild fire across the nation.

This, Hayes suggested, stimulated progressive groups, selected Congresspersons, and visible pundits such as Robert Reich and Paul Krugman to reemphasize the economic crisis the American working class is facing, particularly youth, people of color, women, and older workers. Hayes suggested that we are on the verge of a new mass movement and that Obama would capture the spirit of this movement in his State of the Union address.

President Obama took the podium a little after 9 pm Eastern Standard Time and presented a State of the Union address that referred to income inequality, the need for immigration reform, creating jobs by renovating the transportation infrastructure, and reducing greenhouse case emissions to forestall climate change.

Specific resolutions and demands were articulated. He did announce that he would use his executive authority to require that the minimum wage of companies with government contracts be raised to $10.10 an hour. He urged Congress, states, and municipalities to follow and raise their minimum wages as well.

He recommended the creation of a new program that would allow workers who do not have pensions to invest in a government created pension fund, similar to 401Ks.

He praised growing government business partnerships and collaboration with colleges and universities to extend job training, make college more affordable, and create a 21st century work force that he claimed could fill the jobs that are not being filled now.

Finally, while vowing to continue national security policies (including in not so many words a ‘war on terrorism’), he announced he was committed to bringing almost all troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. He promised to support certain sectors of the Syrian opposition and remain ready for military action but was committed to negotiations now with Iran, Syrian factions and Israelis and Palestinians to end their bitter conflicts. He declared, however, that he would veto any Congressional bill that came across his desk that called for increased sanctions against Iran, now during the difficult negotiation process with that country. He pointed out in perhaps his most significant statement, that the Obama administration would lead the United States away from “a permanent war footing.” (Read entire statement)


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