SOTU 2014 – State of the nation, state of the environment
The important question going into this year’s State of the Union is, Will any of this matter? Will any of the proposals President Obama brings to the table tonight move forward, or will the GOP and their Tea Party hard-liners successfully continue to stand athward history, howling STOP!
With both the House and Senate tied up in knots like a kidnapped heiress, Obama has sworn to take an alternate route: Executive orders that can’t be bludgeoned to death in the the legislative gauntlet.
The environment SHOULD be front and center tonight: Green jobs, clean energy, climate change… but those seem to be the items the GOP hates the most, and most takes glee in shooting down in toxic flames.
From the start, he lays out a case that America is strong. Growth is up, we’ve created 8 million jobs, the stock market is soaring and corporate profits are at record levels.
- The lowest unemployment rate in over five years.
- A rebounding housing market.
- A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.
- More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years.
- Our deficits – cut by more than half.
- And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.
So we’re positioned for a great year, he says, but….
The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress.
He talked of the budget compromise that means we can move forward, but got in a little dig at the “Just Say No” Congress (which is currently talking about foisting yet another Debt Limit crisis on the country next month):
But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.
He talked about inequality and income disparity:
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all. Our job is to reverse these trends…
He talked about paying for infrastructure work by closing tax loopholes. It’s crazy that we’re not fixing infrastructure at a time when borrowing costs are so low and unemployment so high.
…We can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. But I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.
And he’s going to do something about tech investment, too:
We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. My administration has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh and Youngstown, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies. Tonight, I’m announcing we’ll launch six more this year. Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create. So get those bills to my desk and put more Americans back to work.
…We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research…
He says his all-of-the-above strategy (which a lot of environmentalists aren’t happy about) is working, and leading to actual energy independence – something that Presidents have talked about for 40 years, but have failed to actually do anything about – until now.
One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.
Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas.
My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities.
And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.
Sustainable energy, too:
Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced.
Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.
And even as we’ve increased energy production, we’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume.
When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.
He goes there. Yes, by god, he does:
Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.
But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods.
That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.
The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.
And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.
He hit several important points strongly –
- Better education and training
- Equal pay for equal work (women get 77% pay for equivalent work, and that’s just wrong)
- Raising the minimum wage (and by executive order, he has raised the minimum wage for federal contractors)
So what will come of all this? That remains to be seen.