State of the Union Has the Right Themes, Action Must Follow

sotu photo
President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 28. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night: low-key compared to other addresses, determined and occasionally defiant.

He touched on many of the priorities being worked on by the Alliance for a Just Society this year, including mentioning that nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage. He didn’t mention that 23 states have not accepted Medicaid expansion for their most vulnerable residents.

The President called for immigration reform to be passed, a solution for college graduates trapped by student loan debt, he pushed for a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour.

“Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty,” he said.
Private businesses shouldn’t wait for a government mandate, but instead follow the lead of giant Costco and much smaller Punch Pizza and give employees a raise.The Alliance for a Just Society team offers their thoughts on the annual State of the Union address:

Bill Daley: If there was an overarching theme it was concern about income inequality.

The most noteworthy part of the address was the President’s defiant tone, promising to do by executive order what he believed needed to be done if the Congress refused to act.

obama Costco
President Obama waves to a camera while he greets the audience after delivering remarks on the federal minimum wage at Costco in Lanham, Md., Jan. 29. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

To prove the point he is processing an executive order raising the minimum wage for employees of private firms contracting with the Federal Government.

Obama ran through the projects and priorities of his administration, including a defense of the Affordable Care Act and a renewed push for immigration reform. The most moving point came at the end when he honored a solider who had been wounded in Afghanistan.

Fernando Mejia: President Obama is right when he said: “People come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture …” People didn’t come here to have their families torn apart or to live in fear.”

Yet, almost 400,000 people were deported last year under President Obama – and two million since he took office. He has the power to stop those deportations– and has so, he far refused to take action.

Inaction is not a solution. Our families will remember the lawmakers who helped us work for immigration reform, and we will remember those who stood in our way.

So, yes Mr. President: “Let’s get immigration reform done this year.”

Sheley Secrest: I’m encouraged by the President’s vision of moving our country forward in becoming a place for justice and equality for all.

I agree with his call to “train more Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.” Apprenticeship programs are a great way to meet the needs of those in poverty. Gains have yet to be made to improve the program participation of African Americans and other people of color.

I also agree with the President’s vision to increase minimum wage. Nationally, Black women continue to lead the majority of minimum wage workers, with Hispanic men running a close second. Minimum wage must meet the needs of hardworking people.

Just as we saw 50 years ago with the March on Washington, jobs with dignity continue to be a civil rights issue.