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A Look at The State of the Union Address

After one year in office as president of the free world, President Obama strapped into the  chamber’s pulpit to deliver his first State of the Union address. An address that was anticipated as it lets the American people in on what to expect, how the mess of the past will be taken care of, and the blue print for the remaining three years of his term.

President Obama’s address was one of the most interesting addresses in the past few years. He touched on the glaring issues facing our nation (Economy, Jobs, Unemployment), pushed for continued reform to health care, and even called for Democrats and Republicans to quit attempting to undermine one another, and focus on the greater good of the American people.

The aura and the feeling in the chamber indeed resonated through the television screen. The feeling of the skepticism and cynicism of the reds combined with the awkward, over-joyous behavior of dems was one that created a unique environment, yet brought out a certain edge, a certain reality in President Obama.

President Obama is a tremendous speaker, which often causes many to support everything he dishes out, which is very dangerous. Nonetheless, with that in mind, Obama delivered in his first State of the Union Address. It was an interesting address that delivered some good messages and proposals, coupled with some questionable comments and yes, a few eye brow raising ideas.

Here are some viewpoints and quotes on President Obama’s first State of the Union Address:

“For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They're tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now.”

This is very true. A statement that jumped out at at me during his speech and in the text. It is one that is felt across the nation by many. Despite the disagreement from republicans and endorsers of the free-market system, something had to be done in order to sustain a falling economy.

“Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, and everybody in between, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal.

But when I ran for president, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular — I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.”

A quote that always causes one to think back to the beginning of the entire collapse. How greed, deceit, and yes, greed again, caused the current mess that we all are in. Also, a good point of driving home that what is popular, may not always be right.

“There are stories like this all across America. And after two years of recession, the economy is growing again. Retirement funds have started to gain back some of their value. Businesses are beginning to invest again, and slowly some are starting to hire again.

But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from, who send out resumes week after week and hear nothing in response. That is why jobs must be our No. 1 focus in 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight.”

Although the rebound in the economy is minimal in evidence and perception,  President Obama should have never placed jobs on the back burner in 2009 for healthcare reform. The need for both is understood, but with jobs, comes the affordability of health care and choice of plans. Nonetheless, it was nice to see him use this platform to make this declaration.

“Tomorrow, I'll visit Tampa, Fla., where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act. There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help move our nation's goods, services and information.

We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities — and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.”

The injection of infrastructure jobs is an idea that sounds good in theory, but one that still sounds skeptical based upon the limited sample pool for it. As for the continued government interruption in businesses and their actions, I am still torn on this issue. There is too much government involvement in the market, yet, this country needs to do what is necessary in order to get back on track.

“You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations — they're not standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America.”

Very motivating, but also a reality check. Sometimes as Americans we get caught up in our own bravado and we forget how much the rest of the world has indeed advanced.

“Now, one place to start is serious financial reform. Look, I am not interested in punishing banks. I'm interested in protecting our economy. A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes. But that can only happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy.

We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families have the information they need to make financial decisions. We can't allow financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy.”

Government involvement in our businesses needs to be limited. However, like everything in life, our market needs regulation. It is one of the major ways we ended up in this mess.

“Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people.

Now, this year, we've broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. And the idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform — reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city. In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.”

A great idea, however, I’ve always believed that a person that wants to better him or herself will do just that, regardless of the amount of resources there are. Education is very important, however, the amount of value our society has emphasized on education has declined – and not because of opportunity or resources.

“To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. And let's tell another 1 million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years — and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.”

Although the idea of cheaper tuition may sound great to current college students and parents, allowing tax credits for college and increasing Pell Grants, and giving breaks for specific fields is one that can ruin higher education. College is appreciated because of the sacrifices made to achieve and gain a degree. Making college easier to pay for with handouts, give outs, and gimmicks cheapens it, and builds upon the notion that the current administration is diminishing the American Dream.

“Here's what I ask Congress, though: Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. Let's get it done. Let's get it done.”

Despite the continuous cry for healthcare reform, and the various degrees of opinion on this, his stance on getting it done was appreciative. Not when you’ve come this far. Get something done that is feasible.

“At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door.

Now — just stating the facts. Now, if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis. And our efforts to prevent a second depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt. That, too, is a fact.”

A quote that is indeed fact. Although it sounds like a jab at the previous administration (and probably was intended as so), statistics and facts such as the ones in the quoted shed light on the current decline our nation has been in.

“I'm absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do. But families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the trillion dollars that it took to rescue the economy last year.

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.”

Sounds great, but not convinced it will happen. In fact, there are doubts about finishing 2011 without government spending.

And in Afghanistan, we're increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home.

A date to be held accountable to. Another comment that evicts the wait-and-see approach.

“Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions — our corporations, our media, and, yes, our government — still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people's doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.

No wonder there's so much cynicism out there. No wonder there's so much disappointment.”

Definitely the truth.

and finally…

“The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people. We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment — to start anew, to carry the dream forward and to strengthen our union once more.”

Amen.

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