January 29, 2010
One year into his presidency, still much more to do
On Wednesday, President Obama delivered his first State of the Union address. In his speech, the President recommitted his administration to economic recovery and job creation, announced bold new education initiatives, chided the Senate for being too slow to enact a series of reform bills passed by the House, and set the record straight about the work that’s been done so far:
…[W]e extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans; made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA; and passed 25 different tax cuts.
Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.
As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas and food and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.
Obama called on the Senate to quickly approve a new jobs bill and proposed shifting $30 billion of TARP money away from mega-banks to community banks for lending to small businesses. He reiterated his plan to levy a fee on the biggest banks to recoup the bailout money tax payers gave them:
“I know Wall Street isn’t keen on this idea, but if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the tax payers who rescued them in their time of need.”
The President also tried to reassure an electorate still looking for change:
“I campaigned on the promise of change — change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change — or that I can deliver it.
“But remember this — I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone. Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That’s just how it is.”
Obama urged the Congress not to abandon the American people on health care reform when victory is so close, and he called on Democrats to stiffen their spines and Republicans to do more than say “No”.
“To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town — a supermajority — then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.”
If you watched the speech on television or online, it was easy to see which members of Congress were willing to stand up and cheer for middle class tax cuts, taxing the banks, finishing the job on health care, and investing in a new, green economy and jobs.
Trumka responds to the State of the Union
Check out Pres. Trumka’s video response online.
“Pres. Obama was exactly right when he spoke tonight of the stubborn resilience of the American people in the face of adversity. Despite daily insecurity and the deep hurt of not being able to find jobs, working people’s goodness, decency and hard work have kept our country going.
“But Americans are also deeply frustrated and angry. We want to see elected leaders who’ll fight for us and bring real change. We want jobs — Pres. Obama is absolutely right that jobs must be our number one focus in 2010. And we must act on a scale that will be meaningful: We need more than 10 million jobs just to get out of the hole we’re in. We want health care fixed. We want our leaders to break the stranglehold of Wall Street and the big banks and make them pay to repair the economic damage they created.”