Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The State of the Union Address and the Political Contention

The State of the Union address is officially over. President Obama gave his hour-and-a-half long speech tonight, which highlighted the growing economy, gains in jobs and new hope for the future. He even threw in a cocky reminder of winning the past two elections.

The stated purpose of tonight's speech was to focus on a new tax policy he's been pushing recently. It is a sweeping measure meant to raise taxes on the rich, give tax credits to the middle class, and make higher education more affordable. His tax policy has been met with plenty of expected resistance from the contenders on the conservative side. What is ironic however is how each side of the political divide evokes what appears to be a genuine call for collaboration to creating a greater America, but each has its own agenda in mind to get us there.

Judging from the feedback to the President's speech, there is a consensus that some Americans are still hurting, others are doing much, much better, and the economy has improved, but there is a great point of contention as to how we arrived there. And an even larger argument as how to move forward.

Republicans want to lower tax rates and increase jobs. Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, proposed the passage of the Keystone construction project. As most conservatives, she believes the project will create more jobs for Americans. No word, however, about what affect it will have on the environment and the future. Democrats believe that making child care and college affordable through tax credits and incentives will help build a stronger economy. Both parties are doing a fantastic job touting either their own personal challenges with poverty or sharing the stories of individuals who made their way out of a financial rut. Overall, the largest confusion stems from just how successful Affordable Care Act has been. Republicans quote figures of lost insurance policies; the Democrats highlight the rise in coverage.

What does this mean? Expect plenty more haggling in the future. The Democrats have two years to pass whatever changes they have in mind. The Republicans have the upper hand because they now control both the House and Senate. It's going to get very interesting.

What we know for a fact is that although the economy is improving, there is still room for improvement. The unemployment rate has dipped to pre-recession period but many economists still debate the validity of the new rate simply because of how it is calculated.  We can still say with certainty that  these are better times. Just how better is still up for debate. Focusing on equal pay, raising the minimum wage, and making child care more affordable is a good place to start. Unfortunately, our elected leaders still have to agree on the right path to get there.

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