Hopefully, 2015 will be that year. That year that Congress will finally attain a higher ranking than Nickelback. (Sorry not sorry.)
Hope. Resilience. A new beginning. And that’s how the President opens his speech, that even though we’ve seen two wars, rising terrorism and an economic depression in the last fifteen years, we will plow on. In other words, “the shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.” Immediately after his opener, Obama asks the American people a slew of carefully-crafted rhetorical questions. These questions, or rather, their answers, provide the basis for the rest of the President’s speech.
First off, the U.S. economy. The story of Rebekah and Ben’s struggle, the story of the millions of American people who “have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled,” resonates strongly with the middle and lower classes. It is these people, the people who are suffering from our economic crisis, whom Obama strives to help. It is these people who need the 11 million new jobs created by businesses, these people who need health coverage, these people who need sensible living wages. Go ahead, we could all try supporting a family on $15,000 per year working full time, Obama suggests. But we can’t. Obama particularly emphasizes this “middle-class economics” to restore the relationship between hard work and opportunities. Surely, the government isn’t handing out free money, but it needs to ensure the hard working and the resilient deserve at least an opportunity.
Now, the part that stood out most to me was Obama’s plan to make community college free. Student loan debt has soared to over $1.2 trillion, tripling in the last decade. Too often we see students drop out of college because of monetary issues, or smart and diligent students completely forgo college because they cannot afford it. Ironically, opposition to this plan stems from the same concept: MONEY. Certainly these colleges cannot be entirely free; who will pay for textbooks, faculty, etc? (Taxpayers, probably.) But all it really takes is some cooperation from both political parties. In 2014, the total cost of the Guantanamo Bay facility was $397 million, according to a Defense Department report. That’s about $2.6 million per detainee, given there are currently 155 detainees. So we’re OK with spending more money than my parents will ever earn in a lifetime on a prisoner per year, but not OK with giving students struggling to escape the poverty cycle the opportunity to reach their full potential, the opportunity to a higher level education? I’m not. I’m also not satisfied that 20% of our national budget goes to military and defense funding. Let me put that in perspective. We are spending more money on defense than the next eight countries, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and India COMBINED are. Sure, we do need a strong military. But we also need to recognize that a strong economy, not burdened by an $18 trillion and rising deficit, is essential for providing the resources to meet future threats.
Obama ends his speech by touching on equality, human dignity, civil rights, and most importantly, unity. Unity among political parties, unity among the American people, unity among the United States of America. We may have different views, and debate certainly is healthy, but let’s not let our parties’ political agendas step before our own moral compasses, or before our work in doing what’s best for America.
In other words, no more of this:
As he fondly reminded his Republican colleagues, Obama truly has no more campaigns to run. (He won both of them.) No more catering towards the political pundits or the political extremists, but towards the American people.
(If you’re interested in the Republican response delivered by Joni Ernst, here you go.)