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Giorgio: What is the State of Our Union?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

 

Paul Giorgio

Last evening President Barack Obama gave his sixth State of the Union Address to Congress and the American people. With the advent of television and the increasing importance of social media, the State of the Union Address has changed. In early times, Presidents merely sent a message to Congress. Today the President is the messenger, talking directly to the American people.

As expected, President Obama, laid out his agenda for his final two years in office, and it was an aggressive one. Obama clearly sees a continuing shift to the very wealthy in our country. Today the disparity between the poor, the middle class and the rich is at its greatest. We are bordering on an Oligarchy in America.

Shifting the tax burden

Obama’s agenda for the next two years is to shift taxes from the middle class onto the super-rich. He proposed an increase in the Capital Gains Tax from 23.8% to 28% on those people earning over $500,000 per year. He also proposed a tax hike on approximately 100 banks whose assets are above $50 Billion each.

The money that these tax shifts will generate will go to, among other things, tripling the Child Care tax credit for working families and to help pay for free Community College for all Americans.

Free Community College may be one of the most important proposals to come out of the Obama White House since the Affordable Care Act was enacted. College debt is crushing young people and putting them into a state of perpetual poverty. Think about it, the average private college tuition tops $50,000 a year, which means that a great many young people leave college with $200,000 worth of debt. It is hard to buy a house or a car with that kind on debt on your shoulders. And these two sectors drive the American economy.

The President has regained his voice

Six years into his presidency, Obama, has regained his voice and his vision.  The State of the Union is indeed strong. On the day he was sworn in six years ago, yesterday, the Bush Great Recession was in full swing. The Dow Jones Average was at 7949.09. Just before this past Christmas it crossed the 18,000 point mark, an increase of 60 percent. The unemployment rate is at 5.6%, down from a high of 9.6 %. The economy has clearly turned around and Main Street is beginning to prosper.

On the domestic front, the President has some clear challenges in dealing with his first Republican controlled Senate since taking office.  When President Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said his goal was to stop anything Obama wanted to do.  He now has the power to do so.

Obama’s biggest domestic challenge after the economy is immigration reform. This too, is linked to the economy. We need to end the shadow economy and mainstream illegal immigrants so that they can start paying taxes and contribute to social security.

The International stage

On the international front, we have also made great strides.

President Obama is beginning to normalize relations with Cuba, a country we have punished for over 50 years.  Cuba is a nation that we never had a war with such as Japan or Germany or Italy, all of which we have diplomatic relations with and who are our allies. The only ones suffering in Cuba are the people.  

The President has brought the troop levels down in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Our economic sanctions against Russia are working.

The next and last two years of the Obama Presidency will focus on Domestic issues more than on foreign policy problems. Although no one can never predict with certainty, where the next global hot spot will be.  No one could have predicted North Korea’s cyber-attack on Sony Pictures.

Ebola seems to be under control in Africa, with the rates of new infections declining.

As the economy turns around, you will see a steady growth in the President’s approval ratings. He recently crossed the 50% line in the latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll.

The State of the Union is indeed strong.

President Obama’s approval rating has inched above 50%.

 

Related Slideshow: 16 Questions for President Obama

With the announcement that President Barack Obama will be giving the commencement address at Worcester Technical High School's graduation in June, GoLocal asked elected officials and community leaders in Worcester if they had the opportunity to ask the President one question -- what would it be, and why?  

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Tim Murray

"Mr. President, you're here to highlight a successful vocational tech high school -- what can you do as President to lead to more voc-tech opportunities for students across the country, and help bring the resources to help make that happen?"

 
Why:  "As Lieutenant Governor, I focused on these issues.  Oftentimes, vocational schools are overlooked.  I visited all 64 of the schools, and was able to convince the Governor to reestablish an Associate Commissioner position for vocational tech and workforce development.  It's an important issue to me."
 
Tim Murray, Greater Worcester Chamber of Commerce President
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Tom Finneran

"Mr. President, Democratic and Republican Senators and Congressman describe you as aloof and dis-engaged, more interested in "The View" than in their views. Are you aloof and disengaged?

Why: "The reason for the question is to challenge the President to become more engaged with the legislative branch. If he did so, he could forestall his inevitable slide toward lame-duck status."

Tom Finneran, Former Massachusetts Speaker of the House of Representatives 

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Jim McGovern

“I would ask the President how we can work as a community and a nation to replicate the success of Worcester Technical High School across our region, our state, and the country."

Congressman Jim McGovern

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Tim McGourthy

“What is the role of the Federal government in building an educated citizenry?” 

Why: "As states and school districts debate the adoption of national standards in K-12 education, the responsibilities, resources, and powers of the Federal government in the field of education have been challenged.  While restricted from direct involvement in student curriculum since the 1960s, the Federal government includes a U.S. Department of Education and plays a critical role in coordinating and funding educational policy.  In the President of the United States’ view, what are, and what should be, the limits of Federal jurisdiction in public education?"

Tim McGourthy, Greater Worcester Research Bureau Executive Director

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Chris Pinto

"Ask him why he is allowing the EPA to destroy the upper blackstone economy with ridiculous fines. He should reign them in, as they are behaving like jackbooted thugs."

Chris Pinto, Worcester Republican City Committee

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Tony Economou

"I don't have an ask, it's more of a statement, and it goes towards creating policy for our public schools.  If the President is asking cities and states having to do whatever to conform to education standards, see how it will be funded first, then create policy.  I would broach that respectfully."

Tony Economou, Worcester City Councilor

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Morris Bergman

"I would ask the President why there is no effort being made to look into the skyrocketing cost of private colleges and the lack of commensurate financial aid, particularly for the middle class."

Morris Bergman, Worcester City Councilor

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Gary Rosen

"What actions can the President take to restore the reputation and respect that the USA once commanded across the world?"

Gary Rosen, Worcester City Councilor

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Kate Toomey

"I would ask why he isn't doing more to create jobs."

Kate Toomey, Worcester City Councilor

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Michael Graham

“Dear Mr. President, which of your foreign policy successes makes you most proud?”

Why: "Do you really have to ask?"

Michael Graham, New England Talk Network

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John Giangregorio

"I would ask what he's doing about the economy, and jobs, especially for our inner city youth."

Why: "I don't think the unemployment numbers are a true reflection of what's going on.  There's not a lot of opportunity.  People are giving up."

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Paul Giorgio

"I would ask him the same question I asked President Clinton, which is -- can you change the height and weight charts so that I can be "thin"?

Why:  "Everyone would be asking super serious questions, I'm sure."  

Paul Giorgio, President of Pagio, Inc. 

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Carol Claros

"I would want to ask him why is he supporting Common Core and National standards, doesn't he think the local school boards know whats best for our children and their schools?"

Why:  "As a single mom whose daughter is enrolled in WPS, I am very concerned about common core and the deviation from local control into federal hands."

Carol Claros, Nurse, Former Republican Candidate for State Representative

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Jordan Berg Powers

"Why are your pushing the same failed education policies of the Bush Administration with a focus on privatization and meaningless bubble tests instead of focusing on the skills that will enable our kids to create their job of the future?"

Why: "Worcester Tech is both the best and worst parts of our education system. It shows that providing quality education is not rocket science, schools need to be well resourced, they need to be fun, relevant to what the kids themselves believe will be their future plans.  And Worcester Tech is an elitist institution that fails the promise of universal quality public education that should be available to all."

Jordan Berg Powers, Worcester activist

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David Le Boeuf

"After you leave the White House, what is the primary issue that you will continue to advocate for?""

David Le Boeuf, Initiative for Engaged Citizenship, Democratic State Committee member

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Victoria Waterman

The Girls' Inc CEO, one of GoLocal's "14 to Watch in 2014," opted to let girls in the program ask their own quetions instead.  Here is what Waterman reported for what they wanted to know:

Why is the United States in so much debt?

Do you ever wake up scared that something will happen to your family because you’re the President of the USA?

Why are you sending troops across the sea if it has nothing to do with us or is going to affect our country?

Why are people in debt and what will you do to help them?

What is your life like? Is it fun? Is it tiring?

Is being a president stressful?

Who inspired you to be what you are now?

What inspired you to be the president of the United States?

What middle school did you go to?

What do you like to do in the White House?

How do you sleep at night with everything you have to worry about?

Why did you run for President?

Do you like classical music?

Who do you want your pastry chef to be?

Can you convince my mom to give me an Ipod or a Pandora bracelet?

 
 

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