“Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road,” President Obama said, making another economic argument. ”Every dollar that we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on.” He lauded German schools, whose high school degrees are the equivalent of U.S. technical degrees. And he said that colleges must provide value for what students pay in tuition.
His proposal: Make high-quality preschool available to every child in America by supporting state programs, as well as reward schools that partner with colleges and employers to properly train high school students in science, technology, engineering and math—skills that are in high demand. Finally, he announced that his administration would debut a new “College Scorecard” that rates schools based on the return on tuition paid.
Raise the Minimum Wage
At the beginning of his speech, the president said, “Corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs, but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.” He revisited this topic pointedly, noting that a full-time employee earning minimum wage only takes home about $14,500 a year, which is below the federal poverty line.
His proposal: Raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour, plus tie it to cost of living increases.
The Republican Response
Senator Marco Rubio from Florida gave the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union. His rebuttals included:
- A claim that President Obama believes free enterprise is “the cause of our problems. The economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.”
- A critical assessment of Obamacare, which Senator Rubio said was not only taking away insurance from some Americans, but it was also forcing businesses to lay people off.
- A call that President Obama “abandon his obsession with raising taxes.”
The president clearly has lofty ambitions for his second term, but he’ll need to convince an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to pass legislation supporting his proposals. Can he do it?
Photo credit: Flickr/Intel Photos