Tag: Obama

President Obama’s State of the Union Address

On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama delivered his seventh State of the Union Address. This time, he was more confident and enthusiastic than we have seen since the beginning of his term.

“The shadow of crisis has passed,” Obama said in his speech. “And the State of the Union is strong.”

This was how the president introduced his message to the world.

The president went on to outline many economic indicators that have significantly improved over the past few years: unemployment rates, fuel prices, stock exchange rates, etc. Then, with a smile and a wink, President Obama declared: “This is good news people.”

The presidential address has often been used for outlining specific agenda items and detailed proposals the president wants implemented. However, President Obama used this address more so as one to encourage faith in the nation’s economy and future.

In fact, about half of his speech was dedicated to highlighting the hardships Americans have gone through since the Great Recession. By reminding viewers of where the nation was when he took office, the president was able to reflect on how far it has since come.

While President Obama used his time to convince us of a ‘turning of the page,’ he did not completely forfeit the opportunity to spout off a few of his own policy proposals. This package, he announced, is centered on an idea of middle class economics.

What is that? Middle class economics, to the president, means: affordable child care, guaranteed paid sick/maternity leave, gender pay equality, raising the minimum wage, free community college, and the opportunity to lower monthly student loan payments – just to name a few.

Now, just because the president proposed it does not mean it will become reality. Oddly, the president seemed like one whose party had just taken over Congress – not one that lost its majorities just two months ago.

President Obama is entering this seventh year of his presidency with a Congress completely controlled by the opposing party. It’s safe to say that he has an uphill battle with almost all of his agenda proposals.

One only has to glance at the election returns from the 2014 midterm elections. The American people gave a resounding mandate for conservatism and a shift to the right in national policy: specifically concerning domestic policies like those that President Obama discussed in his speech.

As for the President’s proposals? Well, the proverbial proof is in the pudding.  We will see how far his poise and confidence will get him with this new Congress.

Whether or not any of his policies are given the light of day is one thing. Whether or not he will veto legislation that goes against his vision is another.

But one thing’s for sure; the American people have always appreciated a confident, strong-standing leader – even if they disagree wholeheartedly with his policy positions.

Brett Johnson
Staff Writer

Do you want a degree for free?

President Barack Obama has announced a proposal to provide free community college education to any student with a 2.5 GPA. Too good to be true? Perhaps.

As someone considering a career in higher education, it’s hard for me to say that millions of dollars in funding (and likely new jobs) for community colleges isn’t the best thing. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

Let’s first consider some implications that come along with such sweeping reform. First, the biggie: where in the world will this money come from? Many will answer: China, duh!

Everyone is well aware of the lackluster financial situation of the federal budget. Yet the president’s plan would cost $6 billion per year and $60 billion over 10 years.

The plan would also require states to opt-in to the program and provide 25 percent of the funding. Let’s stop here.

Alabama has already rejected an “opt-in” deal where the federal government has offered to pay: 100 percent of the costs for Medicaid expansion for the first three years, and 90 percent after that. Comparatively, it’s hard to imagine Alabama opting into the college plan, if it were to pass Congress.

But what if Alabama did opt in? What would it mean for education in Alabama? First off, it would mean thousands of Alabamians would have a shot at higher education that they never would have before.

On the other hand, the program would require states that opt in to “meet certain academic requirements.” Translation: “Schools who take the money will be subject to more federal academic regulations.”

This ambiguity can make a higher education professional cringe. As a condition, I would prefer to see those “certain requirements” spelled out before my school or state signed its collegiate programs over carte blanche.

The plan is modeled after a similar program signed into law by the State of Tennessee last year. In my State and Local Politics course (go back to sophomore year), we studied a theory that referred to states and localities as “laboratories of democracy.”

In this case, Tennessee is the laboratory. Free college education the experiment. With the Tennessee program being implemented in 2015, and no empirical evidence of success yet determined, some are concerned it’s a bit soon to be duplicating the experiment nationwide.

All these concerns aside, President Obama’s proposal faces an uphill battle in Congress – now completely controlled by Republicans. With an overwhelming conservative mandate from the 2014 midterm election, it’s doubtful many GOP members will support such a vast new spending measure.

Though it may not pass Congress, the plan is generating lots of buzz in the media, on campus and in the public.

The lasting effect of President Obama’s proposal may not be that community college becomes immediately free for thousands of Americans.

It may be that free higher education becomes a part of the discussion for millions of Americans. And that can be just as powerful as any bill in Congress.

Brett Johnson
Political Columnist