The State of the Union & You

January 29, 2014

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Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University summed up the State of the Union address like this:

“A State of the Union speech, whether something goes in the speech or not, is not just about what sounds good to the audience, but political choices like, ‘If we do that, it might make it harder to pass what we want.”

And that’s basically what we saw Tuesday night.

President Obama delivered his State of the Union speech, and in doing so made his pitch to the public to see action on a wide variety of policies. In fact, that’s what he dubbed 2014: “A year of action.” But in the age of 500 other cable channels begging to be surfed, chances are you may have missed parts of the speech. So, let’s sift through the punditry and the talking heads to focus in on the parts that could impact you.

state-of-the-union-minimum-wage-2014Raising the Minimum Wage

Speaking of action, the president wants congress to make this a priority. However, he’s willing to go it alone if necessary.

“I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour — because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.” 

This sure sounds good because according to the Labor Department, 3.6 million workers currently make minimum wage or below. And even those making a little more would get a boost if the wage went up to $10.10. However, there’s a downside: some might lose their jobs or hours if employers respond to higher wages by reducing their labor. Be aware of that.

That Affordable Care ActAffordable-Care-Act

The president’s message on Obamacare was simple: time to sign up — especially the young adults.

“That’s why, tonight, I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31st. Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind — plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.”

Aside from trying to get you to talk to your mom, young people are a major component of the health care law. Check out our explanation of the ACA to see exactly why this is.

u.s. department of education Higher Learning

Obama used his address to once again call on legislators and college leaders to “shake up” the system of higher education. And that’s a good call. Specifically, he called on the Department of Education to increase awareness for student loan borrowers about income-drive repayment plans. If this sounds familiar, it should. We broke down the student loan bill that was signed into law back in August that was aimed at addressing student loan debt. But it remains a hot topic.

…we need to take action on college affordability and student loan debt – not just for individual students and families, but for our nation’s economic health as well,” said Ethan Senack, a higher education associate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, “we can’t afford to bury a generation of Americans in student loan debt.”

But it’s not just about student loans. The president also want to shake up the system of higher education by “[giving] parents more information, and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education,” Obama said. We’ll actually have much more on this next week.

The State of the Union address has been around since President Washington first addressed a joint session of Congress in 1790. It has since evolved into the media conglomerative that it is today. But the one thing that has remained the same since the beginning is its vision to lay out a more perfect union for all of us, regardless of who is giving it. So, take a little time to see what it could mean for you.




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