State Of The Union: All About Jobs
President Obama mentioned the word "job" 43 times in his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening. Since 82 percent of Americans consider jobs a top policy priority right now, this focus makes sense for the president as he enters the last year of his term, as well as the election season. Here are his main points on the jobs crisis, and how to solve it:
It's Not His Fault
In a not-so-subtle political jab, Obama emphasized that his policies aren't to blame for America's current jobs crisis. The country lost nearly 4 million jobs before he took office, he explained from the podium, and another 4 million before his policies took full effect. "Those are the facts," he said.
Things Are Getting Better
The economy, to the delight and surprise of many economists, added 200,000 jobs in December. So Obama took time to relish the good news. In the last 22 months, he said, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs, and manufacturers are adding more jobs than at any time since the late 1990s.
Bringing Manufacturing Home
Manufacturing was one of the industries most hammered by the recession. But it had really been declining for decades, as companies increasingly moved their production overseas. In order to reduce the incentive to send jobs offshore, Obama proposed that American companies pay a minimum tax on their overseas profits, and shouldn't get any tax deductions on the costs of shutting down their American factories and taking them thousands of miles away.
On the flip side, he suggested a tax credit for companies that move their manufacturing back home, and proposed a reduced tax rate for domestic manufacturers, and especially ones in the high-tech field.
Unemployment To Re-Employment
To aid the unemployed, Obama spotlighted a number of programs that are finding success in a handful of American cities, which train and place people in jobs through partnerships between businesses and community colleges. Obama hopes to make this the central model, which would help 2 million unemployed Americans, and get rid of the "maze" of current training programs.
Obama said Congress would provide tax credits for companies that hire veterans. He also proposed the idea of a Veterans Jobs Corps, to help cities hire former military personnel as policemen and firefighters.
Everyone Should Finish High School
The next generation, Obama emphasized, needs the education to find work in an American economy that's becoming increasingly high-skilled. Schools, he said, should have evaluation programs that reward good teachers and replace the bad ones. In a bold move, he also encouraged states to pass laws requiring all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.
Everyone Should Be Able To Go To College
"Higher education can't be a luxury," he declared. "It is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford." Obama said Congress should prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling in July and extend the tuition tax credit. He also said that the number of work-study jobs, which enable students to earn their way through college, should double. Adopting a more threatening stance, he also said universities that continue to hike their tuition rates will see a reduction in taxpayer funding.
Develop All The Energy We Have
After Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this month, his speech was distinctly kind to the oil and gas industries. He said the U.S. had to develop all its available energy sources, with a specific emphasis on natural gas. The burgeoning natural gas industry would, he said, create 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.
He also pointed to the green energy industry, as a latent source of massive job creation. The country, he said, needs "a strategy that's cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs."
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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