State Of the Union: Obama Unveils Ambitious Jobs Agenda

Barack Obama State of the UnionIt's not a surprise that jobs and the economy featured prominently in President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday. But still, Obama mentioned the word "jobs" 46 times in speech, more than he did for any of his prior presidential addresses, signifying what will be the focus of his second term. (Last year's tally was 43, and from 2009-2011, his mentions of "jobs" were only in the teens and 20s.)

If his first term will forever be remembered for health care reform, then Obama made clear Tuesday that turning around America's economy and creating jobs ranks high among his goals for the second term. "It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth -- a rising, thriving middle class," he said.

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He set out several major proposals, some of which were striking for their ambition:

Raise the minimum wage. In perhaps the boldest stroke of the evening, Obama called for bumping up the national minimum wage to $9 an hour. Currently, the figure stands as $7.25 an hour, which results in a $14,500-a-year-salary for a full-time worker. That's below the poverty line for a family with two kids, Obama noted. "That's wrong," the president said. The last time the minimum wage was raised was in 2009. And as The Washington Post notes, such an increase would represent the largest minimum wage since 1981, after adjusting for inflation.

Invest in worker training for a digital economy. Obama cited success in creating jobs in the manufacturing sector, which he said has added 500,000 jobs over the past three years. The availability of cheap labor overseas shouldn't prevent manufacturing jobs here in America, he argued, and so the sector must adapt to the digital age. He mentioned the success of a so-called innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio, which turned a closed warehouse into a training station for 3-D printing. Three more such hubs throughout the country will soon be opened, the president said.

Create jobs in the energy sector. By 2020, America is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest oil producer, the International Energy Agency says. (The U.S. is already the world's largest producer of gas, recently surpassing Russia.) This development is an obvious opportunity for jobs creation. The kind of jobs that Obama foresaw in his speech include those that make more efficient use of the new energy, such as work on technical innovations that would double "the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas."

Spark a new 'new deal.' Obama returned once again to the issue of jobs creation through infrastructure, a drive that both harkens back to the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt and fell by the wayside after his 2011 jobs speech to a joint session of Congress. This time around, Obama made sure to couch the issue in a market context, presumably to gain the support of business leaders. He said that by putting workers on the 70,000 deficient bridges in a "Fix-It-First" program, industry will get what it needs most: "modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm."

Give students a practical education. That America needs to rethink how it educates its youth to prepare them for the workplace of the future has been said before. Obama embraced the view in his State Of The Union address, saying the country needs to "equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy." Rewards would go to schools that develop partnerships with colleges and with employers that have a focus on the hard sciences, though he didn't provide much in the way of specifics. (He was similarly vague about plans to put returning veterans back to work.)

But how will he get Republicans to support his agenda? Mindful of his political moment, and the drive on the right to cut all new spending, Obama stressed that "nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime." The attempt to transform America as a middle-class-centric society will need all the help it can get.

What do you think of Obama's proposals to create jobs? Share your comments below.

Obama Gives 2013 State Of The Union Address

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All talk and no action

February 25 2013 at 10:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Obama is a bore. Does anyone take him seriously anymore?

February 13 2013 at 4:10 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Bruce Allen

The minimum wage was never meant to support a family. Geez,this guy is a mess. Really? Four more years of him?

February 13 2013 at 3:08 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

While President Obama prepares for his second term, many Americans are hoping that the next four years aren’t filled with the same failed economic policies and broken promises as the last four years. As the table below shows, from unemployment to housing to debt, the country is worse off than when the President first took office.

I see no fifference after listening to Obama

The Obama's economy record

President Obama’s Hope and Change

Long-Term Unemployed1 2.7 Million 4.8 Million +78%
Workforce Dropouts2 50.1 Million 54.6 Million +10%
Food Stamp Recipients3 22.8 Million 46.6 Million +104%
Price of Gas4 $1.85 $3.30 +78%
“High Unemployment” States 22 39 +77%
Misery Index 7.83 9.46 +21%
“Typical” Monthly Family Food Cost $974 $1,023 +5%
Median Value of Single-Family Home8 $196,600 $186,100 -5%
Rate of Mortgage Delinquencies9 6.65% 10.77% +62%
U.S. National Debt $10.6 Trillion $16.6 Trillion +55%

February 13 2013 at 2:05 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Same Old Obama Democrats. Tax More Spend More Kills the Economy. Obama spent more in Four years than George Bush and this is all Bush's fault.

February 13 2013 at 1:59 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Where was the mention of soaring fuel prices oh ya he wants high gas prices dumb of me to forget thats what he has said in the past...

February 13 2013 at 1:33 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
stock market

Go to and read what they have to say about Obama's SOTUA. The man only knows how to lie.

February 13 2013 at 12:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Until Tarriffs are put up against China and the multi-national corporations stop destroying our country with cheap foreign goods nothing will change. Tarriffs against all Chinese imports now!

February 13 2013 at 11:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to audioknot1's comment

Balloon knot (_)*(_)

February 13 2013 at 12:17 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

There is a widespread Pub perception that Dems hurt business and embrace socialism. But Pubs are mistaking CEOs and their cronies for business. Capitalism worked well until about 1990, when CEOs began to divorce the concept of producing good products or services for pay and instead embraced one of: get as much money for ME personally as easily as possible -- take it from the business, take it from the shareholders. We Dems have capitalism in our blood just as Pubs do, but we haven't lost sight of the bottom line - to have a healthy capitalistic system, you need to have a healthy respect for people and ultimately corporations need to take their hand out of the till (except for what is legitamatelly owed them) and provide for both their workers ' wellbeing and their consumers' needs.

February 13 2013 at 11:19 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

Too funny. Energy sector will create more jobs when DC gets off it's collective butts and allows them to. They are already the biggest growth segment so butt out. Infrastructure is supposed to be done by the taxes the feds collect on gas and such but never are used for that. Wonder where that $$$$ is going? States are just as guilty. Not the feds job to have preschool. The minute the feds stuck their hand into education was the minute it started to go down hill. Stick to what the constitution reads for your roll in this country.

February 13 2013 at 11:07 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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