Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

State of Obama

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

State of Obama

Article excerpt

DECLARING HE will act alone if necessary, President Obama struck out a modest and slightly different path during his State of the Union address Tuesday. The Democratic president made clear he will exercise the constitutional might of his office to act when Congress will not, and at the same time bring renewed energy to his second- term agenda: to expand opportunities for the middle class.

"I'm eager to work with all of you," Obama said. "But America does not stand still, and neither will I."

As expected, the president focused on the economy and income inequality during his hourlong speech. He noted that while millions of formerly unemployed Americans have reentered the workforce since the worst effects of the recession have faded, the wages those workers are making stand in stark contrast to the profits and salaries earned by those at the top of the corporate ladder.

"Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better," Obama said. "But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened."

The priority in Obama's strategy is raising the federal minimum wage. Though his stated goal of increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 remains a long shot of gaining congressional approval, the president said he will use an executive order to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for workers on new government contracts. That action would help workers such as dishwashers on U.S. military bases, federal construction laborers and janitors. The effect would be largely symbolic but would bring urgency to a debate that should have started months ago.

The president also announced executive actions on job training, boosting employment opportunities for the long-term unemployed and putting in place a mechanism to expand retirement savings for low- and middle-income Americans. One initiative on which the president should spur further action is the restoration of unemployment insurance, which Congress recently let expire for 1. …

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