By BENJAMIN HERMERDING
As president of the University of Mary Washington Young Democrats, I was overjoyed to hear our president outline a progressive vision for the year ahead in his recent State of the Union address.
With only two years left in office and “no more campaigns to run,” President Barack Obama delivered a message of reducing inequality and growing our stagnating middle-class. Through “middle-class economics,” the United States can lead the world into the future.
Throughout the address, President Obama raised issues of economic importance to the middle-class: education, health care, inequality, immigration, infrastructure and the environment. He proposed a bold new agenda for each of these issues, while maintaining he will strive for necessary bipartisan compromise.
Much to the chagrin of many in the audience, President Obama pointed to his many successes in office. Obamacare is reducing the number of uninsured Americans and slowing the ballooning costs of health care in the United States. He reminded detractors in the audience, “This is good news, people.” The economy is growing at a clipping rate. The combat mission in Iraq and Afghanistan is finished. Gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in years.
But with these triumphs come problems we must address in the coming two years.
As young adults, we are acutely aware of the burden that college debt has inflicted upon our generation. We understand 21st century jobs require higher education, which we are obliged to pursue. But more education comes at a cost. No generation before ours has been so crippled at the outset by skyrocketing college costs. Decreasing this debt while increasing educational opportunities for Americans is a middle-class priority.
President Obama understands this, which is why he intends on lowering the cost of community college to zero. While some will decry the president’s proposal by using meaningless buzzwords like “welfare state,” we know this investment will drive down our debt, create a more educated populace and, ultimately, make a stronger America.
Our environment stands at the brink of disaster, with climate change a looming problem. The president reminded us that we now lead the world in wind power production and “every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008,” but we must always do more. By declaring he “will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts,” President Obama pledges to protect you and me from climate change naysayers in Congress.
The president must continue to press Congress to pass legislation that increases middle-class livelihoods. Legislation like guaranteed sick time and maternity leave, tax breaks for education and child care, and ensuring that the richest Americans pay their fair share by matching the tax rate paid on capital gains with ordinary income. The economy is coming back and getting stronger thanks to the hard work and efforts of the middle class, a group who plays a crucial role in holding up our economy and moving it forward. President Obama recognizes this, which is why he is putting forward policies that support this group, allow them to benefit from the strengthening economy and continue contributing to its upward climb. This is middle-class economics: legislation that moves us closer to everyone having a fair shot at success.
The president didn’t shirk social issues either. He reminded us of the need to address women’s access to health care and their right to choose, called for a national dialogue on racial tensions and for reforms in the criminal justice system and, along with addressing same-sex marriage, was the first president to address bisexual and transgender rights in a State of the Union address.
To say I was thrilled by President Obama’s address is an understatement. The proposals he laid out are ideas that all Americans can come together on. The path he outlined will set the United States on a progressive path to the future. The University of Mary Washington Young Democrats are excited to fight for this future.