All Articles Tagged "state of the union"

Obama To Honor Gun Violence Victims With Empty Seat At SOTU

January 10th, 2016 - By Ashley Monaé
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With his last term in the White House coming to a close, President Obama is doing all that he can to dedicate his time to pushing gun control and educating Americans on why taking action on such matters are important, since Congress has not passed legislation doing so.

In an effort to continue this task of executive action, Obama has decided to leave a seat empty in the first lady’s box to honor slain victims due to gun violence during the State of the Union address on Tuesday (Jan.12), The Huffington Post reported. Historically, the process of deciding who will sit next to the first lady takes a significant amount of time, but instead of a high-profile figure, Obama felt it was only right to use that opportunity to reflect on larger issues the country is facing at large.

“We want them to be seen and understood that their absence means something to this country,” Obama said.

A White House official explained, “because they need the rest of us to speak for them. To tell their stories. To honor their memory. To support the Americans whose lives have been forever changed by the terrible ripple effect of gun violence—survivors who’ve had to learn to live with a disability, or without the love of their life. To remind every single one of our representatives that it’s their responsibility to do something about this.”

President Obama Focuses On Economic Growth, The Middle Class During SOTU

January 21st, 2015 - By Tonya Garcia
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President Obama, who some had expected might deliver a State of the Union address befitting a lame duck, instead touted economic growth and pressed for more policies to help the middle class. Obama used the annual podium to talk about low gas prices (below $2 per gallon), job creation, more Americans getting healthcare, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drawing to a close and high graduation rates. He also talked about the future, a discussion that started a couple of weeks ago when he proposed free community college for those who can maintain the GPA, enhancements to cybersecurity, paid and sick leave for workers, more access to broadband internet and more tax breaks for the middle class. ICYMI, here’s the transcript of his speech. Overall, the theme was one of “middle class economics.”

He challenged the Congress to discuss policies with solutions and compromise in mind. And he hit on some controversial topics, from further opening relations with Cuba to tackling climate change.

But the topic of helping the middle class is where he spent a good chunk of time as opposed to benefits for poor Americans, which Republicans tend to frame as “entitlements” that the country can’t afford.

Still, in order to help the middle class, Obama suggested higher taxes for the rich, which Republicans have a problem with as well. And now they have big wins in the midterm elections to fall back on, saying the people have spoken and it’s their policies that they’ve selected.

“He has ignored the will of the people, instead choosing to offer up the same tired and failed policy proposals we’ve seen unsuccessfully implemented for the past six years,” The Wall Street Journal quotes Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

For the President, helping the middle class means enacting laws and benefits that help women, such as help paying for child care and equal pay. He also talked about raising the minimum wage and the struggle to live on $15,000 per year.

The Daily Beast framed the proposals as a “dare”; that the American people will be looking for a piece of the prosperity that seems to be going almost exclusively to the one percent. And now that the economy is doing better people will start to feel like these are investments we can make. With an approval rating on the rise, the President can afford to apply some pressure.

So even faced with a majority Republican Congress, President Obama gave a confident SOTU. And then there was this epic shade.

OMG… for days. And then VP Joe Biden on backup with the mean mug remix. Also, this.

The environment. Unemployment. ISIL. Which moment has you talking this morning?

Obama, Congress & States Moving To Raise The Minimum Wage; Experts Argue Over The Impact

January 30th, 2014 - By Tonya Garcia
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via @WhiteHouse

via @WhiteHouse

During President Obama’s State of the Union address, he announced that he will raise the minimum wage for federally contracted workers through an executive order that will bring the hourly pay up to $10.10 from $7.25. According to the AP, the raise will only affect 10 percent of the total 2.2 million contracted workers and might not be renewed with those contracts come up for renewal. Nonetheless, security guards, housekeepers, and other low-wage workers can, and probably would, fight to hang on to and increase that amount.

This effort to raise wages is part of what President Obama called the “year of action.” Socioeconomic inequality will be a big focus.

“Those at the top have never done better,” the President said during his speech. “But average wages have barely budged. Inequality had deepened. Upward mobility has stalled.”

The President joins 10 states, including Arizona, Ohio, and Rhode Island, that have raised the minimum wage while Congress debates back and forth on the issue.

“That said, raising the minimum wage in and of itself can drastically raise the number of people affected. If the federal minimum wage grew to $10.10, suddenly not only the current minimum wage-earners (at $7.25 per hour) would be affected, but all of the $8 and $9 per hour workers likewise would slip below that bar and would need a raise,” according to US News“According to the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive economic think tank, 30 million Americans would get raises in this circumstances.”

The Economic Policy Institute has a petition on its website that has been signed, according to the site, by 600 economists, advocating for a $10.10 minimum wage.

“The vast majority of employees who would benefit are adults in working families, disproportionately women, who work at least 20 hours a week and depend on these earnings to make ends meet. At a time when persistent high unemployment is putting enormous downward pressure on wages, such a minimum-wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers,” the petition says.

Still, there’s debate over the impact of this increase.

“It’s important to understand who’s earning the minimum wage. Very few people are raising families on the minimum wage alone—for instance, just nine percent of employees affected by the $10.10 number that Congress is discussing are single parents. By contrast, 60 percent of affected employees are either living at home with family and relatives or they’re a second- or third- earner,” Michael Saltsman, research director at The Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit organization that researches issues surrounding entry-level employment, told us via email.

Support for minimum wage hikes is growing, but the debate over who will benefit — and who will benefit most — continues. This Washington Post story has a series of charts that break down the impact that a $10.10 increase would have on various demographics.

“But there’s no question that a large share of the American workforce earns wages well below $10.10 and would be directly affected as long as their jobs aren’t lost,” the article says.

Will President Obama’s State of the Union Address Ease Americans’ Worries About The Inequality Gap?

January 25th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Even though the Great Recession came to an end almost five years ago, in June 2009, the gap between the rich and poor is growing at such an alarming rate that President Obama will highlight economic inequality as a priority during his State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

Amazingly, this is one thing all sides of the aisle agree on. Sixty-one percent of Republicans, 68 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents think the gap is widening and has to be addressed, reports USA Today.

And two-thirds of people surveyed in a new USA Today/Pew Research Center Poll, feel the gap is increasing. There is hard evidence: The wealthiest one percent of Americans saw its share of income double from less than 10 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent now. Even though the economy is improving, conditions are not improving for Americans across the board. About six in 10 people revealed in the poll that their family income is lagging behind the cost of living. Another third say they are just breaking even. Only seven percent feel they are ahead.

But Americans don’t just want talk. They want action. An overwhelming 82 percent want the government to reduce poverty. The President is expect to lay out his plan during the speech.

Obama says he understands the concerns. Last month during a speech he warned that higher inequality and lessening upward mobility “pose a fundamental threat to the American dream, our way of life and what we stand for around the globe.”

One way to improve conditions would be through an increased minimum wage, which Obama is pushing for and several states have already adopted. Seventy-three of those polled favor the minimum wage boost from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. They–63 percent–also want federal benefits for the long-term unemployed to be extended. Unfortunately, these proposals have both stalled in Congress.

People are divided on government aid to the poor. Some 49 percent agree government aid allows people to escape poverty. But 44 percent, say it makes people too dependent on government assistance.

However, only a third surveyed back the traditional Republican view that the private sector must step up. Instead  54 percent say increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations to support programs for the poor would reduce poverty.

Despite the obvious inequality, Americans still believe in the American dream, found the USA Today survey. Sixty percent continue to believe that if you work hard, you will be rewarded. But a majority complain the country’s economic system “unfairly favors the wealthy.” Still about half say those who are rich are so because they worked harder, not due to more advantages in life.

And Americans  don’t blame the poor: “By 50 percent-35 percent, they say poverty is generally a result of circumstances beyond a person’s control, not a lack of effort,” reports USA Today.

Despite the optimism, Americans want the gap closed. Wages have been stagnant for 10 or more years and millions remain unemployed. All of this has hurt Obama’s job-approval rating.  Less than half of Americans– 43 percent–approve; 49 percent say he’s doing poorly. This is the lowest his approval rating in the Pew poll  since 2009, when Obama was first inaugurated. Just a year ago, he had a 52 percent approval rating.

What do you want to hear in Obama’s State of the Union speech?

No Respect: Fox News Anchors Mock Desiline Victor, The 102-Year-Old Woman Who Waited In Line Three Hours To Vote

February 15th, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Source: AP

Source: AP

A couple of days ago, we told you about Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old woman who received a standing ovation during President Obama’s State of the Union address for her admirable decision to wait in line three long hours so that she could vote in the 2012 election. Most considered her deed to be admirable, as such an extended wait-time would’ve deterred many. Most except Fox News Radio anchors, Brian Kilmeade, Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer, who expressed that they couldn’t understand what the “big deal” was during an episode of Kilmeade & Friends.

“How long was she on line?” Hemmer questioned.

“What’s the big deal? She was happy. She waited on line, she was happy that she voted. This is such a non-issue.” MacCallum interjected.

“They held her up as a victim!” Hemmer joked. “What was she the victim of? Rashes on the bottom of her feet?”

Jason Linkins, reporter for HuffPost Politics spoke out against the inappropriate statements made by the hosts during an interview with HuffPost Live.

“It’s weird to mock an 102-year-old woman for the long line she had to wait in. I think generally it’s ideal for 102-year-old women to not have to stand outside in the elements voting. The fact of the matter is this, lines were very much longer in districts where there were a higher percentage of Black and/or Hispanic voters. That is a fact. Another thing is that something on the order of a few hundred thousand voters in Florida just gave up on voting because the lines were so long. “

I hate to be the one who throws race into everything, but I wonder if those same jokes would’ve been thrown around by Kilmeade and his pals if Desiline was of another race.

You can listen to the comments made by the Fox hosts on the following page. Were their jokes inappropriate or are people being sensitive?

President Obama Is Hosting a Google+ Chat Today

February 14th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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Following his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama will be hosting a Google+ Hangout this afternoon to take questions from ordinary Americans.

The event will take place at 4:50 p.m. ET and will be live on,, and the White House Google+ page. The White House webpage has a link for submitting questions to this latest “Fireside Hangout.”

This hangout will take place after the President’s visit to Decatur, GA to talk about education issues. This is the second of three SOTU follow-up trips Obama has scheduled to discuss issues brought up during the speech. He’ll be speaking today at a preschool center; he’s proposing a Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program.

“Some Republicans called Obama’s plans too expensive and ill-conceived in an era of high debt,” USA Today writes.

Universal preschool was one of many areas that President Obama discussed the other day. We round up nine of them here. He was in Asheville, NC yesterday to talk about jobs.

Separately but related, Deadline Hollywood reports that the ratings for the State of the Union address were down 11.3 percent from 2012 to 37.3 million viewers. The all-time low was President Clinton’s 1993 address, which had about 31.5 million viewers.

9 Big Issues Covered in the State Of The Union Address

February 13th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool

Last night, President Obama gave the first State of the Union address of his second term (we live tweeted it here) and he raced through a number of big issues that he’d like to see Congress act on in the coming months. One of those issues, and possibly most unexpected, was a higher minimum wage.

But there were others that will be up for debate — among Congresspeople and voters alike. Here, we outline nine of the big ones. And in the comments, feel free to chime in with your thoughts and debate. That’s democracy at work!

SOTU Surprise: President Obama Calls for $9 Per Hour Minimum Wage And the Debate Begins

February 13th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

In a proposal that broadcasters said was a surprise, President Obama called for a raise in the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour, up from the current $7.25. He justified the proposal by calling out the disgrace that it truly is when a person works all week and still makes less than a living wage. Of course, many workers and worker’s advocates support the move.

“But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year,” he said (transcript courtesy of PolicyMic). Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.”

The proposal would increase the minimum wage in stages through 2015. The last time there was a raise in the minimum wage was 2007, says CNN. The outlet quotes Bureau of Labor stats that put the number of people earning the minimum wage at 5.8 million, or about 5.2 percent, not counting workers like maids, who get a fixed weekly wage.

No sooner had the words left his mouth did economists and others begin the debate about whether this is a good idea. On its face, of course we want hard-working people to be in a more stable financial position. But some say that there are other considerations that could end up making the higher wage a negative.

“[E]mployer groups say that raising the federal minimum wage would cost jobs, and hiking state rates doesn’t help reduce poverty,” writes CNN. “Studies have projected a loss of at least 467,500 positions were the hourly rate to go up to $9.80, according to the Employment Policies Institute, which advocates for employers. The most recent boost meant that 114,000 fewer teens had jobs.” A previous bill to raise the minimum wage to $9.80 by 2014 stalled. The article says that if the minimum wage kept up with the cost of living, it would actually be $10.56 per hour.

That sentiment is seconded by The Wall Street Journal, which says that Republicans and business groups will oppose the pay hike. There are some who say that raising the minimum wage will increase spending by those earning more money. Others say it will lead to job cuts as employers lay off workers they can no longer afford. Still others say that if you’re trying to alleviate poverty, this will have a very limited impact, and will benefit higher-income earners in a kind of trickle-up effect.

“The White House wants to force wealthier Americans to pay higher taxes by eliminating tax breaks, and it is now calling for wage increases for poorer Americans,” writes the Journal. “Many Republicans oppose raising taxes and oppose raising the minimum wage, but they could face a test in their new public campaign to appeal to middle-class and low-income Americans.” The President was quick to point out that a minimum wage increase was also supported by Mitt Romney.

The effort to raise the minimum wage comes at a time when there are some signs of economic recovery — stock market highs and employers hiring — and there is a need to offer support to lift people out of poverty. The Journal says that the poverty rate in this country is at 15.9 percent, or 48.5 million in 2011. Reuters quotes some business owners and experts who say that it’ll actually put teenagers, immigrants, and those lacking skill out of work.

Those arguments in opposition bring up the bigger problem of education and creating a skilled workforce that can earn a living in this modern marketplace. That’s where other issues like universal pre-school, beefing up jobs in the energy sector, and making college more affordable become critical pieces of the entire puzzle.

President Obama To Deliver State of the Union On February 12

January 11th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

House Speaker John Boehner has invited President Obama to deliver the first State of the Union address of his second term on February 12, which also happens to be President Lincoln’s birthday.

The invitation came with a short note saying, in part, “Our nation continues to face immense challenges, and the American people expect us to work together in the new year to find meaningful solutions… For that reason, the Congress and the Nation would welcome an opportunity to hear your plan and specific solutions for addressing America’s great challenges.”

As Marketwatch reporter Polya Lesova notes, the address will be delivered amid continued fiscal cliff discussion about entitlements and spending. Though the fiscal cliff fight was only resolved a couple of weeks ago, there are still lots to disagree about, and we’ll be touching the debt ceiling again in a few short weeks.

The inauguration is happening on January 21. Beyonce, Usher, Stevie Wonder, and John Legend are among those scheduled to perform.

If Given a Choice: Would You Stay in America or Leave?

May 14th, 2012 - By Charing Ball
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If you couldn’t tell by now, I am infatuated by race and identity in this country, particularly how we as black folks relate to both race and identity.

My general belief is that our inability to reconcile with or even denounce one or the other is the main causation for why our community struggles to progress in this country. In short, we are serving two masters: We are trying to buy/work our way into the American dream while also trying to fix and build the community. I have found that those two concepts are often in opposition to each other, which is often demonstrated by our reluctance at times to unify and work together. And sometimes I wonder if Abraham Lincoln had followed through on his plans to resettle recently freed blacks back in Africa, where would be now?  However, the way in which some of us refuse to act in our own self-interest, especially politically, I wonder if emancipation and self-determination is what we really want?

Those questions are very important to answer if we are ever going to properly educate children, build economic infrastructures and generally move the community ahead. However, those questions are as old as our history in this country itself. And many great leaders, from the likes of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and both Malcolm and Martin, have all been debating for hundreds of years and yet have failed to reach a consensus. So in an effort to once and for all settle this debate, let’s put our thinking caps on and consider this hypothetical situation. Keyword: hypothetical.

Before I get to the actual theoretical situation, let me tell you first about the inspiration. Last week, I was re-watching “Cosmic Slop,” an early 90s television special, which originally aired on HBO. The series is like Twilight Zone but with an anthology of stories about race relations. One such story is called Space Traders, a 30-minute short about a U.S. President faced with the dilemma of having a clean environment, and living in world peace and prosperity in exchange for giving all the black people on the planet away to bartering aliens, who offer no assurance of their intention with them.  The story first appeared in Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, a book written by scholar and Critical Race Theorist Professor Derrick Bell.  And while I won’t give away the story, I’ll just say that people shouldn’t be surprised how that story ended.

But in that situation, the black community didn’t have a choice.  SO in the spirit of the late great scholar Professor Derrick Bell, mixed with a little John Quinones of the “20/20″’ show “What Would You Do?” fame, I’ll give us one.

Let’s pretend that it is the year 2013. President Obama has won his second term as President of the United States. He is standing at the podium, in front of a live audience, giving the first State of the Union Address of his second term. He spells out his goal for fixing the economy, he talks about immigration, he gives his plan for gay, lesbian and transgendered equality and now, for the first time in his presidency, he speaks about a black agenda.