Obama to nation: 'I don't quit'
In an era of economic uncertainty, President Barack Obama took the stage in front of millions of Americans to deliver his first State of the Union Address yesterday in Washington, D.C.
Obama focused on issues ranging from the economy, health care and higher education. Although he took office during a difficult time, he said the nation is slowly recovering, but much more needs to be done.
'One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse and a government deeply in debt,' Obama said. 'Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted - immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.'
There are still more issues to resolve, Obama said. One in 10 Americans still have trouble finding jobs, home values continue to decline and many businesses have shut down.
'For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough,' Obama said. 'They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded but hard work on Main Street isn't, or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems.'
Obama spoke of what his administration has accomplished, such as extending unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans, making health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA and passing 25 different tax cuts for 95 percent of working families.
'As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, and food, and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers,' Obama said. 'And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.'
Obama said because of the steps his administration took, more jobs have been created for about two million people.
'The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act,' Obama said. 'Economists on the left and the right say that this bill has helped save jobs and avert disaster.'
But one of the job sectors that is not prospering the same way is the private business sector, he said.
Obama said he plans to take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses credit, and a new small business tax credit that will aid more than one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages.
'While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment,' Obama said.
He also proposed plans to create more construction projects and clean energy projects nationwide to create more jobs.
'The House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps. As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same,' Obama said. 'People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay.'
But Obama said regardless of his plans to create more jobs, nothing can make up for the seven million jobs lost in the past two years.
Obama also spoke about improving the nation's education system by renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, improving community college education and making higher education more affordable.
'The price of college tuition is just one of the burdens facing the middle class,' he said.
Eagleton Institute of Politics Associate Director John Weingart said Obama delivered his speech during a problematic period where prominent issues such as the economy and health care reform are affecting the mood and spirit of the country.
'I think there is a national mood of something like worry and disappointment,' Weingart said.
One of the biggest challenges Obama was facing as he gave his address was trying to make people aware of what he has accomplished, Weingart said.
'The public focus has come to be on what his administration has failed to accomplish and not at all on what it has accomplished,' he said.
Another issue is since Obama took his seat in office in 2009, Congress has not worked in a bipartisan manner, causing a lot of problems for his administration, Weingart said.
'The ability of the Congress and the president to work together seems limited at the moment,' he said.
Weingart said the speech was vital for Obama to set an agenda on what needs to be resolved and to make plans for the future.
'I think it's a very important moment for him - it's [the] start of his second year as president,' Weingart said. 'It's an opportunity for him to layout what 'hellip; needs to be accomplished.'
Rutgers Democrats President Alex Holodak said Obama is facing the nation in an era of economic uncertainty, where he has a lot of issues to resolve, and a lot of issues that are not being handled effectively, such as health care reform.
'I've been disappointed with the way Democrats are running things. It seems like there has been a loss of leadership,' said Holodak, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
He said one of the larger issues the Obama administration should focus on is the high unemployment rate, because matters are not getting any better as people are still losing their jobs and homes every day.
'We need to get people back to work and create more jobs,' Holodak said.
Rutgers University College Republicans member Benjamin DeMarzo said the Obama administration and the public have been so concerned about health care reform that they failed to recognize other issues that were put to the side, like the recession.
'The biggest issue facing the country is the recession. There's nothing more pressing than losing your job or home,' said DeMarzo, a Rutgers College senior.
DeMarzo said Obama's first year in office was disappointing for him.
'The first year has been a 'hellip; failure. [Obama needs to start] planning for the future for the American people to have faith in him,' DeMarzo said.
Obama said regardless of the many issues and disappointments facing the American people today, his administration still plans to work harder to resolve issues including the economy and health care reform.
'We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us,' Obama said. 'We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment to start anew, to carry the dream forward and to strengthen our union once more.'