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View from the Hill

Obama's State of the Union: A DTH Analysis

The View from the Hill is a political blog, and any opinions expressed on it do not reflect on the Daily Tar Heel. Staffers broke down the 2014 State of the Union address. Weigh in on the discussion in the comments.

When President Barack Obama delivered his 2014 State of the Union address, he laid out some of what he still hopes to accomplish in the last couple years of his term — and promised to do it with or without Congress.

It’s been a hard year. According to a study by Public Policy Polling, Obama currently has a 37 percent approval rating in North Carolina, the lowest his approval has been in the state.

But Obama opened his speech touting the improvements since he took office, including improved unemployment, lowered deficits and increases in manufacturing.

He stressed that 2014 will be a year of action. Nearly all of his proposals connected back to job creation in some way, even traditionally humanitarian issues like immigration.

“What I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” Obama said. “Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

It seemed like a hint of the days to come, as more executive orders seem to be on the horizon.

Throughout Obama’s 2008 campaign, he frequently criticized President George W. Bush’s use of executive orders. But six years later, Obama has become more comfortable using executive power to enact policy.

Here are some of the initiatives he mentioned in his speech:

Minimum Wage

“If you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.”

Obama announced an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees $10.10 an hour.

Obama also called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 and tied it to the cost of living — something he said he and his former opponent Mitt Romney had both supported.

Environmental Policy

“And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

On environmental policy, Obama’s “yes we did,” phrasing almost harks back to his days in the 2008 campaign, days of “Yes we can”.

He referenced his original “all-of-the-above” energy plan from 2009, which emphasizes use of alternative energy in place of fossil fuels, cutting carbon emissions, and working globally to combat climate change.

Obama shot down climate change deniers, saying, “The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.”

Again, Obama pointed out where he would take action using executive power.

“I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations,” he said.

High-Tech Manufacturing and Job Creation

“We’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies…Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create. So get those bills to my desk and put more Americans back to work.”

Obama also announced the creation of 6 new economic “promise zones” for high-tech manufacturing. Earlier this month, Obama announced the creation of one in Raleigh at N.C. State University.

NCSU will lead a collaboration of business and universities in a manufacturing innovation institute for next generation power electronics. UNC-Charlotte is also looking to lead in high-tech manufacturing by competing for similar federal grants.

Immigration Reform

“When people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”

Immigration reform was hardly mentioned in the speech. There have recently been reports of the Republican party leading immigration reform for the second time since the 2012 election— also not mentioned in the speech.

On immigration reform, rather than speak appealing to the needs of immigrants, Obama spoke about the economic benefits of Immigration reform.

“Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades,” Obama said.

Education

“That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life. It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs.”

That’s a similar message to what we see from Gov. Pat McCrory.

Obama emphasized job training, including improving apprenticeships and community college. But he also found himself repeating some of the same requests he made in previous State of the Union address.

Last year, Obama called on Congress to improve pre-Kindergarten funding.

“As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight,” Obama said.

Obama also mentioned a college summit that UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt attended earlier this month. Obama promised to work with Congress to develop new ways to help students struggling with student debts.

Affordable Care Act

“If you (Republicans) have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice – tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up.”

About 40 minutes into the address, Obama brought up the Affordable Care Act.

He told Republican lawmakers to either come up with an alternate plan — or stop voting against his.

Obama frequently called on outside groups, including business leaders on the minimum wage and citizens to encourage loved ones to enroll in insurance by March 31.

Foreign Policy

“You see, in a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power — including strong and principled diplomacy.”

Throughout the speech, Obama touted his record on national security and foreign policy.

“For the first time in over a decade, business leaders have declared that China is no longer the best place in the world to invest — America is,” said the president, ending the opening of the State of the Union address with a remark concerning the US’s rivalry with China.

Obama also talked about ending permanent long-term military campaigns like Afghanistan and Iraq and working on more counter terrorism.

“And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay,” said Obama, on an issue a promise he had made upon first entering office in 2009

With 98 percent of exporters being small businesses, Obama proposes new trade agreements with Europe and Southeast Asia to increase profits.

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See the whole speech here. And fact check some of the numbers used in tonight’s speech with this chart.

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