By Laura Woods, Contributor
Did you watch Tuesday’s State of the Union address? If you didn’t get a chance to catch President Obama’s annual address to the nation, now is the time to get caught up. The following recap includes 20 key points the president touched on that could have an impact on your wallet.
1. Free Two-Year College Education: The president noted that 40 percent of college students attend community college. Consequently, he announced a proposed plan allowing all Americans to attend two years of community college tuition-free, if they keep their grades up and graduate on time.
2. Free Broadband: Last November, the president asked the Federal Communications Commission to categorize broadband internet comparable to a public utility. He reinforced this notion in his speech by saying “I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”
3. Taxing the Rich: President Obama called for a number of changes to stop the rich from getting tax breaks they don’t need. “Let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth,” Obama said.
4.Tax Breaks for the Middle Class: To help middle class families afford expenses like child care, college, health care, housing and saving for retirement, the president noted that his budget proposed lowering the taxes of working people. He said this should result in “putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.”
5. Our Economy Is on the Rise: The president’s economic outlook was promising. “Our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999,” Obama said.
6. Gas Prices Have Dropped: We reduced our dependence on foreign oil and now America is the leader in oil and gas production. He noted that lower gas prices and higher fuel standards should save the average family $750 per year.
7. Taxpayer-Funded Bailouts Are History: President Obama assured the American people that we have new tools in place to avoid any more taxpayer-funded bailouts, such as the $85 billion AIG bailout in 2008. He said there is a new consumer watchdog in place to protect people from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices.
8. Decrease in the Deficit: The president noted that the deficit has been cut by two-thirds. It totaled $1.4 trillion when he took office, dropping to a 2014 projection of $506 billion and a 2015 estimate of $469 billion.
9. The Stock Market Has Doubled: Since he took office, the president noted that the stock market has doubled. This signifies a much stronger American dollar.
10. Slower Rate of Health Care Inflation: The president stated that health care inflation is currently at its lowest rate in 50 years. In 2013, total U.S. health care spending only increased by 3.6 percent, the lowest single-year rise in history.
11. Incentivizing U.S. Companies to Create Domestic Jobs: It’s certainly no secret that many companies keep their operations abroad to enjoy cheap labor and sidestep taxes. The president called for an end to these practices by closing loopholes that allow companies to realize greater profits abroad and rewarding those who bring jobs back home.
12. Wages Are Starting to Rise Again: “We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007.” A National Federation of Independent Business survey reflects this, showing that an increasing number of small business owners plan to raise wages.
13. Child Care Tax Cut: The president stated that “we need affordable, high-quality child care more than ever.” He noted that this issue is a “must-have” and shouldn’t be treated as a “side issue or a women’s issue.” Consequently, he proposed a $3,000 child care tax credit per child, per year.
14. Paid Sick Days: “Today, we’re the only advanced country on earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.” To combat this, Obama proposed a bill that gives every worker in America the chance to earn seven days of paid sick leave per year.
15. Raise Americans’ Wages: President Obama noted that women still aren’t earning the same pay as men, workers aren’t receiving the overtime pay they deserve and the minimum wage is not enough to live on — and he said this needs to change. He challenged members of Congress who refuse to raise the minimum wage to try supporting their own families on less than $15,000 per year.
16. Reduce Monthly Student Loan Payments: The president acknowledged that many Americans carry heavy monthly student loan payments that they’re struggling to pay. He said he wants to work with Congress to help these people reduce their monthly payments, so this financial burden doesn’t hold them back as much.
17. Encourage Companies to Offer Paid Training: CVS and UPS received accolades for offering educational benefits and paid apprenticeships to employees — allowing people without a higher education to gain the skills needed to earn higher-paying jobs. President Obama asked other companies to follow their lead and offer the same training benefits.
18. Hire Veterans to Fill Open Positions: The president noted that Joining Forces, a national campaign founded by the First Lady and Jill Biden, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs. “So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran,” the president said.
19. New Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan: “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet,” Obama said. He noted that Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this and urged the parties to work together to create a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could add more than 30 times as many jobs each year and make our country stronger for decades.
20. Closing Guantánamo Bay: The president said it costs $3 million per prisoner to keep the Guantánamo Bay detention camp open. He noted that the world condemns the facility and terrorists use it to recruit, so he vowed to shut it down for good.
Photo credit: Nick Knupffer