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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    American flag stock photo by Jung-Pang Wu/Getty Images

    American flag stock photo by Jung-Pang Wu/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Key elements of the economic proposals President Barack Obama will outline in his State of the Union address Tuesday appear to be aimed at driving the debate in the 2016 election on income inequality and middle-class economic issues, rather than setting a realistic agenda for Congress.

    Obama’s calls for increasing taxes on the wealthy, making community college free for many students and expanding paid leave for workers stand little chance of winning approval from the new Republican majority on Capitol Hill. But the debate over middle-class economics is looking critical for the coming campaign.

    “Inequality_and especially the growing opportunity gap_have become the top litmus test of seriousness for 2016,” said Robert Putnam, a Harvard political scientist who has discussed inequality issues with the president and his advisers. “The entry ticket for the presidential sweepstakes is that you have a policy — some policy — for dealing with this issue.”

    Indeed, potential Republican candidates Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney have been talking openly about income inequality and the need to give lower-earning Americans more opportunities. On the Democratic side, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren appears intent on keeping the party focused on a populist economic agenda, even if she doesn’t plan to run for president herself.

    As the nation’s attention increasingly turns to the 2016 election, the Obama White House is making clear that it still wants to set the terms of the economic conversation.

    White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, appearing in a nationally broadcast interview Tuesday morning, said Obama is determined to improve the lives of middle-class Americans. “His mindset is to keep doing everything he can for the middle class,” McDonough said on “CBS This Morning.”

    He said the president wants to make sure “we’re doing everything we can to make sure that middle-class families can succeed.” McDonough said that Obama will not hesitate to veto legislation that doesn’t improve the lot of the middle class.

    The president’s advisers argue that the debate over income equality is one that Democrats have won previously, including in Obama’s victory over Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign and the fiscal cliff fight with Congress that led to the raising of George W. Bush-era tax rates for the wealthiest Americans.

    However, Obama no longer has the political advantage on Capitol Hill that he would need to enact more tax increases. When Obama addresses Congress Tuesday night, he will be standing before a Republican majority in both chambers for the first time in his presidency.

    The president and GOP leaders have spoken about their desire to compromise, but the opening weeks of the new Congress have offered few glimpses of where both sides plan to find common ground. Obama’s economic proposals will do little to move the White House and Republicans closer together, given the GOP leadership’s aversion to raising taxes on wealthy Americans.

    The president’s proposal would increase the capital gains rate on couples making more than $500,000 annually to 28 percent, require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they’re inherited, and slap a fee on the roughly 100 U.S. financial firms with assets of more than $50 billion.

    Administration officials said much of the $320 billion in new taxes and fees would be used for measures aimed at helping the middle class, including a $500 tax credit for some families with two spouses working and a $60 billion program to make community college free.

    Obama is also asking lawmakers to increase paid leave for workers. And he’s moved unilaterally to lower a mortgage insurance rate that could help attract first-time homebuyers.

    The White House cast the president’s measures as steps that can help keep up economic momentum amid a recent spurt of growth that has also seen the unemployment rate fall below 6 percent.

    There has been little Republican support for much of what the White House has rolled out ahead of Obama’s address.

    A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the White House’s tax proposal “the same old top-down approach we’ve come to expect from President Obama that hasn’t worked.” And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is weighing a bid for the GOP presidential nomination, said the president’s approach was outdated.

    “Raising taxes on people that are successful is not going to make people that are struggling more successful,” Rubio said.

    In keeping with State of the Union tradition, first lady Michelle Obama will watch the speech along with invited guests whose stories bring to life some of the policies the president will tout.

    Among those joining Mrs. Obama for this year’s speech are Alan Gross, who was released from a Cuban prison last month as part of Obama’s decision to normalize relations with the communist island nation; Chelsey Davis, a student from Tennessee who plans to graduate community college in May; and Dr. Pranav Shetty, who has been working on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

    The effort to control Ebola is expected to be one of the foreign policy matters Obama addresses in a speech. While the president is not likely to make any major foreign policy announcements, he is expected to tout the formal end of the Afghan war, update the nation on the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and urge lawmakers not to enact new sanctions on Iran while the U.S. and its partners are in the midst of nuclear negotiations with the Islamic republic.

    The post In State of the Union, Obama aims to influence 2016 debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    During your interview, go to the whiteboard if you need to, and draw an outline of how you will approach the job. A good employer will "get" what you're trying to do. Photo by Altrendo Images/Getty Images.

    During your interview, go to the whiteboard if you need to, and draw an outline of how you will approach the job. A good employer will “get” what you’re trying to do. Photo by Altrendo Images/Getty Images.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


    Question: I enjoyed your article “7 steps to a new job — but first, burn your resume” after I got in the door without a resume when I was referred by a friend. I agree that friends — my network — is how it happened the way it did: without a resume.

    In fact, during the interview with a former colleague, we didn’t have the resume in front of us. I never pulled it out while we “caught up.” He spoke about his immediate needs for the business. At the end of the hour, he said that next I will meet with the team that will essentially decide my fate. One of the three team members is another former colleague to whom I was referred. I have to wow the team as they are the deciding vote.

    What can I do to avoid blowing it? Better yet, what can I do to win them?

    Nick Corcodilos: It’s simple. Win them by showing why you’re worth hiring.

    Job applicants are usually so busy trying to answer an interviewer’s questions that they forget what every employer really wants to know, even if they don’t directly ask: Why are you worth hiring? Focus on this underlying issue, and you’ll win them.

    In “Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6, The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire,” I discuss something that every job applicant must ask themselves — and it’s the title of the section that begins on page 8: “How can I demonstrate my value?”

    You might think the meeting is about the job or about you, but it’s always about what you can bring to the bottom line. Here’s the secret to showing an employer why she should hire you: Estimate as best you can how your work produces revenue or reduces costs for the company… If you can’t demonstrate how you will contribute to the bottom line, then be honest with yourself: Why should the employer hire you? Or, why should your employer keep you?

    Here’s another approach to it. Ask the team members who interview you what three challenges they’d want you to tackle if you were hired. Also ask what the “deliverables” are. That is, what will you need to produce to be successful at the job? These must be specific outcomes that can be measured.

    Then, show how you’d go about tackling those challenges, doing the work, producing the outcomes they need — right there in the interview. I call this doing the job to win the job.

    It’s really too bad that very few managers ask candidates to do this in job interviews. Instead, they focus on indirect assessments of job applicants. (For more about this problem, see “Big Data, Big Problems for Job Seekers.”)

    During your interview, go to the whiteboard if you need to, and draw an outline of how you will approach the job. Savvy interviewers love pictures. Winning them over is all about showing how you’ll do the work profitably.

    Don’t be presumptuous, but do ask for guidance as you go, and don’t hesitate to do the job in the interview. Just make sure you’ve done your homework! (The homework is a lot of work, but it should be. More about this in the same book referenced above, on pp. 12-13, “A killer interview strategy.”) If they don’t “get” what you’re doing, then they’re probably not worth working for.

    (Please note that I’m not suggesting you blow off an opportunity if you’re desperate for a paycheck — but be aware that your chances of success are low if you take a job at a company that’s not really worth working for.)

    My compliments to you for going in without a resume!

    Dear Readers: What’s the one thing you always do to ensure success in an important job interview? If you were to try what I suggest above, how would you tweak it for your purposes? If you’ve blown a key interview, what happened and what would you have done differently?


    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: How to wow your job interviewer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Obama working in the oval office.  Image by Alex Wong and Getty Images

    President Obama working in the oval office. Image by
    Alex Wong and Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Just two of the 18 items President Obama asked Congress to work on in his 2014 State of the Union became law
    • Expecting little congressional action, the White House has taken to executive action and calling on the states to act.

    Not many of Obama’s priorities are likely to get through Congress: State of the Union speeches get a lot of attention. A prime-time address by the President of the United States to a joint session of Congress is pretty impressive stuff. Lots of policies and priorities are laid out, but how much can and will actually get done, especially with a divided Congress? Answer: Not much. Recent history provides a pretty good roadmap. In last year’s State of the Union, when Democrats controlled the Senate and Republicans had a smaller majority in the House, President Obama laid out 18 specific action items he wanted Congress to take up, but just two of those — on job re-training and increasing funding for research — got through Congress and became law, according to a NewsHour analysis. (And funding for research only kept with inflation, not representing much of an increase.)

    Here’s a list of the priorities and the (lack of) congressional action taken (in order of when Obama mentioned them in his speech):

    Morning_LineNewsHour’s Ashira Moore contributed research.

    Taking executive action: To address some of the priority areas the president mentioned in last year’s State of the Union that Congress did not take up, the president acted on his own, raising the ire of the right. Seeing the success of state initiatives on things like the minimum wage, which Congress hasn’t raised for nearly six years, the president has been encouraging states to move on more of his priorities. Among the items mentioned in his 2014 State of the Union that he wound up taking executive action on:

    • immigration
    • carbon caps
    • minimum wage (for federal contractors)
    • personal finance (MyRA)
    • student loans
    • establishing public-private partnership on expanding public pre-school
    • protecting some federal lands

    Daily Presidential Trivia:
    On this day in 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to be inaugurated on January 20. Which amendment to the Constitution established January 20 as the start and end of every presidential term? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to William C Rives ‏(@MrWmCR) for guessing Monday’s trivia: Which president held the first live news conference? The answer: John F. Kennedy.

    2016

    LINE ITEMS

    TOP TWEETS

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    The post Don’t expect Congress to act on much of what Obama proposes in the State of the Union appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at a hotel in Jerusalem on Jan. 20 about the demand from the Islamic State militant group to receive $200 million in exchange for two Japanese prisoners. Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at a hotel in Jerusalem on Jan. 20 about the demand from the Islamic State militant group to receive $200 million in exchange for two Japanese prisoners. Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

    In a video purportedly from the Islamic State group, militants threatened to kill two Japanese hostages unless they got $200 million within 72 hours.

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the holding of Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa “unforgiveable,” saying “Their lives are the top priority.”

    He did not discuss whether the government would pay the ransom when commenting on the situation during a trip to the Middle East.

    The video, which appeared on websites connected to the militant group on Tuesday, showed two men in orange jumpsuits with a masked man in black standing between them. The man, speaking in a British accent, chastises the prime minister of Japan for donating “$100 million to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims” and stop the expansion of the Islamic State. The group has taken over about one-third of Iraq and Syria, it says, to create an Islamic caliphate.

    Abe had promised to provide nonmilitary assistance to those fighting the Islamic State group while visiting Cairo on Saturday.

    Goto is a freelance journalist and Yukawa is the chief executive of private security firm PMC, according to published reports.

    The post Islamic State militants demand ransom for Japanese captives appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A nurse examines a patient using a stethoscope at the BMI Weymouth hospital in London, U.K., on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010. BMI Healthcare Ltd opened the flagship hospital in August this year. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    A nurse examines a patient using a stethoscope at the BMI Weymouth hospital in London, U.K., on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010. BMI Healthcare Ltd opened the flagship hospital in August this year. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Whereas last year, President Barack Obama used nine full paragraphs of his State of the Union speech to sell his health care plan, the subject got less attention tonight.

    President Obama said that “health care inflation is at its lowest rate in 50 years,” and he briefly touted expanded coverage. “More of our people are insured than ever before,” he said.

    Roughly 10 million U.S. residents gained health coverage under the Affordable Care Act – his signature domestic achievement — in the last year. About 6.8 million people have enrolled in health plans through the federal marketplace during the ACA’s second open enrollment period so far. Several major provisions of the ACA went into effect in 2014, including the expansion of Medicaid and the opening of health insurance marketplaces that make it easier for people to buy their own insurance – many with a subsidy from federal government.

    But the past year has also been a turbulent one for the administration’s health agenda. The website HealthCare.gov continued to flounder during the first part of the year, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down, replaced by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, and Republicans promised to continue chipping away at the law after seizing control of the Senate in the midterm elections last fall. To kick off 2015, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services head Marilyn Tavenner announced she would be leaving, following the November acknowledgment that her agency had mistakenly inflated enrollment numbers under the ACA by as many as 400,000 people.

    While the exchanges have been running much smoother during this year’s open enrollment season, ACA supporters are bracing for still more challenges. Millions could lose their insurance subsidies this year if the Supreme Court decides in King vs. Burwell that people who live in states that did not set up their own insurance exchanges are barred from receiving federal subsidies to help purchase their plans.

    Even so, the White House chose to subtly highlight several favorite initiatives in its selection of guests sitting with the First Lady Michelle Obama this evening. Included were CVS Health President and CEO Larry Merlo (the company is the first major pharmacy to ban the sale of tobacco products), a mother who was able to have a brain tumor removed after signing up for the exchange, a health care worker who found insurance on an exchange after he lost his job, and a doctor who helped establish and run Ebola treatment and training centers in Liberia.

    The post Health care gets a brief mention in State of the Union speech appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    2015 U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington

    Watch Video

    Remarks of President Barack Obama — As Prepared for Delivery

    Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

    We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

    But tonight, we turn the page.

    Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

    Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.

    America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:

    The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.

    At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

    Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?

    Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?

    Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another — or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?

    In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan. And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas.

    So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.

    It begins with our economy.

    Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. She waited tables. He worked construction. Their first child, Jack, was on the way.

    They were young and in love in America, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

    “If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

    As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time. Rebekah took out student loans, enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed for each other. And slowly, it paid off. They bought their first home. They had a second son, Henry. Rebekah got a better job, and then a raise. Ben is back in construction — and home for dinner every night.

    “It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

    We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.

    America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story. They represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled. You are the reason I ran for this office. You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.

    We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

    We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.

    We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.

    We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.
    At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.

    So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.

    Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007. But here’s the thing — those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making. We need to do more than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.

    Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help. She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota. Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.

    In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet — tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.

    That’s what middle-class economics is — the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success — we want everyone to contribute to our success.

    So what does middle-class economics require in our time?

    First — middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement — and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.

    Here’s one example. During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority — so this country provided universal childcare. In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America — by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.

    Here’s another example. Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave. Forty-three million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.

    Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.

    These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government. To give working families a fair shot, we’ll still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company’s long-term interest. We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice. But things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage — these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families. That is a fact. And that’s what all of us — Republicans and Democrats alike — were sent here to do.

    Second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.

    America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world. But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more.

    By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future.

    That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero.

    Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt. Understand, you’ve got to earn it — you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today. And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.

    Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics. Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships — opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.

    And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend. Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care. We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs. Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle 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.

    Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.

    Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined. Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming. But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago — jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.

    So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America. That’s why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.

    21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.

    21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.

    Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. But ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.

    21st century businesses will rely on American science, technology, research and development. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine — one that delivers the right treatment at the right time. In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable. Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes — and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.

    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.

    I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain — and make sure to Instagram it.

    Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber. Members of both parties have told me so. Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments. As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight. They’ve riddled it with giveaways the superrich don’t need, denying a break to middle class families who do.

    This year, we have an opportunity to change that. Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America. Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home. Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford. And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college. We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.

    Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy. Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go. I believe it’s where the American people want to go. It will make our economy stronger a year from now, fifteen years from now, and deep into the century ahead.

    Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores.

    My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how. When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military — then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. That’s what our enemies want us to do.

    I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now — and around the globe, it is making a difference.

    First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists — from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.

    At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last thirteen years.

    Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition. Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America. In Iraq and Syria, American leadership — including our military power — is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.

    Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.

    That’s how America leads — not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.

    In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new. Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba. And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan.

    Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies — including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.

    Third, we’re looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming century.

    No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.

    In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back Ebola — saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease. I couldn’t be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts. But the job is not yet done — and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.

    In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules — in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. And no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

    2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

    I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.

    That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement — the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

    There’s one last pillar to our leadership — and that’s the example of our values.

    As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.

    As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice — so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half. Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It’s not who we are.

    As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties — and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.

    Looking to the future instead of the past. Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely. Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading — always — with the example of our values. That’s what makes us exceptional. That’s what keeps us strong. And that’s why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards — our own.

    You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America — but a United States of America. I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home — a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.

    Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws — of which there are many — but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.

    I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.

    I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long. I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California; and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and New London. I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown; in Boston, West, Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains; from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.

    So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper. And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.

    So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.

    Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.

    Understand — a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.

    A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.

    A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.

    A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of building America.

    If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments — but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.

    We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.

    Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

    We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.

    We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.

    That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve.

    I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol — to do what I believe is best for America. If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.

    Because I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth — that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, and help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.

    I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.

    I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.

    I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.

    I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom like Rebekah can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story to sum up these past six years:

    “It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

    My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter — together — and let’s start the work right now.

    Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

    The post President Obama’s full 2015 State of the Union address appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    As expected, President Obama outlined his proposal to offer two years of free community college tuition for students, first detailed two weeks ago in Tennessee. Or as he put it in the speech, “to lower the cost of community college — to zero.”

    Modeled on that state’s guarantee of two years of free community college courses, the plan would provide tuition-free classes for students going to school at least half time who maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher and are making steady progress toward a degree or transferring to a four-year institution.

    “Forty percent of our college students choose community college,” Mr. Obama said. “Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.”

    President Barack Obama laid out his plan for free community college in his State of the Union address.  Photo by Mandel Ngan/Reuters

    President Barack Obama laid out his plan for free community college in his State of the Union address. Photo by Mandel Ngan/Reuters

    Under the proposal, the federal government would cover 75 percent of the average cost of community college. The plan calls for states to pick up the remaining quarter of the tab and also adopt reforms outlined by the White House, including providing more advising and student support services on community college campuses and better aligning high school and college curriculum to reduce the number of students enrolled in remedial courses.

    “Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible,” Mr. Obama said in the speech. “I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.”

    Andrew Kelly, director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute, told the NewsHour he considered the plan “a federal reform agenda for community colleges dressed up as free tuition.” Meanwhile, Josh Wyner, director of the College Excellence Program at the Aspen Institute, argued that making two years of community college as universal as a high school diploma would boost economic growth and help close the country’s growing wealth gap.

    Largely absent from Tuesday’s speech were two areas that have gotten a lot of attention in Obama’s past State of the Union addresses — student loan debt and universal preschool. In three of his five addresses Obama has called for the creation of universal early childhood education programs, or at least a broad expansion of free preschool through federal funding. Congress hasn’t passed anything that comes close to those proposals.

    Last year, Congress did increase funding for federal Head Start programs by $1 billion, and last month the White House unveiled $750 million in grants for states to start or expand preschool programs. That’s far short of the $75 billion it is estimated it would cost to provide universal preschool for low- and moderate-income families. This year, the president has proposed increasing the child and dependent care tax credit to $3,000 per child and allowing families earning up to $120,000 to claim the full credit.

    In three of his five addresses, Obama has also called for reforming the student borrowing system or offering debt relief to those with the most burdensome debts. Congress did make some of the changes Obama called for in 2010, but hasn’t acted on any of his proposals since. Now he’s also turning to tax reform plans to advance his agenda. His plan would make the American Opportunity Tax Credit a permanent part of the tax code, increase the amount that could be refunded to taxpayers and make the credit available to students going to school at least half-time and cover five instead of four years of schooling.

    The post Obama: Community college should be ‘as free and universal in America as high school’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama celebrated “middle-class economics” and laid out a series of additional proposals to ensure the working class is included in the economic recovery.

    Most significant among them is his plan to raise taxes and fees for the wealthy in order to give working families a break.

    The White House released details of the plan over the weekend, giving GOP lawmakers plenty of time to suggest it won’t get very far now that they’re in control of Congress.

    The president again called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, after urging Congress to “give America a raise” in 2014.

    “To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it,” Mr. Obama said on Tuesday. “If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

    Earlier last year, he signed an executive order for federal contractors to be paid $10.10. Without any Congressional movement on the issue, however, states and cities across the country adopted their own higher wages.

    President Obama highlights "middle-class economics" in his State of the Union speech.  Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    President Obama highlights “middle-class economics” in his State of the Union speech. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    Following up on another proposal first directed toward federal workers, Mr. Obama called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow all American workers seven days of paid sick time. (Read more about the economic benefits of paid family leave and tune into Making Sen$e Thursday for an in-depth report.)

    “Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave,” Mr. Obama said in the speech. “Forty-three million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own.”

    Likewise, Mr. Obama said, affordable high-quality child care is “not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have.”

    “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us,” he continued.

    He touted the economic progress the country has made since the recession, especially improvements in the labor market, and thanked Vice President Biden for his work on job training. A federal job retraining program was one of only two proposals from Mr. Obama’s 2014 State of the Union that Congress passed last year. Mr. Obama also called on Congress to pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan, which, he suggested, would create 30 times more jobs per year than the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    New this year is Mr. Obama’s proposal to make community college free to all Americans who maintain a 2.5 GPA, a plan he first debuted on the road in Tennessee earlier this month.

    The economic backdrop for Mr. Obama’s sixth State of the Union looks and feels different from when he first addressed Congress six years ago in the midst of the Great Recession. The unemployment rate has declined from 7.8 percent in January 2009 to 5.6 percent last month, its lowest since 2008. The past year has been the best for job creation since 1999, while on Wall Street, stocks are surging, with the Dow now well over 17,000.

    This is the first time Mr. Obama is addressing a Republican-controlled Congress — a reminder for the Democratic president that the booming economic indicators over which he’s presided haven’t necessarily translated into prosperity for all Americans. Two-thirds of voters in last fall’s midterm elections told exit pollsters the economy was getting worse. Although they largely rejected Democrats at the ballot box, voters in otherwise conservative states embraced liberal ballot initiatives — like raising the minimum wage — that would cushion their pocketbooks.

    That was a sign that while the health of the labor market has improved significantly, American workers haven’t seen much of a raise. Wages are barely keeping pace with inflation. And there are still nearly 3 million long-term unemployed.

    Since the election, falling gas prices have put some needed cash back in Americans’ pockets, while revised GDP numbers for the third quarter put economic growth at its fastest in a decade — both improvements that some have credited with boosting Mr. Obama’s approval rating to 50 percent in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll.

    Mr. Obama will further detail his economic proposals when he delivers his budget to Congress on Feb. 2.

    The post Obama spotlights middle class plight, vows to help appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change, President Obama said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

    “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act,” Mr. Obama said in the speech. “Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what –- I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

    The administration took two major steps to address climate change in 2014. The Environmental Protection Agency rolled out the Clean Power Plan in June, which would cut greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants 30 percent by 2030. That plan will take effect later this year to coordinate with the release of regulations for new and modified power plants, according to EPA Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe.

    Power plant officials have criticized the plan, arguing that the industry can’t change fast enough to comply. New rules would shut down coal-fired power plants before new plants can open, John Bear, chief executive of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, told the Wall Street Journal.

    The president also reminded the nation that he reached a historic agreement with President Xi Jinping of China to cut greenhouse gas emissions from both nations. The U.S. and China account for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November, Obama pledged to cut emissions by 28 percent by 2025. Xi agreed China’s emissions would peak around 2030, and the country vowed to increase its renewable energy resources.

    “I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action,” Mr. Obama said.

    He also noted that green jobs are growing in the U.S. The Solar Foundation reported that 31,000 jobs were added in the solar industry.

    The post Obama calls climate change our greatest threat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The White House bent over backwards to make this the most approachable and shareable State of the Union yet. Minutes before it was delivered, the text of the president’s speech was made available to the public online. But here are 10 candid moments that made watching live worth it:

    1. President Obama’s charm offensive was in full effect.
    snaps-charm-offensive-about-pbs-newshour-state-of-the-union-on-pbs-newshour_fs

    2. No, really. Full effect.
    snaps-finger-pointing-about-pbs-newshour-state-of-the-union-on-pbs-newshour_7n

    3. Everyone was a fan. Including Larry Merlo, the CEO of CVS Health (left).
    snaps-post-9-11-defense-about-pbs-newshour-state-of-the-union-on-pbs-newshour_90

    4. Okay, maybe not everyone was a fan.
    snaps-biden-and-boehner-about-pbs-newshour-state-of-the-union-on-pbs-newshour_qo

    5. If you need a reminder on partisan gridlock, this was the first time President Obama delivered his annual address in front of a Republican Congress.
    snaps-paul-ryan-braces-himself-about-pbs-newshour-state-of-the-union-on-pbs-newshour_jt (1)

    6. That meant a whole lotta this:
    snaps-making-sure-women-are-paid-the-same-as-men-about-pbs-newshour-state-of-the-union-on-pbs-newshour_jk

    7. But look, Democrats and Republicans stood up to clap together at least six times — for Michelle Obama, veterans, Captain Scott Kelly, anti-terrorism programs, anti-cyber attack efforts and a 103-year-old Selma marcher.
    snaps-ernest-muniz-raised-eyes-about-pbs-newshour-state-of-the-union-on-pbs-newshour_ka (2)

    8. Given the push-and-pull relationship between the White House and Congress right now, that’s saying something.
    snaps-pencil-waving-about-pbs-newshour-state-of-the-union-on-pbs-newshour_o9

    9. But POTUS didn’t let Republicans leave without a little joke.

    10. And that’s a wrap. Catch you at the next one, Congress.
    snaps-alan-gross-fist-bump-about-pbs-newshour-state-of-the-union-on-pbs-newshour_a0

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    Democratic members of congress applaud President Barack Obama as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.  Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    Democratic members of congress applaud President Barack Obama as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Refusing to bend to the new Republican Congress, President Barack Obama unveiled Tuesday night an ambitious State of the Union agenda steeped in Democratic priorities, including tax increases on the wealthy, education and child care help for the middle class and a torrent of veto threats for the GOP’s own plans.

    In a shift from tradition, Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress was less a laundry list of new proposals and more an attempt to sell a story of national economic revival. He appealed for “better politics” in Washington and pledged to work with Republicans, but he showed few signs of curtailing or tweaking his own plans to meet GOP priorities.

    Instead, the president vowed to use his veto pen to strike down the Republican leadership’s efforts to dismantle his signature accomplishments, including his health care and financial reform laws.

    “We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix,” Obama said. “And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it.”

    The president sought out more common ground on foreign policy, pledging to work with Congress on a new authorization for military action against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, as well as legislation to guard against cyberattacks. In a rare move away from his own party, Obama also renewed his call for fast-tracking free trade agreements with Asia and Europe, generating more applause from pro-trade Republicans than skeptical Democrats.

    Obama’s address marked the first time in his presidency that he stood before a Republican-controlled Congress. Yet the shift in the political landscape has also been accompanied by a burst of economic growth and hiring, as well as a slight increase in Obama’s once sagging approval ratings — leaving the White House to see little incentive in curtailing or even tweaking its agenda in response to the Republicans’ midterm election victories.

    After ticking through signs of the rising economy, the president turned toward Republicans sitting in the chamber and said with a wink, “This is good news, people.”

    The centerpiece of Obama’s economic proposals marked a shift away from the focus on austerity and deficit reduction that has dominated his fiscal fights with Republicans. In a direct challenge to GOP economic ideology, Obama called for increasing the capital gains rate on couples making more than $500,000 annually, to 28 percent.

    The president’s tax plan would also require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they’re inherited and slap a fee on the roughly 100 U.S. financial firms with assets of more than $50 billion.

    Much of the $320 billion in new taxes and fees would be used for measures aimed at helping the middle class, including a $500 tax credit for some families with two spouses working, expansion of the child care tax credit and a $60 billion program to make community college free.

    “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?” Obama asked. “Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”

    Even before the president’s address, Republicans were balking at his proposals and painting a far less rosy picture of the economy.

    “We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by canceled health care plans and higher monthly insurance bills,” said Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who delivered the Republican response. “But when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.”

    With an eye on a swirl of foreign policy challenges, Obama defended his decision to return to military action in Iraq and also authorize airstrikes in Syria. He said Congress could “show the world that we are united in this mission” by passing a new resolution formally authorizing the use of force against the Islamic State group.

    As the U.S. eyes a March deadline for a framework agreement with Iran on its disputed nuclear program, the president vowed to veto any effort by Congress to pass new sanctions legislation. Such a step, he said, “will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again.”

    The president also heralded his unilateral move last month to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba after a half-century of animosity, and he urged lawmakers to follow his lead by lifting the economic embargo on the communist island. Yet the guest boxes in the House chamber underscored the sensitive politics that hang over efforts to overhaul the long-standing U.S. policy toward Cuba.

    Among the guests sitting with first lady Michelle Obama was Alan Gross, the American man who spent five years in a Cuban prison and was released as part of the deal to end the freeze between Washington and Havana. In a nod to the concerns of Cuban dissidents and pro-democracy advocates, House Speaker John Boehner’s guest was Jorge Luis García Pérez, who spent 17 years in a Cuban prison. Florida Republican Sen. Macro Rubio brought Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo, whose father was a well-known Cuban dissident who was killed in a car accident that his family believes was suspicious.

    Julie Pace is the White House correspondent for the Associated Press.

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    President Barack Obama told the nation and the world on Tuesday that his country “reserves the right to act unilaterally” to pursue and thwart terrorists. He called upon Congress to authorize the use of force against the Islamic State group.

    The same day as his State of the Union speech, Islamic State militants threatened to kill two Japanese hostages if they weren’t paid a ransom.

    Japan recently had joined the effort to try to root out the extremists from Syria and Iraq by offering nonmilitary support. The United States and its allies launched a campaign of targeted airstrikes against the Islamic State group in August.

    In his remarks, President Obama underscored the importance of “assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism.”

    “This effort will take time,” Mr. Obama said. “It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).”

    Back in September, President Obama laid out a strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State group, including deploying more troops to Iraq to help security forces there.

    The air campaign has continued nearly every day since then.

    Alan Gross, recently released from prison in Cuba, thrusts his fists in the air as he is mentioned by President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    Alan Gross, recently released from prison in Cuba, thrusts his fists in the air as he is mentioned by President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    President Obama on Tuesday also spoke about the U.S. shift in policy on Cuba.

    “In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date,” he said. “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new.”

    Watch the president’s full Dec. 17 address on Cuba and a breakdown of the policy changes.

    That initial announcement on the diplomatic thaw drew mixed responses.

    “The president’s taken an extraordinarily dangerous bet,” said Roger Noriega, former U.S. assistant secretary of state, on the Dec. 17 PBS NewsHour. “He has made unilateral concessions to the Castro dictatorship, a dictatorship that’s drawing its last breaths. And by normalizing political relationships, diplomatic relationships, he confers a legitimacy on that regime that it doesn’t deserve.”

    “People are trying to create this false premise that somehow this does a favor to the Castro brothers,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., on the same NewsHour. “It doesn’t do any favors. I think, over time, you’re going to find the Cuban regime is the one that is put most at risk by this greater exchange of ideas and goods.”

    However, in his State of the Union speech, President Obama quoted Pope Francis, who has supported improved relations with Cuba, saying, “Diplomacy is the work of ‘small steps.’ These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba.”

    Promoting “persistent, steady resolve” over “bluster,” Mr. Obama encouraged the United States to remain steadfast against Russia’s recent actions against Ukraine, saying “We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small – by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy and reassuring our NATO allies.”

    Following high-profile hacking incidents against Sony Pictures and U.S. military social media accounts, President Obama also touched on concerns about cybersecurity.

    “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids,” he said.

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    The Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility Tuesday night for hacking the Twitter account of French newspaper “Le Monde.”

    The hacker group, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, took over the newspaper’s account around 7 p.m. EST, with one of their tweets, emblazoned with SEA logo, mentioning the Charlie Hebdo attacks from earlier this month.

    The newspaper’s account was suspended and restored within a matter of hours. Le Monde said on its website, Reuters reported, that the hackers had “managed to infiltrate our publishing tool before launching a denial of service.”

    The SEA has consistently targeted several news organization websites and Twitter accounts, including those of The New York Times, BBC, Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, among others.

    The hacking incident occurred right before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, which highlighted concerns surrounding the “evolving threat of cyber attacks,” following the recent takeover of the military’s U.S. Central Command’s social media accounts.

    “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids,” the president said in his speech.

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    Update: 11:06 p.m. ET – The full text of the Republican response, as provided, is pasted below this article and the full speech video is available above.

    WASHINGTON — The new Republican Congress understands Americans’ suffering from the economy, health care system and Washington gridlock and will steer the country away from President Barack Obama’s failed policies, the newly minted senator delivering her party’s official response to the State of Union address promised Tuesday.

    Mixing calls for bipartisanship with a flexing of GOP muscle, freshman Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, called on Obama to cooperate with Republicans to simplify the tax code by lowering rates and eliminating unspecified loopholes and to ease trade barriers with Europe and Asia. She also listed a parade of looming clashes with the president, including GOP efforts to force construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, balance the budget without raising taxes and restrict abortions.

    “Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare,” Ernst said, referring to the Obama health care overhaul that Republicans loathe. “It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.”

    Ernst’s speech marked her party’s first State of the Union response under Obama in which the GOP has held House and Senate majorities. It came as Republicans hope to expand their appeal among women and minorities ahead of the 2016 presidential and congressional elections.

    “We heard the message you sent in November, loud and clear,” she said in remarks lasting 9½ minutes and delivered mostly with a smile. “And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.”

    Ernst, 44, sprinkled her policy prescriptions with a personal touch, recounting her youth on her family’s farm in Red Oak, Iowa. She described plowing fields, working mornings at a Hardees restaurant and wearing plastic bread bags over her only pair of good shoes on rainy school days.

    Tuesday’s speeches came as the economy has been adding juice, with economic growth accelerating and unemployment falling. In his remarks, Obama said it was time to “turn the page” on years of war and economic weakness and turn to investments to strengthen the country.

    sotu-gop

    Ernst, a fresh face on the national political scene, has been in the Senate for all of two weeks. Her November election victory helped give Republicans control of the Senate for the first time in eight years.

    The conservative Ernst rocketed to prominence in Republican circles last year, when the little-known state senator and Iraq war veteran won the GOP primary and captured a Senate seat that retiring Democrat Tom Harkin had held for three decades.

    Ernst gained attention for a campaign ad in which she spoke of her farm experience castrating pigs and vowed to use that attitude against Washington’s big spenders, saying, “Let’s make them squeal.” She has advocated the abolition of the IRS and Environmental Protection Agency, backed a state law supporting personhood for fetuses and spoken of using her gun to defend herself against any government attempts to restrict her rights.

    Tuesday, Ernst cited the GOP’s dispute with Obama over forcing construction of the proposed Keystone pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast. With some Democratic support, Republicans call the project a job creator while the White House has threatened a veto over potential environmental damage.

    “President Obama will soon have a decision to make: Will he sign the bill or block good American jobs?” she said.

    Ernst also said “our hearts go out” to victims of terrorism in France and elsewhere, and called on Obama to craft a comprehensive anti-terrorism plan without suggesting specifics.

    While Obama spoke, the office of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pushed out more than a dozen emails critiquing his remarks. Using the acronyn for “State of the Union,” the emails carried headlines such as “SOTU FACT: Obamacare Is Slashing Hours & Wages, & Destroying Jobs.”

    The full text of the speech, as provided, is reprinted below:

    WASHINGTON, DC — Following is the full text of the Republican Address to the Nation by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), as prepared for delivery:

    “Good evening.

    “I’m Joni Ernst. As a mother, a soldier, and a newly elected senator from the great State of Iowa, I am proud to speak with you tonight.

    “A few moments ago, we heard the President lay out his vision for the year to come. Even if we may not always agree, it’s important to hear different points of view in this great country. We appreciate the President sharing his.

    “Tonight though, rather than respond to a speech, I’d like to talk about your priorities. I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again.

    “We heard the message you sent in November — loud and clear. And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.

    “The new Republican Congress also understands how difficult these past six years have been. For many of us, the sting of the economy and the frustration with Washington’s dysfunction weren’t things we had to read about. We felt them every day.

    “We felt them in Red Oak — the little town in southwestern Iowa where I grew up, and am still proud to call home today.

    “As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our family farm. I worked construction with my dad. To save for college, I worked the morning biscuit line at Hardees.

    “We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a lesson my mother taught me every rainy morning.

    “You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry.

    “But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.

    “Our parents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have.

    “These days though, many families feel like they’re working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it.

    “Not just in Red Oak, but across the country.

    “We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by canceled healthcare plans and higher monthly insurance bills. We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they’ll be able to leave to their children.

    “Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.

    “That’s why the new Republican majority you elected started by reforming Congress to make it function again. And now, we’re working hard to pass the kind of serious job-creation ideas you deserve.

    “One you’ve probably heard about is the Keystone jobs bill. President Obama has been delaying this bipartisan infrastructure project for years, even though many members of his party, unions, and a strong majority of Americans support it. The President’s own State Department has said Keystone’s construction could support thousands of jobs and pump billions into our economy, and do it with minimal environmental impact.

    “We worked with Democrats to pass this bill through the House. We’re doing the same now in the Senate.

    “President Obama will soon have a decision to make: will he sign the bill, or block good American jobs?

    “There’s a lot we can achieve if we work together.

    “Let’s tear down trade barriers in places like Europe and the Pacific. Let’s sell more of what we make and grow in America over there so we can boost manufacturing, wages, and jobs right here, at home.

    “Let’s simplify America’s outdated and loophole-ridden tax code. Republicans think tax filing should be easier for you, not just the well-connected. So let’s iron out loopholes to lower rates — and create jobs, not pay for more government spending.

    “The President has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas. We’re calling on him now to cooperate to pass them.

    “You’ll see a lot of serious work in this new Congress.

    “Some of it will occur where I stand tonight, in the Armed Services Committee room. This is where I’ll join committee colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — to discuss ways to support our exceptional military and its mission. This is where we’ll debate strategies to confront terrorism and the threats posed by Al Qaeda, ISIL, and those radicalized by them.

    “We know threats like these can’t just be wished away. We’ve been reminded of terrorism’s reach both at home and abroad; most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia. Our hearts go out to all the innocent victims of terrorism and their loved ones. We can only imagine the depth of their grief.

    “For two decades, I’ve proudly worn our nation’s uniform: today, as a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. While deployed overseas with some of America’s finest men and women, I’ve seen just how dangerous these kinds of threats can be.

    “The forces of violence and oppression don’t care about the innocent. We need a comprehensive plan to defeat them.

    “We must also honor America’s veterans. These men and women have sacrificed so much in defense of our freedoms, and our way of life. They deserve nothing less than the benefits they were promised and a quality of care we can be all be proud of.

    “These are important issues the new Congress plans to address.

    “We’ll also keep fighting to repeal and replace a health care law that’s hurt so many hardworking families.

    “We’ll work to correct executive overreach.

    “We’ll propose ideas that aim to cut wasteful spending and balance the budget — with meaningful reforms, not higher taxes like the President has proposed.

    “We’ll advance solutions to prevent the kind of cyberattacks we’ve seen recently.

    “We’ll work to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    “And we’ll defend life, because protecting our most vulnerable is an important measure of any society.

    “Congress is back to work on your behalf, ready to make Washington focus on your concerns again.

    “We know America faces big challenges. But history has shown there’s nothing our nation, and our people, can’t accomplish.

    “Just look at my parents and grandparents.

    “They had very little to call their own except the sweat on their brow and the dirt on their hands. But they worked, they sacrificed, and they dreamed big dreams for their children and grandchildren.

    “And because they did, an ordinary Iowan like me has had some truly extraordinary opportunities — because they showed me that you don’t need to come from wealth or privilege to make a difference. You just need the freedom to dream big, and a whole lot of hard work.

    “The new Republican Congress you elected is working to make Washington understand that too. And with a little cooperation from the President, we can get Washington working again.

    “Thank you for allowing me to speak with you tonight.

    “May God bless this great country of ours, the brave Americans serving in uniform on our behalf, and you, the hardworking men and women who make the United States of America the greatest nation the world has ever known.”

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    President Barack Obama laid out his plan for free community college in his State of the Union address.  Photo by Mandel Ngan/Reuters

    President Barack Obama’s theme for his State of the Union speech was “middle-class economics.” Photo by Mandel Ngan/Reuters

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • President Obama extends olive branch… to Democrats
    • Eleven proposals the president made in State of the Union
    • Fact checks galore – your links to the four best
    • What was trending on Facebook, Twitter?

    A speech for Congress and past Congress: Depending on your perspective, President Obama was either cocky and combative or confident and caring (yes, one of us heard a Democrat on Capitol Hill use that word) in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. Either way, it was one-part populist pitch (perhaps with an eye on 2016 for Democrats), one part legacy defense, and one part drawing a line in the sand. The speech’s theme was “middle-class economics,” and many of the proposals have already landed with a thud with Republicans. But the president forcefully made the pitch anyway, almost looking past the Republican-run Congress — with its approval ratings in the teens — rather than extending any kind of olive branch.

    What’s Obama’s hard line about? Instead of putting forth proposals that might have appeal to the newly-in-charge GOP — besides perhaps, for, trade — the president unleashed section after section that charged up Democrats and seemed aimed at positioning his party for 2016. For Democrats: There were tax hikes on the wealthy, tax cuts for others, the minimum wage and the president’s strongest statement yet on the climate. For Republicans: the speech contained veto threats on everything from a rollback of his health care law, Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations, immigration and Iran sanctions. Could this speech simply be a different kind of negotiating tactic for this president? He has been criticized in the past by fellow Democrats for offering too much, too soon to Republicans. Perhaps this time, by drawing a harder line with Republicans, his attitude is that either they will take him more seriously, or, if they don’t, he’ll at least preserve his legacy.

    Last piece of legacy defense: Another part of that legacy defense was centered on the criticism that he came to Washington to heal divides but has instead seen partisanship grow. And last night, Mr. Obama pointedly harkened back to the 2004 Democratic National Convention speech that bolted him onto the scene. “Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision,” Obama said, adding, “I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.” This “Greatest Hits” framing is a bookend for this president, a last piece of unfinished business. It’s why he still could be open to negotiations with Republicans. And if it doesn’t work out, he will blame them.

    Despite the president’s call to reject cynicism, in truth, there’s good reason to feel cynical or at least skeptical that not much will be accomplished between President Obama and Congress. The president himself acknowledged it: “I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.”

    Obama’s proposals: We noted yesterday that just two of the president’s 18 proposals to Congress in last year’s State of the Union actually got through Congress. Last night, by our rough count, he proposed another 11 items for Congress to work on — and more than half of them were repeat requests from prior State of the Union addresses:

  • Paid sick leave – New
  • Free Community College – New
  • Authorization for Use of Military Force to combat the Islamic State militant group – New
  • End Cuba Embargo – New
  • Cyber attacks – New
  • Equal pay for women – Repeat
  • Raise the minimum wage – Repeat
  • Reduce student loan debt – Repeat
  • Infrastructure – Repeat
  • Trade – Repeat
  • Make voting easier – Repeat
  • What’s trending: We know, talking or writing about what’s happening in “Social Media” can often come across as kind of #lame, but we found some interesting takeaways from Facebook and Twitter last night:

  • 5.7 million people on Facebook made 13.8 million likes, posts, comments and shares.
  • 2.6 million Tweets related to #SOTU
  • The most talked about moment on both Facebook and Twitter was Obama’s unscripted retort in response to Republican clapping after he said he had no more campaigns to run: “I know because I’ve won both of them.”
  • The most Tweeted-about issues were: community college, equal pay, climate change and tax reform and health care.
  • The top issues for people on Facebook were: the economy and jobs, community college, taxes, minimum wage, and middle class
  • The most engaged groups of people on Facebook during the speech were women age 35 to 49, followed by men 35 to 49, men 18 to 34, and men 50 plus.
  • The issues those groups cared about varied. For women, it was: community college, taxes, economy and jobs, equal pay, and minimum wage. For men: taxes was No. 1, followed by economy and jobs, community college, middle class, and minimum wage.
    The people most engaged on Facebook came from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and South Carolina.
  • Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1977, President Jimmy Carter granted an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War. Which presidents have been accused of dodging the draft? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Claire M. Steen ‏(@BearLoves14) for guessing Tuesday’s trivia: Which amendment to the Constitution established January 20 as the start and end of every presidential term? The answer: the 20th Amendment.

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    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: taking stock of the continuing battle against the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa, from a leading worker and organizer who was there early on, and is about to return with an evolving mission.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ebola has killed more than 8,500 people since it began nearly a year ago, a major health emergency that’s brought out a major and often dangerous response effort from health workers.

    In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama hailed Americans who’ve served on the front lines.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses, our health care workers are rolling back Ebola.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sitting with the first lady during the speech, Dr. Pranav Shetty served as the embodiment of that effort.

    As global emergency health coordinator for the non-profit International Medical Corps, Shetty is more typically found in health hot spots around the world. In August, he went to Liberia to help establish and oversee two Ebola treatment units and a training center for health workers.

    Shortly before going to the Capitol last night, and just days before leaving for Guinea to continue the work against Ebola, he came to our studio to talk.

    Dr. Pranav Shetty, welcome to you.

    DR. PRANAV SHETTY, International Medical Corps: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is it fair to say that the worst-case scenario of the spinning out of control has been avoided at this point?  Can we say that?

    DR. PRANAV SHETTY: I think that what we can say is that tremendous strides have been made in addressing this response.

    The worst-case scenario, as you referred to, was predicated on the fact that nothing was done and that we were at the state we were, especially in Liberia, you know, several, several months ago. And so now I think what we have seen is because of the strength and the speed of the response, you know, and the big push that occurred, I think that we have hopefully turned a corner and passed the worst, and now we really need to focus on finishing the job there in West Africa.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There were even stories recently in The Washington Post, for example, about the U.S.-built treatment centers in Liberia that are mostly empty now.

    The question is, was it too late or did they do their job and things have turned a corner?

    DR. PRANAV SHETTY: Yes.

    I think what they did, is they did do their job. I think to address this type of outbreak, we need to hit it hard and we need to hit it fast. And that’s what we did from the U.S. government. And International Medical Corporation was one of these agencies and we responded as quickly as we can and as aggressively as we can.

    And because of that, I think we stemmed the tide of this entire outbreak.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what about in Liberia itself, the government, the people, the population?  To the extent things are better, do we know why?  Did they respond well and did they learn what was happening?  What happened?

    DR. PRANAV SHETTY: Definitely.

    I think the community involvement and the local involvement is key to addressing this type of outbreak because every aspect of the pillars of the response that need to occur is rooted in community buy-in and leadership, from safe and effective burials to community tracing to contact tracing, through surveillance, through isolation. It’s all rooted in the community, and so the social mobilization campaigns that really went forward with the building of the treatment centers and all the other more visible parts of the response was really a key factor.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so where are the biggest needs now as this has involved?  What do you see?

    DR. PRANAV SHETTY: Well, the biggest needs now have to do with reconstructing the health system and getting to zero at the same time.

    So at International Medical Corps, we have three pillars in our response. One is around the isolation and case management, which is helping to get to zero, because until we get to zero cases, we can’t say that we have won the war against Ebola in West Africa.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, but let me stop you there. Is that possible, to get to zero?  And how long a time period would you think we’re looking at?

    DR. PRANAV SHETTY: Well, we do think it’s possible.

    I think the response has shown so far that we can make tremendous strides. And it’s the last little part now in the last little leg that we need to make the strong push to do so. And so continued focus and continued attention that is predicated on the tenets of the response that we have seen so far is very, very important and crucial to really getting to zero, as you mentioned.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And then I interrupted. You were talking about the health infrastructures, the other leg of this, which was devastated through all of this, right?

    DR. PRANAV SHETTY: Exactly. Definitely.

    The health system in Liberia essentially collapsed when Ebola was first seen there and then went out of control. And so we’re starting with a very fragile health system to begin with. And so adding on the components specifically targeted towards Ebola, as you mentioned, about isolation, and then adding on the training component, which is training for Ebola, as well as for any other infectious disease outbreak that may occur in the region, as well as health system strengthening and health system reactivation, is very, very important.

    And so the international community and International Medical Corps is very committed to working in each of these three pillars.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re going back to Guinea?

    DR. PRANAV SHETTY: Guinea, that’s correct.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that’s because you see more happening there, more needs there?

    DR. PRANAV SHETTY: Well, I think what we’re seeing is that, in Guinea in particular, there hasn’t been a huge spike in cases that we have seen in Sierra Leone and Liberia, but we have also not seen a tremendous decline as well over the same time period.

    We know that, in Guinea, there is some issues with resistance, especially within the rural areas. And so this requires a more nuanced approach, a more adaptive approach that will have to be more flexible and address the needs geographically that are spread out across the country. And so we’re going to assess these needs and then respond as best we can.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There is a lot going on in the world, right?  Are you worried that people are no longer paying as much attention to this?

    DR. PRANAV SHETTY: Well, I think what the focus we need to do on is helping people understand that this fight is not over.

    You know, we really need to put the resources and the financial human resources infrastructure behind us to really get to the point that we have zero cases, because this outbreak was started by one case and it can start again, unless we put all of our focus and attention on stamping it out now, now that we have made so much strides in the right direction and to finish the job.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Dr. Pranav Shetty of the International Medical Corps, thank you so much.

    DR. PRANAV SHETTY: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure.

    The post Ebola doctor: ‘Tremendous strides’ in stemming the outbreak appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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