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President Barak Obama cited the highest graduation rates in three decades, 8 million new jobs in four years, the most fuel efficient cars in the world, and the strongest five years of farm exports in history, as he delivered the annual nationally televised address to Congress. Obama also said children’s asthma is no longer a pre-existing condition.
And, he noted that the 12-year war in Afghanistan is coming to an end.
He said the strong state of our union is due to “you, our citizens.”
“And here are the results of your efforts:” he said. “The lowest unemployment rate in over five years; a rebounding housing market; a manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s; more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly 20 years; our deficits cut by more than half; and for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.”
Obama said it can be a breakthrough year for America, that America is now “better positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.”
Obama called for immigration reform, saying he wants to give everyone a shot at opportunity and the chance to succeed like he and his wife Michelle have had.
He called for investments in renewable energy to combat climate change while he noted that during the past eight years the United States has reduced its total carbon pollution more than any other nation.
He indicated that the EPA will continue to come down on the use of coal and fossil fuels.
“We have to act with more urgency,” he said, “because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.”
Minimum wage, Afghanistan, Iran
Also, the president stood up for his health care reforms, saying he didn’t expect his Republican opponents to say anything good about it.
He called for education for every four-year-old, noting that 30 states have already raised money for preschools.
Obama also called for a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, saying that real wages have remained stagnant while the economy has steadily improved, the stock market has reached unprecedented levels and those at the top have never done better.
At one point, Obama said “It should be the power of our votes, not size of our bank accounts that drive our democracy.”
Regarding foreign policy, he said he plans to end the war in Afghanistan, with the possibility of U.S. involvement in a coalition government.
“Then America’s longest war will be over,” he said.
He called on Congress not to interfere with negotiations with Iran over the use of nuclear materials. He said thanks to trade and economic sanctions, Iran has agreed not to enrich uranium, and the details are being worked out now with Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Give diplomacy a chance to succeed,” he said to Republicans critical of the negotiations. “If presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviets, surely we can negotiate today with a lesser power in the world.”
And, he said he would cap student loan payments at 10 percent of a person’s income.
He also called for:
• Tax reform “Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation.”
• Gun control.
• Closure of the Guantanamo prison detainee camp.
• Connection of high speed broadband to 90 percent of U.S. residents.
• Equal pay for women for equal work. He said women hold the majority of lower paid jobs. And, they should get time to be caregivers to their closest loved ones.
“We all need to come together – Congress, the White House and business -- to see that every woman gets the opportunity she deserves. When women succeed, America succeeds,” he said.