Cowetans react to State of the Union message

by Sarah Fay Campbell

President Barack Obama covered an array of topics during his State of the Union speech Tuesday, from unemployment insurance and income inequality to patent reform, veterans issues, Syria and Iran, clean energy, immigration reform and retirement savings.

The speech lasted more than an hour.

Changes in patent law — while certainly not glamorous or headline grabbing — were one of the few things the president said during the speech that drew applause from both Democrats and Republicans.

“Let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to say focused on innovation, not costly, needless legislation,” Obama said.

Obama also called for changes to a tax code that is “riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here and reward companies that keep profits abroad.”

“Let’s flip that equation,” Obama said. “Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to shop jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home.”

The president already has plans for any money saved through tax reform — to “create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes.”

Obama said he will need Congress to “protect more than 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. But I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.”

Obama spoke several times of acting on his own to achieve goals, instead of waiting on Congress.

He’ll be requiring all new federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 for their workers. He’ll also direct the Treasury Department to create a new retirement savings plan called MyRA. “It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg,” the president said. “MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little to nothing for middle-class Americans.”

Obama urged business leaders and state officials to raise wages. “I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act. Americans will support you.”

He said he has been asking CEOs “to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job and a new chance to support their families.”

Coweta Democratic Party Committee Member Dennis Thompson said he thought Obama’s speech was “excellent.”

“It did contain a lot of new material. I think it was very centrist,” he said. “He tried not to offend the Republicans and also tried to encourage the Democratic base.”

Thompson said he thinks Obama has realized “he is probably not going to get much support from Republicans.”

He said he thinks Obama is trying reach across the aisle, “but they don’t seem to be wanting to reach back.”

Coweta County Republican Party Chairman Brant Frost V had a different view of the speech.

Obama spoke of the “great debate” over the proper size of government and said “when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy… then we are not doing right by the American people.”

“This paragraph encapsulates Obama’s view of government,” Frost said. "In Obama's ‘democracy,' success and the basic functions mean using government to provide for people what they can't or won't provide for themselves. In a constitutional ‘republic’ — which is what the Constitution mandates and the founders wanted — success is measured by protecting life, liberty, and property and faithful adherence to the limits on government by the Constitution.”

"President Obama has lost the hearts of the American people because of his fundamentally flawed view of government,” Frost said. "Obama seems to believe that the needs and wants of over 300 million Americans can be provided by an all-powerful, central government.”

"The president had many other things to say and programs to ask for, but the basis of his laundry list of ‘gimme’ programs was the belief that government exists to give us the things we can't or won't get for ourselves,” Frost said.

Thompson said he sees the possibility of some action on immigration reform, one of many issues Obama covered. “The Democrats may have to accept no direct path to citizenship, but hopefully can work out something where it is in the pipeline some way.”

Thompson said he would like to see some action on the minimum wage, and restoring unemployment benefits is crucial to our economy.

“I think the president pretty much has his hands tied,” Thompson said. “He is going to use some executive powers as he can to try to move the country forward. I think the country is stagnated. And “it seems like anything that he proposed, the Republicans are against simply because they are trying to discredit his presidency.”

"President Obama seems to enjoy playing the role of the candy and toy salesman who tells the kids they can't survive without the latest toy or ice cream flavor,” Frost said. "We the parents and we the people can do without such salesmen.”

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