Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SOTU 2015

Below are the thoughts that went through my head during President Obama's State of the Union address. The president's remarks are in red. My thoughts are in blue. 

Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds... They were young and in love in America, and it doesn't get much better than that.


Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.

But higher education has never been more irrelevant to success in America than it is today. A high school diploma or college degree doesn't really mean anything.

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.

The stock market doubled, but retirement funds weren't magically re-filled. Health care inflation is at its lowest rate in 50 years? No way. I don't believe it. I just paid $25 for a single dose of Miralax at the hospital.

We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees' pay than at any time since 2007.

I'll believe it when I see it.

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.

Yes. To take it one step further, we're not even looking for ways to get ahead; just staying afloat will be fine.

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.

1. Your grandfather was in WWII? Cool. I didn't know you had military service in your background.

2. Our country provided universal childcare? Really? I hate that war is a greater motivator for social programming than just the existence of basic family needs.

Today, we're the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.

I've stayed home several times, without pay, to care for a sick child. It kind of sucks all around. I've also had 4 babies without paid maternity leave. And Wally's gone back to work within 24 hours of each birth (within two hours of the last one), since he works at a job without paternity leave. We did the old-fashioned thing of saving up money before each birth and then living off of it. But paid sick days or provision for medical leave would have been nice.

Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.

You can't legislate being a decent employer. Businesses will find a way around anything, just like they did with the Affordable Care Act. Mandatory health insurance for employees working 30 hours or more? Cut them back to 29 hours a week. (We have personal experience on this one.)

The problem isn't full-time employees not having enough benefits. The problem is employers using part-time and contract employees to avoid having to provide any benefits. Even if legislation is passed that guarantees full-time employees seven days of paid sick leave, it's not going to help the low-wage positions that actually need this benefit.

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.

For real.

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.

Yeah, I'm tired of this "small businesses can't support all this bureaucracy" bullshit. It's not crazy to expect those who benefit from the good work of others to ensure a decent life for their workers. I watched the president of our company take international vacations with his extended family every year, spend hundreds of thousands in renovations on their second home, and still refuse a wage increase to employees.

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

I agree that skills training is needed for more jobs than ever. And high school isn't adequately preparing people. I like that this initiative would be open to people of any age and income. There's still much that needs to happen to improve our current education system.

And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend.


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.

Wait, what? He might as well have said, "And tonight, I'm launching a new Traffic Magic Machine to help us stop rush hour and give all of us everything we need to be. Next topic."

Um, anything else on what this is, how it works, what it actually means?

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.

Ha-ha, cool. I'm kind of ambivalent about further spending on space, but NASA gave us disposable diapers, which have made a tangible difference in my life. So, carry on, carry on.

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.

Argh. For real. I'm not actually looking for more tax breaks for the middle class. I'm really okay with paying taxes. But when I'm paying a higher percentage than corporations and the super-wealthy, it sets me off. Let's fix the tax code.

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...

Yes, thank you.

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.

Awesome! Yes! It's about time!

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.

Yay for bipartisanship! (cue patriotic music in my head)

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.

It's okay if we only do these things because they're right.

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.

I like that. "It's not who we are."

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, absolutely. Even on the opposite side of this issue from President Obama, I can whole-heartedly agree with this. Way to find common ground.

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.

It might just be the post-partum hormones, but this made me tear up. I love the idea of opening our arms to everyone looking for a better life in America.

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.

Well-said. I hope it's not just more politic-talk, and they can actually get stuff done.

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.

Let's speak this to the children in every womb also. Get women the support and resources we need to care for the children we conceive. Don't make us choose between killing our babies and economic stability.

It got long-winded with all the obligatory soliloquies in closing. But who am I to judge for being long-winded?

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