President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union
message tonight. The speech focused on a number of themes,
including jobs, budget balancing, energy, education, immigration, gun reform, ending the war in Afghanistan and many other issues.
Obama pointed to stronger economic growth and new jobs coming back to America from overseas. He referred to energy independence, as well as clean energy modalities and superior gas mileage achieved over the course of his administration.
The president discussed the need to pass comprehensive tax reform to close tax loopholes instead of leaving the tax burden solely on the middle class and the sacrifices of retirees. There is a general consensus in the Congress for comprehensive tax reform; however, differences lie in the detailed application of revenue increases to specific deductions.
Obama discussed successes achieved by combining high school education with community college, as well as partnering with employers. This combination will ensure that students have the requisite skills to seek employment in the jobs of the 21st century. The key here is the relevance of the education to specific job-required skills for gainful employment.
The president addressed the need to pursue comprehensive immigration reform. This is an area where both parties agree. There is a general consensus for solving this issue as soon as possible. Children born in the United States should have no impediments to citizenship; nor should people who have waited in line for legal admission and overseas workers with skills in great demand in the United States.
The most heartrending part of the speech dealt with gun violence. The president spoke of the violence in Newtown and other shootings throughout the United States. Here, there are various proposals to strengthen gun laws, provide background checks and take necessary precautions to keep guns away from criminals and others with severe behavioral issues.
Obama was proud of the work done in Afghanistan to thwart Al Qaeda, train the forces and begin a process of withdrawal ending next year. The idea is to eliminate America's combat role over time and retain an advisory and training role.
The speech covered much ground. Many of the items cited are doable right now. In fact, President Obama called on Congress to get bills on his desk for signature in areas like tax reform and immigration. Republicans generally agreed with President Obama, although Republican Senator Marco Rubio called for less government regulation and a smaller government, particularly for small businesses.