America turns the page

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

President Obama delivered a defiant and upbeat State of the Union Address earlier this week, claiming that 2014 had been 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. And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years,” President Obama said.

“At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, 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 15 years and for decades to come,” he said.

“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?”

Talking at Capitol Hill, President Obama stressed the importance of what he called ‘middle class economics’, calling on Americans to embrace equality

“Middle-class economics is… when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, 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,” he stated.

According to the President, middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. Top of the list is helping people to afford childcare, college, health care, a home and retirement.

“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 unravelling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got to fix a broken system,” President Obama said.

According to President Obama, since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined. The country’s manufacturing sector has added almost 800,000 new jobs. He also added that there are millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist 10 or 20 years ago – jobs at companies like Google, eBay and Tesla.

“No one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America. We know that. Middle-class economics is all about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.

President Obama also put a call out to further develop America’s infrastructure, calling on a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come. “Twenty-first century businesses need twenty-first century infrastructure – modern ports, and stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet,” he remarked.

International trade and export were also on the agenda.

“Twenty-first 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 our 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 are also fair,” said President Obama.

“95% of the world’s customers live outside our borders. We can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China. So let’s give them one more reason to get it done.”