President Obama Lays Out Plan to Expand Middle Class in State of the Union Address

Photo by AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool
By reforming workplace policies, revamping higher education and improving American safety, President Obama hopes to make the middle class a more attainable status

Entering his fourth and final quarter, President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address tonight, where he focused heavily on increasing opportunities for the middle class.

His plan includes reforming the workplace and the education system, which would make middle class status more accessible to every American.

"The verdict is clear," he said. "Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don't get in the way."

CHANGING THE AMERICAN WORKPLACE
On a press call earlier today, White House senior officials noted that only three out of five working Black Americans have access to paid sick and maternity leave. President Obama hopes to modernize the federal workplace by providing affordable childcare for workers, introducing a $3,000 tax cut per child and making the American workforce more competitive with the private sector. 

The President also touched on increasing the federal minimum wage, saying, "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, try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise."

REFORMING HIGHER EDUCATION
President Obama also discussed his plan to offer two years of free community college, which would make higher education as accessible as high school. The plan would ensure a smoother transition between community colleges, four-year institutions and the workforce. "We're connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics," he said.

Currently, there are one million Black students enrolled in community college, making it the most popular higher education option in the African-American community.

PROTECTING AMERICANS
President Obama also vowed to keep every American safe, saying that though he would veto any bill that would potentially allow a war, he did authorize the use of force against ISIS. The government is also working vigorously to foil any technological breaches.

"If we don't act, we'll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable," he said. "If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe."

WOMEN'S RIGHTS
Speaking briefly on women's rights, the President said that Congress desperately needed to pass a law ensuring that women received the same pay as their male counterparts. "Really. It's 2015. It's time."

President Obama also mentioned the falling teen pregnancy and abortion rates, and stated, "every woman should have access to the healthcare she needs."

IMMIGRATION AND VOTING RIGHTS
Though "passions still fly on immigration," said the President, it's important that we appreciate the ambition of young immigrants and recognize the unnecessary torment that immigration and deportation laws cause families.

He touched on the 50th anniversary of the Selma march and remarked that it is unacceptable that a large percentage of Americans are still fighting for voting equality.

"We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it's being denied to too many," he said. "On this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.

RACE RELATIONS
As part of his closing remarks, President Obama addressed the highly contentious issue of race relations. He cited the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, saying, "We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely, we can understand a father who fears his son can't walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won't rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift."

The President continued, "I want our actions to tell every child in every neighborhood: Your life matters. We are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids."

Read his full speech here.

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