As President Obama gets ready for his second State of the Union address tonight, Roosevelt Institute Fellows have some suggestions for the priorities he should set to put the country on the right path — economically, socially, and morally.
“I would like to see President Obama express that business is a means to meet social goals rather than an end in itself. I would like to see President Obama demonstrate awareness that the social contract between multinational executives and the American people has broken down and that their prosperity is different than the prosperity of the American people. I would like to see President Obama acknowledge that when he strives for the competitiveness of American business enterprise, the oligopolistic health care industry charges people and citizens far more than what is charged in other countries for drugs, insurance and medical procedures is a cost that hinders our competitiveness. I would like to see President Obama assert that public investment enhances the productivity of the private sector and inspires rather than crowds out private investment in the USA. I would like to see President Obama state that capital gains tax for holdings of stocks in Asian companies is not an incentive to capital formation at home and should be rescinded so that money can be used for an investment tax credit for capital that is deployed only in the 50 United States and not for foreign direct investment or foreign portfolio investment.” ~ Robert Johnson, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking
“I’d like to see President Obama make our jobs crisis his number one priority, while also planning out a future goal of how government can work to create full employment. I’d like to see him talk about defending and expanding, not cutting, the gains made in the health care and financial reform debate of 2010. And to close, the goals I don’t expect but would be great are mortgage modification for bankruptcy, reexamining our prison policies, and a curtailment of civil liberty violations.” ~ Mike Konczal, Roosevelt Institute Fellow
“As recent statistics show, the total non-institutional civilian labor force (Americans 16 years and older who are not in a institution — criminal, mental, or other types of facilities — or on active military duty) is reported as 238.889 million. Of these, we see 139.206 million people employed (58.3% of the labor force) and 14.485 million people unemployed (6.1% of the labor force). Obviously that can’t be the total picture — we’re only at 64.4%. This is why there are 8.931 million people part-time employed for economic reasons — this concerns people who want a full-time job but can’t get one — and 18.184 million people part-time employed for non-economic reasons. Non-economic reasons include school or training, retirement or Social Security limits on earnings, but also childcare problems and family or personal obligations. But the by far largest category ‘missing’ from both the employed and unemployed statistics is those “Not In Labor Force”: 85.2 million people. The BLS definition states: ‘A person who did not work last week, was not temporarily absent from a job, did not actively look for work in the previous 4 weeks, or looked but was unavailable for work during the reference week; in other words, a person who was neither employed nor unemployed.’ (Clearly, this does include lot of unemployed people). To summarize: 108.616 million people in America are either unemployed, underemployed or “not in the labor force.” This represents 45.5% of working-age Americans. What this suggests is that ALMOST HALF OF ALL AMERICANS have full-time jobs. How much of this is voluntary, Mr. President? Have you ever considered enlisting your team of economic advisers to look at this question? If we had a Job Guarantee program, we could give everyone who wants to work a decent paying job. Under a full employment scenario, GDP growth, deficits and entitlements will never be a problem. Why not use the SOTU to embrace a goal of full employment for the nation?” ~ Marshall Auerback, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow
“The Tucson speech was magnificent in large part because it appealed to the best of Americans. It spoke to how Americans should deal with each other. The State of the Union speech should continue that message to the next obvious point… It must be the speech that positions him for the remainder of this term. While the economy cannot be the only topic — the speech, for example, cannot ignore Afghanistan — it has to be the main topic.” ~ Bo Cutter, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of The Next American Economy (read his full opinion here)
“American businesses have recovered from the recession. They are making record profits. Now its time for American families to fully recover. America’s businesses have a responsibility and an obligation to use their record profits to put America’s families to work.” ~ Richard Kirsch, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow
“Like FDR, Obama has more than oratorical talents. He also has teaching talents. We need him to put them to work to counter the bizarre renditions of America’s past propagated by the likes of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator Jim DeMint, Governor Rick Perry, chalk-boarder Glenn Beck, media hound Sarah Palin, and AEI president Arthur C. Brooks… I would press him to go up to the Capitol and speak not just as President and Commander-in-Chief, but as Head Teacher… I would encourage him to recover and project the narrative of American experience that reminds us all that the United States was founded as a Grand Experiment. It is an experiment in freedom, equality, and democracy and in extending those ideals. It is an experiment literally inscribed in American life through the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg Address, the Four Freedoms, and the innumerable words and songs delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.” ~ Harvey J. Kaye, Rosenberg Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the author of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America (read his full opinion here)