Although it is traditional for US Presidents to deliver their State of the Union Addresses in a positive light, President Obama would have been more effective if he had taken a blunter “keeping it real” approach. The State of the Union may be strong, but that strength is not sustainable. By making the need for political reconciliation and bipartisan efforts to fix our dysfunctional government the focal point of his speech, the President would have used the opportunity before him to deal with the most pressing issue of the day.
That said, he did address some key issues. For one, he is moving to raise the minimum wage for government contractors to $10.10 per hour, thus government is setting a higher pay standard instead of using the weight of government to support the impoverishment of subcontractors. Obama also pledged to seek private-public approaches in order to increase wages and job opportunities as part of his overall effort to address economic disparity.
On the other hand, a few of his initiatives require a slight recalibration of thinking. Trade agreements are important for economic development, whether they are free trade agreements or not, but such deals must be designed to favor American interests by freeing US goods of foreign tariffs while freeing foreign goods, not readily produced in the US, of American tariffs, such as cane sugar. A national economy must be built on industries that serve the local needs of its People with locally plentiful resources that are as local as possible with excess production being used to participate in the global economy, thus our trade agreement should reflect this thinking
In regards to education and retraining, education should focus learning to learn and not supposed “lifelong learning” that relies on costly and time-consuming programs, which foster lifelong dependency on academic institutes. Although some “on-the-job-training” and training programs will always be needed, American workers and the American workforce are best served by providing schools students with broad, dynamic skills set that can be expanded via vocational and educational experiences.
At the same time, employers need better tools to assess the skills of potential employees, so the cost of investing in a new employee will be worth it. Skills assessment tests like those offered by ACT should be more readily provided by public and private staffing/unemployment agencies as well as schools, so job seekers do not need to jump through educational hoops in order to enter the workforce when they already have the skills to do a job.
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