Tomorrow president Barack Obama will give his 6th state of the union. This is an opportunity for the president to share his agenda for the upcoming year and outline what he hopes will unfold.
It is largely known that president Obama’s speech will revolve around income inequality which has become a hot button topic in the last few months. It is the reason why names like Elizabeth warren and Wendy Davis are known around the county and the key point that helped Bill DeBlasio win the NYC mayoral race to elect a democrat for the first time in 20 years.
Income inequality is a key issue among millennials who face bleak job prospects as well as crippling student debt and less opportunity to move up the ladder. In this piece I will discuss a few things I would like to see at the state of the union.
Starting with economic inequality, there are two things you cannot leave out when talking about this issue. They are not pretty and they have largely been ignored, but they still exist and need to be addressed.
The first issue is racism. Institutionalized Racism to be specific, contributes to income inequality because people of color are less likely to be able to move up the ranks. More young black men will go to jail than go to college. They are more likely to be shot, profiled and passed over for a job. This is not even to mention women of color, who are even more vulnerable. Zero tolerance policies and the school to prison pipeline in poor school districts with mostly minority students teach our children that it’s easier to go to jail than fight for the future because they have no chance. As a man of color and our countries first black president, president Obama should not be afraid to speak out on this crucial issue. He should stand up for himself and admit the silence that has been going on for decades is no longer acceptable and we have to face the issue head on.
The second issue is a touchy one for many politicians, entitlement programs. Tonight, congress is expected to pass the farm bill, which despite its innocuous name will cut $8 billion dollars from SNAP also known as food stamps. This will affect millions of people, including mothers with children, who rely on this program to feed themselves and their families. Republicans would have you believe that the people on this program are “free loaders” who just want to mooch off the government. This is untrue. The majority of food stamp recipients work sometimes 2 or 3 jobs to keep their families afloat but still can’t afford food because they are paid so little. Contrary to popular belief, 44% of food stamp recipients are white. They are exactly the type of people the tea party says their trying to protect. Unemployment insurance is also a critical program which At this moment is unfunded. This is a crucial example of the partisan politics and gridlock in government which has left over a million people without money to pay rent or put gas in their cars, with little hope of finding work or getting money to help them keep on their lights.
Raising the minimum wage is a hot topic these days. This is because the minimum wage of $8 that was implemented in the ’90s did not rise to meet inflation. Some would say that raising it would be bad for the economy but in fact, it’s the opposite. If more people have more money, they are more likely to spend money which helps grow the economy. Another myth is that the people working minimum wage jobs are all high school students who work for extra money. However, less than 20% of minimum wage workers are under 25. Most are unskilled workers who have little more than a high school education and work to feed their families. Raising the minimum wage means opening up the middle class, providing more opportunities for mobility, and ensuring more young people have a college education.
Speaking of education, the president greatly needs to address the flaws in our nations education system, not only in higher education but in k-12 ed as well. Today the largest teachers union in NY voted to drop the common core from their curriculum. The common core has value and promise, but we won’t get anywhere with it if we keep following the premise of teaching to the test. We need higher paid and better educated teachers, and better funded schools. I live in Philadelphia, where 27 schools were closed last year. Why are our schools failing? Because they are in impoverished neighborhoods that no one cares about. We need to stop pushing for “school choice” with vouchers and charter schools and start investing in the schools and teachers we already have. We also need more student input into what schools do. We need students on school boards and in PTA meetings. We need more involvement from parents and supportive adults. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it will take the work of the entire country to improve our school system.
The war on drugs will most likely be brought up at the state of the union. Of course, most people will go straight to marijuana legalization which the president has made comments on recently. But I would encourage him to go farther, to tackle other drugs and racist mandatory minimums. You’re more likely to get arrested for crack cocaine then powder cocaine, which is more used in communities of color. Drugs are a huge problem in this county, and making harsher sentences and more arrests doesn’t make it better. We need more emphasis on treatment and education then the threat of arrests.
The last big issue that will be discussed is the affordable care act and the only thing I have to say about that are two words: Medicaid expansion
I hope you learned something from this post and I hope you will watch the state of the union tomorrow night . Don’t forget to join the league of young voters #baracktalk twitter chat which will host many millennial orgs talking about the issues.