Obama, Patrick focus on education and economic policy

By Thalia Yunen and Sam Humphrey

President Barack Obama gave his 2014 State of the Union Address in the Chamber of the House of Representatives to speak about his plans for the rest of his term in office. Governor Deval Patrick also gave his State of the Commonwealth address on Tuesday, due to threat of winter storm during his regularly scheduled speech last Tuesday. While both speeches were made to address their proper constituents, they had many similarities.

The presidents of Suffolk’s Democrat and Republican clubs had different responses to Obama’s proposals.

“He pressed Congress to focus on the recovering economy and rebuilding the middle class. He was very good and on point,” said Conor Finley, president of the Suffolk Democrats.

The Suffolk GOP took a different stance, saying in a statement: “while our President speaks very eloquently, unfortunately his rhetoric does not translate into action.” While President Obama had a great tone, there was no overarching substance to his speech.”

(Photo by Flickr user the office of Governor Deval Patrick)

Obama began his address by saying, “Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades,” and continued on with anecdotes that gave insight into how most Americans are investing their time today.

Finley praised Obama’s education proposals, saying, “From fighting for equal access pre-K and college, students have no greater advocate than Barack Obama.”

The focus of the president’s speech was the deflated middle-class, and avoiding an unattainable American Dream.

“The notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead in America – that belief has suffered some serious blows,” Obama said. In order to combat this, he plans to continue to work with Congress to insource jobs from abroad and increase the minimum wage. Obama encouraged business leaders to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

Finley highlighted Obama’s “calling on Congress to make sure all socioeconomic statuses are empowered and can benefit from the economy.” Finley also lauded Obama’s calls to raise the minimum wage, expand student loan relief, and fight for equal pay.

“As the largest political club on campus, we would ask the President what he has to show after nearly six years in office. To many of our Suffolk friends graduating and entering the work force this year, the harsh reality of the President’s failed economic policies are going to be evident,” the Suffolk GOP said.

Patrick also encouraged his constituents to do the same. While the minimum wage is expected to increase to $10 by the year 2015, Patrick is encouraging business leaders in Massachusetts to raise their workers wages because “it boosts morale and productivity.”

Other problems Patrick noted were educational gaps, an ongoing cycle of violence, those whose professional careers stalled because of the 2008 recession, and those unable to find success because of their birthplaces’ zip code.

To combat this, he offered a three-point strategy. First, he will continue to invest time, ideas and money into the state’s education, innovation and infrastructure. Second, state government will continue to collaborate on improving the state of the commonwealth, and third, the government will focus on governing for the long-term, rather than short-term solutions.

Patrick briefly mentioned the need to improve the Department of Children and Families (DCF), referencing the five-year-old Fitchburg boy who went missing late last year. Officials later found that DCF workers grossly mishandled the case.

Obama emphasized education.

“Today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before,” he said.

“Reform in education also means measuring new ways to how children think, not just measuring how they bubble in a question. One of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked Congress to help make high-quality pre-K a possibility for every four-year-old,” Obama said.

Another point of contention in Obama’s speech was when he said, “It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode. Women make up about half of our workforce, but they still make only 70 cents for every dollar a man makes. Today, in 2014, that is wrong. Women deserve equal pay for equal work!” This caught a rousing applause from the audience.

In regards to the new healthcare system, Obama proudly stated that no American could ever be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Other quick points: Obama plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison, stop the use of drones in foreign countries, tighten up on immigration reform, negotiate with Iran to prevent their development and use of a nuclear weapons, and overall hopes to make diplomacy at the heart of his international agenda. Both Obama and Patrick made it clear that education and innovation are at the heart of their domestic policy.