In Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, there are some sections that give rise to more questions than answers.
I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job and new chance to support their families; this week, many will come to the White House to make that commitment real. Tonight, I ask every business leader in America to join us and to do the same – because we are stronger when America fields a full team.
The Federal Government is the nation’s largest employer. Why isn’t Obama using his executive authority to establish a hiring preference for the long-term unemployed? If it is legal to hire someone because of his or her skin color, why isn’t it legal to hire someone because he or she has been at home for the past 99 weeks?
Estiven Rodriguez couldn’t speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age nine. But last month, thanks to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his classmates – through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors – from their high school to the post office, where they mailed off their college applications. And this son of a factory worker just found out he’s going to college this fall.
New York City has some of the most lavishly funded schools in the world. American colleges have some of the lowest admission standards. In fact, the City University of New York has had no admissions requirements, other than a high school diploma or GED, since around 1970 (see Wikipedia). Why are we surprised that the public’s investment in Mr. Rodriguez is yielding a return? Shouldn’t we expect that any child in whom $200,000+ of education is invested would be able to attend college if he or she chose to do so?
It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced.
The U.S. isn’t a significant manufacturer of solar cells (Wikipedia chart through 2010). We import them from China and install them. Are we a “global leader in LCD TVs” because we import a bunch of them from Korea, China, and Taiwan to watch this weekend’s Super Bowl? Are we a “global leader in camera systems” because a lot of Americans have purchased Canon, Nikon, and Sony cameras?
Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old.
If the K-12 schools are so bad that we are shocked when a high school graduate (see above) is able to enter college, why will government-run pre-K be better? And how can the federal government “help states” to do this? If the federal government takes money away from residents of each state, brings that cash to Washington, D.C., then sends it back, how was that “helping the states”? Isn’t the federal government just collecting taxes that otherwise could have been collected by local or state governments? [Separately, it would be nice to see an explanation about how pre-K is the key. New Hampshire has historically not required that its town-run school systems offer kindergarten (i.e., public school would start at first grade). Yet New Hampshire's high school graduation rate is nonetheless higher than the rate in neighboring Massachusetts (86% versus 83%; source) and is much higher than the national average.]
Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.
Given these numbers, why does the federal government employ any men, starting with Obama? If women will do the same job just as well for 23 percent less money, couldn’t Obama trim the deficit substantially by firing all of the men and replacing them with women? [And separately, maybe this does explain why there are so many long-term unemployed people in the U.S. It would be irrational for a profit-minded company to hire a man, paying him nearly 30 percent more to do the same job (according to President Obama). Just imagine if Facebook had hired a man instead of Sheryl Sandberg. Instead of paying $845 million in 2012 for a COO (USA Today), the shareholders would have had to give up $1.1 billion. That extra compensation would have entirely wiped out the company's $53 million profit for 2012 (10K).]
Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most workers don’t have a pension. A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. … That’s why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings:
Since we already have Social Security, if it isn’t sufficient, why not fix it so that it is, instead of creating something new?
Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans.
How is this fair? If a person is under 26 and has had the misfortune to lose both parents and/or has parents who have the misfortune to remain uninsured after Obamacare, he or she suffers the additional misfortune of having to pay for his or her own health care?
Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day.
Why do victims of gunshots get priority? (about 11,000 per year; source) Why doesn’t citizenship mean standing up for the lives that car accidents, many of them preventable through uncontroversial engineering improvements to roads and/or cars, steal from us each day? Or being concerned about other preventable deaths (table)? And why do we give priority to victims here in the U.S.? Shouldn’t we also stand up for the lives of people in other countries?
And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment – when Team USA marches the red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium – and brings home the gold.
If everyone is inherently equal, why are we so determined to bring home the gold? Wouldn’t participation be sufficient?
[And speaking of the Olympics, why did I fall on my face the last time that I tried ice dancing to Justin Bieber's Believe album? Where was the inherent dignity that the President of the United States has promised?]