1/31/2014, 11:33 a.m.
Into his fifth year in office with his approval rating the worst of any commander-in-chief at this stage of their tenure, President Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet, indicating that he was tired of reaching across the aisle to appeal to recalcitrant Republicans. It was time to exert the power of the executive order.
“As a chief executive,” the president said toward the close of his speech, “I intend to lead by example … I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour—because if you cook for our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.”
In addition to this proposed mandate, the president said that he has asked Vice President Joe Biden to “lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need and to match them with good jobs that need to be filled right now.”
Dispatching the vice president is one way to get the ball rolling, but he will need to apply added pressure to bring about change in the realm of education, where he promises to ratchet up the funding of pre-K programs. “Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old,” he said.
This message should resonate strongly with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, as it echos their concerns on the same issue.
Obama’s promises to deal forthrightly with climate change, minimum wage, voter suppression, the NSA and equal pay for equal work met resounding approval in the chamber. “Today, women make up about half our workforce,” Obama said. “But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That’s wrong, and it’s an embarrassment.”
Another directive from the president was to the Treasury “to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg.”
These promises will not come easy, and obviously, much of what he proposes is directly related to the midterm elections. However, these promises, like so many of his ideas, whether domestic or foreign, hinge on his ability to stay on point and arouse the kind of support from the American citizenry that will make them impossible—or at least serve as a major source of embarrassment to any who seek to oppose them.