News Release

SOTU: * Jobs * Equity * Climate

LORI WALLACH, [email]
Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Wallach said today: “It is the height of cynicism for President Obama to couple the worthy goal of rebuilding American manufacturing with a call for more of the same NAFTA-style trade-deficit boosting, job-killing FTAs [free trade agreements] — especially the 11-nation TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership]. … Since the implementation of these agreements, 50,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities have been shuttered and we have lost five million manufacturing jobs — fully one quarter of the American industrial jobs that existed before these agreements. U.S. exports to countries that are not FTA partners has exceeded U.S. export growth to countries that are FTA partners by 44 percent over the last decade. The aggregate U.S. trade deficit with FTA partners increased by more than $151 billion (inflation-adjusted) since the FTAs were implemented.”

GWENDOLYN MINK, [email]
Mink is co-editor of the two-volume Poverty in the United States: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics and Policy and author of Welfare’s End. She said today: “The President reiterated his cramped vision of equity and economic well-being in a speech that should set off alarm bells for anyone concerned with improving policies to assure economic security and advance equality. Instead of spelling out ways to strengthen and improve Medicare and Social Security to benefit program participants, the President continued to wave the banner of ‘entitlement reform,’ inviting unspecified policy changes in the name of deficit reduction. Instead of challenging America to end economic vulnerability and poverty by addressing root causes — such as race and gender inequality, the wage structure, and the extra-economic status of caregiving — the President offered an anemic rise in the minimum wage and repackaged old solutions that hang women’s economic security on their linkage to men through marriage and fatherhood. While the President did repeat his support for the Paycheck Fairness Act, he looked no further than this important but narrow measure to advance wage equity for women. The Paycheck Fairness Act would correct and strengthen interpretations of the Equal Pay Act to improve wage equality prospects for women who do ‘substantially equal’ (the same) work as men. But what about the 40 percent of women who work in jobs primarily staffed by women, which are also the jobs that receive less pay? Or the millions of women, especially of color, who are held to the lowest paying jobs? A President who wants to be perceived as an advocate for women needs to present brave and informed ideas to correct structures and practices that perpetuate injustice. One place to begin would be by uttering the word ‘union’ — when government abdicates, unions are still the best guarantee of an improved wage structure for women.”

KEVIN GRAY, [email]
Author of The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama, Gray said today: “Doubtless, his call to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour should be applauded. He’s right that ‘in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty…’ A minor miracle was finally hearing Obama say the word ‘poverty’ in a speech. Even so, the President’s speech wasn’t even a glass half full. It was three quarters empty.

“Little was said about helping those in the black community suffering from double-digit unemployment. Or providing job training and economic reintegration to those locked out of the economy because of the drug war and other factors. Or dealing with a continuing housing-mortgage foreclosure crisis in communities of color and, how to force the banks to help those most in need. And while his ‘Fix It First’ jobs and infrastructure program may be – if enacted – a boon to a few select contractors, its impact on creating jobs where they are needed the most is sketchy at best.

“Obama touted the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan as though making people work until they die was the solution to the nation’s debt problem as opposed to ceasing to pay for wars with social security funds. People of color should be outraged at his support of such a backwards plan. He touted his and Arne Duncan’s ‘Race to the Top’ charter school scheme that is nothing more than turning over the schools to Wall Street and the corporations.”

MICHAEL DORSEY, [email]
Visiting fellow and professor at Wesleyan University, College of the Environment, Dorsey said today: , Dorsey said today: “What he could have said: ‘We must choose to end our dependence on fossil fuels in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.’

“The content of the president’s state of the union regarding climate was un-presidential. Trying to resuscitate broken carbon markets that have not worked in a decade since they began in Europe is a recipe for climate catastrophe. The failure to assemble the growing litany of oil and energy executives that are already doing more than the President proposed reveals the lackluster quality of his advisors — that are in desperate need of being replaced. The President could have reclaimed and built upon the admission of his predecessor, that we are addicted to oil. Who could have plotted a path to break our addiction to oil — not by taxing oil, but by giving us a pathway to shifting subsidies away from all fossil fuels and into viable renewables, like wind and solar. …

“It seems the only way forward on climate will be the coming non-violent civil disobedience — backed by both the NAACP and the Sierra Club, amongst others. These marches on the White House shall start this weekend and continue for the next 100 days to Earth Day, and possibly beyond, until we see presidential action for climate justice.”