NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Much of President Obama’s third State of the Union speech focused on broad goals to keep the country strong and competitive, but the president did mention a few specific proposals that could have a tangible impact on how Americans find jobs and save money going forward. Here are a few of the highlights:
There’s no doubt that student loan debt is quickly becoming one of the biggest crises in this country, which is why we were particularly pleased to hear the president put pressure on universities to bring down tuition costs by threatening to withhold federal funding from those that don’t.
“Let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,” the president said in his speech. “Higher education can’t be a luxury – it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”
In the short term, the president also urged Congress to extend the tuition tax credit that saves some families thousands of dollars a year in tuition costs.
Providing Assistance for Homeowners
Homeowners struggling to pay down mortgages at their current interest could soon have an easier time refinancing at a lower rate.
“I'm sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low interest rates,” President Obama said. “No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks.”
The president proposed paying for the plan with a “small fee” on major financial institutions, though whether Congress is willing to sign off on such a fee is debatable.
The president pushed several proposals to tackle the unemployment problem including plans to developments of natural gas energy, which would add 600,000 jobs by 2020 to reforms of the tax code for corporations, which might encourage more businesses to bring back jobs from overseas. But one of the most promising – albeit also one of the more vague – was a plan to expand job retraining initiatives with the goal of providing 2 million Americans with the skills needed to find work in today’s economy.
“Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, and Orlando, and Louisville are up and running,” he said. “Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers – places that teach people skills that businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.”
The president also noted that the system training programs need to be simplified so that job hunters can have “one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help they need.”
Income Tax Reform
Finally, Obama reiterated his desire to make the tax system fairer by increasing the amount that the wealthiest Americans pay in taxes, while ensuring that the rest of the country isn’t asked to pay more.
“If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30% in taxes. In fact, if you’re earning $1 million a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions,” the president said. “On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98% of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up. You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You’re the ones who need relief.”
Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at Seth.Fiegerman@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.