The President is using his speech to outline what the White House calls “The President’s Plan for a Strong Middle Class and A Strong America.” There are several new economic proposals included in this plan and a re-packaging of many ideas the President has pushed before. Here are the three new proposals I believe are most significant:
Universal preschool education for 4-year-olds. The President call for a new program to support state efforts to ensure that all 4-year-olds have access to quality preschool – and he will set this as a national goal. The White House will not put a price tag on this proposal (although the cost will be included in the President’s upcoming budget). The idea, however, is to give state’s financial support for programs designed to ensure all low- and moderate-income children have access to quality preschool. Most of the cost would ultimately be paid for by the states.
Raise the Minimum Wage. The President will call for raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour by 2015 and to ensure further increases by indexing the minimum wage to inflation. This is the first time President Obama has proposed raising the minimum wage (although as a candidate 2008, he promised to raise it to $9.50 by 2011.).
A $50 billion “Fix it First” infrastructure Program. The idea here is to spending $50 billion fixing America’s current infrastructure (such as the 70,000 bridges across the country considered structurally deficient) rather than building new roads and bridges.
There’s a big “Made In America” undercurrent to the speech. The President will talk about making America “a magnet for jobs” and highlight companies like Apple Computer that have promised to bring some foreign manufacturing back to the United States (Apple CEO Tim Cook will be in the First Lady’s box).
There will also be big section on green energy – focusing on the economic benefits of reducing our dependence on foreign oil. He will call for doubling the amount of renewable electricity generation in the U.S. by 2020 and announce an energy version of his Race to the Top education program – this time giving states grants for the best energy efficiency programs.
The president will touch on the big themes of the inaugural – guns, gay rights, immigration – but there will be no new proposals in those areas.
The portion on foreign policy and national security will be relatively short, but it will touch on the big subjects: North Korea, Iran, the Arab Spring (and US support for Democratic movements in the Arab world), Syria, his upcoming trip to Israel, women in combat, nuclear proliferation, etc. In those areas, he will not break new ground. The only new initiatives in this section are:
- Withdrawing 34,000 troops from Afghanistan by February 2014 (Read more here on the Afghanistan troop section).
- A new effort to get a transatlantic trade deal with the European Union
- The executive order on cyber terrorism announced today.