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JESSE JACKSON: Response to President Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address

Jesse L. Jackson Sr., Special to The Informer | 1/29/2014, 6 p.m.
Courtesy of rainbowpush.org

The country seems turned off and tuned out to the Congress, politics generally and the federal government in particular. The good news is the emerging grass-roots movement exemplified by The Dreamers and the burgeoning campaign among low income workers around the nation, offering a clear challenge to the political gridlock, the inaction and non-work by Congress. Seeking to respond to this grassroots energy and to combat the frustration many people are feeling around the country, President Obama presented an optimistic tone, an uplifting message and a new plan of action to move America forward.

JOBS & UNEMPLOYMENT: The number one priority for the president and Congress must be jobs, public and/or private, getting this economy back on track, growing it in a balanced fashion, which will create stronger consumer demand. While 8.2 million jobs have been created under his administration, unemployment in the U.S. remains at unacceptable levels, especially in African-Americans and other minority communities. The president must continue to urge Congress to pass an extension of unemployment insurance for 1.5 million Americans — a number that is growing daily — and food stamps for those in need through no fault of their own.

ECONOMIC INEQUALITY: President Obama spoke directly of the need for jobs and the need to close the income inequality gap.

In the U.S., the wealthiest 1 percent grabbed 95 percent of the post-2009 economic growth and the bottom percent became poorer.

According to a recent Oxfam study, the world's 85 richest individuals have more wealth than half of the world's population, i.e., 3.5 billion people.

And according to the Campaign for America’s Future, without a new economic revolution 7 out of 10 Americans born into poverty are likely to remain there.

INCOME: Bolstered by a burgeoning nationwide grass-roots movement of low income workers, President Obama announced an executive order requiring government contractors to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 — potentially covering 2 million workers, including janitors at the National Zoo, cafeteria workers at the Smithsonian and the men and women who sew uniforms for the military. The president must match his words with action by making sure in his order that these workers and other direct workers for the federal government are immediately paid at the higher rate.

The president announced that he'll pressure Congress to pass the Harkin-Miller bill which would increase the federal minimum wage nationally for all low wage workers to $10.10 and index it to inflation thereafter.

IMMIGRATION: President Obama expressed his vision of America, imploring Congress to take up immigration reform previously passed by the Senate. It should be done comprehensively, but if the same result can be achieved incrementally that’s progress. Immigration advocates remain frustrated at the high level of deportations taking place under this administration that continues to divide parents from their children.

Immigrants who contribute so much to our economy and the moral fabric our nation deserve a pathway to citizenship.

VOTING RIGHTS: Republicans have launched an all-out attack on democracy and voting in state after state. That can only happen because of our states' rights and local control voting system in 13,000 separate and unequal local election jurisdictions. The fundamental right to vote is not explicitly in the U.S. Constitution and President Obama should launch a crusade to put the right to vote in our Constitution. He promised to "fix" our broken system, but common sense "reforms" will not fix it. Only adding a constitutional right to vote like H.J. Res. 44 can do that.