President Barack Obama called for economic equality in his third State of the Union speech to a joint-session of Congress Tuesday night.
More than 150 people watched Obama’s address at an event hosted by the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics in the Annenberg East Lobby.
“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” Obama said. “Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
Kaya Masler, president of USC Students for Barack Obama, said Obama’s speech was directed toward lawmakers and the electorate.
“He spoke to voters and he spoke to Congress,” Masler said.
Speaking about higher education, the president urged Congress to prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. Obama also said he would cut federal funding to schools that do not work to lower tuition costs for students.
“If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,” Obama said. “Higher education can’t be a luxury — it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”
Some students were supportive of Obama’s initiatives but expressed doubts about whether they would make it through a Republican-controlled Congress.
“I was surprised he took such a hard tack on China,” said Kyle Hall, a junior majoring in international relations and political science. “I liked a lot of the tacks he takes, but I’m not sure he’ll pass them.”
Other initiatives Obama proposed were the creation of a Financial Crimes Unit and the implementation of a tax-reform proposal known as the Buffett rule. Named for investor Warren Buffett, who reported that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, the rule states that millionaires pay no less than 30 percent in federal income taxes.
“Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households,” Obama said. Maurae Baker, a sophomore majoring in public relations, said she agrees with Obama on the Buffett rule.
“It doesn’t make any sense that someone making one million [dollars] doesn’t pay [the same rate] as their secretary,” Baker said.
The speech and a screening of the Republican rebuttal by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels were followed by a panel discussion sponsored by the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.