Millions who watched President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night went to bed with a reminder of the “American promise”: Hard work can guarantee the means to support oneself and one’s family.
This ideal resonates most powerfully with college students. We have our feet poised on the bottom rung of the life ladder; we have everything to lose and everything to gain. Accordingly, the economic plan announced Tuesday correlates strongly with student interests.
Obama proposes an economy “where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.” Well, we’ve worked hard. We’ve been responsible. We’ve attended to our education. Where’s our payoff?
It starts with cultivating a healthier economy for us to enter in the first place. Cognizant of the growing gap between America’s rich and poor, Obama hopes to create a strong middle class by focusing tax relief on the 98 percent of Americans who make under $250,000 a year.
The plan is simple. Pass a payroll tax cut. Implement the so-called “Buffett Rule” by keeping tax rates for millionaires at a minimum of 30 percent and by ensuring no secretary has a higher tax rate than his or her far wealthier boss. Instead of bailouts, create a financial crimes unit to investigate and bring to right the big banks that misuse people’s investments.
Obama wants to bolster American manufacturing by cutting taxes for manufacturers. Companies that outsource jobs will be denied tax breaks. Instead, the breaks will be awarded to businesses trying to bring jobs home.
Such measures would create an influx of employment opportunities for fresh college graduates and reduce the risk of layoffs because of outsourcing.
Obama’s recognition of the vital link between an educated America and a prosperous America offers students an even more direct benefit. In his address, Obama called for an extension of the tuition tax credit and a commitment from states to make post-secondary education a higher priority in their budgets.
Obama challenged colleges to find innovative ways to keep tuition down and federal funding up.
Obama’s proposals aim to build a strong, fair economy on the back of a well-educated populace. His strategies will treat students well.
Funding for education and other government initiatives will not come from vulnerable targets like seniors, middle-class citizens or college graduates working entry-level positions. Instead, the financial institutions perpetrating the evils of “outsourcing, bad debt and phony financial profit” should pick up the slack. The wealthy have a duty to help — not because they haven’t worked hard, but because they have far more to spare than many middle-class citizens who have labored with equal intensity.
As for us college students, we will be left free to take a stab at capturing the American dream.
Francesca Bessey is a freshman majoring in narrative studies. Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.
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