Commentary: President Barack Obama’s seventh and final State of the Union address reflected on his presidency and looked to the future. He spelled out four main issues that need to be addressed moving forward. The first issue is in our wheelhouse: “How do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?” His take:

  • Education
  • Job training — and retraining after job loss
  • Affordable health care on the job and between jobs
  • Portable retirement benefits
  • Paid leave
  • Decent wages

Also see:Obama calls on country to strengthen benefits.”

How to get there? The President offered his thoughts:

  • Affordable college education with two years of free community college, lower student loans and smaller tuition bills
  • The Affordable Care Act
  • Job retraining
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • A higher minimum wage
  • Wage insurance to supplement earnings when switching to a new job that pays less
  • Strengthened Medicare and Social Security systems

The President’s speech was short on new policy changes but instead focused on current Administration efforts that have begun but are not yet finished. He said, “All these things still matter to hardworking families; they are still the right thing to do; and I will not let up until they get done.” These are issues to watch—they’ll carry over through the federal elections and into the next Administration. Stay tuned.
Julie Stich, CEBS, is director of research with the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

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