The State of the Union wrapped itself up this past Tuesday. I once again felt like the only seventeen year old girl who was diligently waiting for the biggest political speech of the year (aside from presidential inauguration speeches but those only happen once in a blue moon).
For those of you living outside of the U.S. or those of you who failed your high school civics class, The State of the Union (or SOTU as I'll be referring to it to save my hand from cramping) is a speech given by the president typically on the second Tuesday of January every year. It's required by our Constitution that the president give this speech to congress periodically (which we've interpreted as annually). It's basically a big awkward dinner party without the dinner. Congress comes together for a night joint session, and politicians try to make small talk in the suits their wives picked out for them. Like I said, it's a real treat.
Usually the president takes this as a time to inform Congress (and in this day and age the American people as it is televised) on what he plans/hopes/dreams on accomplishing in the coming year as he'll need Congress' cooperation to get it done. After the speech, a rebuttal then comes from the party that is not in power—presidentially speaking. For example, our president is Democrat so the rebuttal came from the Republicans. It's usually a really awkward speech where a person with too much make-up reads off a teleprompter with beady eyes. I'll say it again, it's a real treat.
Enough civics talk for everyone though, let's get to the point. President Obama listed a lot of things he wanted done during the hour and a half speech: a raise in minimum wage, universal child care (I'll be writing a post on that one soon), an end to ISIS, transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, I could go on and on, but what really stood out to me was the backlash following his announcement of free community college.
First off, this shouldn't have been news to anyone. He had already began putting this initiative in motion a few weeks prior, but I guess the bandwagon Republicans who only follow news if it comes via Twitter just now realized this plan.
Republicans are known to be harshly against any sort of social reform program such as free community college. This is the party that wants to cut spending on food stamps, free health care, and any other sort of welfare program because they are in the mindset that they're all just "free handouts" to people who are too lazy to work (which is a huge stereotype); there are people out there who work two to three jobs and still rely on food stamps to feed their kids, it's just that some do not understand that not everyone is a millionaire.
Anyway, free community college. Conservatives are griping because their precious tax dollars are once again going to go to another social program that could, you know, help our economy, give millions of people an opportunity they might never could have had, get better jobs, etc., etc.
It's kind of ironic that a party that is so against the welfare system does not support a system that could help millions of Americans become independent and no longer rely on the welfare programs Republicans hate. Think about it: They'll have access to better jobs + higher wages which will equal less need for food stamps, free health insurance, etc.
The biggest complaint Republicans seem to be having is they wonder how we will pay for such a program. The obvious answer seems to be tax dollars, but if people picked up a newspaper every once and a while, they would notice that that's not exactly always the case.
President Obama has been looking at Tennessee Promise, a program that provides two years of tuition free community college. Tennessee is the first state to ever initiate this sort of program. The best part is, no tax payer money is being used to fund the program — the education lottery will actually be providing the monetary needs.
That then begs the question, if this could be funded by the education lottery — not tax dollars — why would anyone be against this? A program that could boost our economy, create less dependence on social welfare programs, establish opportunities for millions of Americans, and I could go on and on and on.
As someone who one day hopes free college is in our nation's future, I can only hope this measure gets passed. I can only hope that people realize affordable/free education is a huge stimulus to our economy. I can only hope that this program won't be seen as another "hand-out" to the part of our society that isn't as fortunate.
Have a fabulous day.