In his annual State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Barack Obama touched on a variety of topics — from creating high-tech manufacturing jobs and strengthening infrastructure to prioritizing diplomacy over war and expanding mental-health benefits for veterans — but really harped on the issue of income inequality. He lambasted the fact that in the wake of the recession, the one-percenters have thrived while “too many Americans are working just to get by, let alone get ahead.” His speech was urgent, calling out Congress for its inaction and infighting, and vowing to use his executive powers to make “opportunity for all” possible. His idea of opportunity not only included jobs but also veered into points about immigration reform, climate change, raising the federal minimum wage, and closing the pay gap between men and women.
“I thought it was a very clear plan for this point in an economy that’s recovering but still needs to be encouraged,” said Congressmember Lois Capps of Obama’s speech, adding that the unemployment figures in the biggest chunk of her district—Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties—are 5,850 and 3,151, respectively. Capps, a Democrat, said that she also appreciated Obama’s mention of California and its drought and his acknowledgement that, as she put it, the immigration system as it stands now leads to “broken families.” Capps also applauded the president’s stance on doing away with the 77-cents-to-the-dollar gap in women’s and men’s wages, or as he referred to it, “the workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode.”
She said that he could have done a better job of acknowledging the Affordable Care Act’s “terrible rollout,” which she said was a “work in progress” but “a real mess-up” nonetheless. With the caveat that Obama couldn’t talk about everything, Capps said she wished he would have peppered his climate-change talk with some points about fracking, and that he could have mentioned the “remnants of the housing crisis,” which continues to plague California. As for the president’s pledge to use executive action, Capps said the Republicans “could easily take that as a threat,” but that she understands his frustration. “He’s getting a little impatient,” she said. “It is his second term.”