My 5 Fave Parts of Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address

The yoga class I took just before last night’s State of the Union (SOTU) address wiped me out. I fell asleep immediately afterward. Which is good because I had a chance to think overnight about the parts that resonated most with me.

sotu-en 2013

I’ve been tough on the president in the past, disappointed with his timidity and unwillingness to set a big bold agenda.

The other good thing about writing the day after is that others have fact checked. And the de rigeur liberal critique  as well as Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) really awful other-party rebuttal have been duly hashed and rehashed.

With the benefit of reflection, here are my three favorite parts of the speech.

1.    SOTU and women: On the domestic front, the president mentioned two hot button pieces of legislation poised to pass if Speaker Boehner (R-BadLoser) ever brings them up for votes:

We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.  Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago.  I urge the House to do the same.  And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

(This drew a “Huge Yes!” from Pamela Scharf when I posted it on Facebook.)

And on the global front, but equally true at home:

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all.  In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day.  So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

2.    SOTU and gun violence: This drew the biggest cheers as Obama did his rhetorical best: build to a revival preacher’s crescendo. And the backdrop of Gabby Giffords  and parents of slain children brought everyone but John Boehner (go figure, for once he showed no emotion) to tears.

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

3.    SOTU and minimum wage:  Did the proposed $9 minimum wage surprise you? It did me.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

4.    SOTU and early childhood education:  This warmed my former Head Start-teacher heart.

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance

5. The part of SOTU I liked best.  Karl Rove (who reminds me of the Riddler because he keeps popping up with his evil grin, every time you think a superhero has finally vanquished him), used a twitter hashtag #notserious to telegraph the Tea Party message of the day. A typical corrosive Rove tweet:

Karl Rove@KarlRove

Is it me or is this not one of POTUS’s better efforts? Lackluster response from even Dem’s side. #SOTU

Since you asked, I’ll answer, Karl. It’s you. The president’s speech was not just #serious. It hit a political home run. Now the real test–let’s see what action Congress takes, and how hard Obama fights for his agenda.

What do you predict? Tell me.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

See Red, Be Red for Equal Pay Day, Today

My red shoes

Red happens to be my favorite color. I’m an Aries after all. A classic one according to my sister (maybe that wasn’t meant as a compliment? Pioneering, passionate courageous, dynamic they say, but also selfish, impulsive, impatient, foolhardy.). Even my planet, Mars, named for the god of war, is red.

So I laughed when tweets from AAUW and National Women’s Law Center (NLRC), two organizations that have been pushing for the Paycheck Fairness Act and have declared this Blogging for Fair Pay Day, told me to wear red today.

No problem. I’ll just close my eyes and pull something out of my closet. It’ll more than likely be red.

There are many fabulous people blogging today about the fact that women make on average 78 cents to every $1 earned by a man, and women of color earn even less: African-American women earn 62¢, Latinas earn 53¢ for $1 earned by white, non-Hispanic men. NLRC can tell you how the comparison shakes down in your state.

Rather than write a long diatribe, I want to link Heartfeldt readers to some sources I’ve found particularly compelling or useful.

I’ve often said that equal pay should be considered part of the stimulus package. Liz O’Donnell’s op ed in the Tucson Citizen explains how the economics work:

It doesn’t take an economist to understand that when American families are struggling, consumer spending goes down. And consumer spending accounts for approximately 70 percent of total economic activity. Even the best laid stimulus plan is at risk unless we right the gender inequities in the workplace.

Closing the wage gap and promoting women in the workplace has to be part of the package if we are going to revive our economy.

Feminist Peace Network continues its “Girl’s Guide to the Economy” series with this argument for we should get the additional 22 cents. And the Institute for Women’s Policy Research compares pay by profession.

If you twitter, you can go here to read all the #fairpay tweets.

And Change.org gives you all the goods on the history of women’s pay progress–and there has been much progress, thanks to much hard work by women and men who have a sense of fairness and equality.

But still, good grief, what makes me really see red is that in 2009, we are still fighting to pass a piece of legislation, the Paycheck Fairness Act (S.182), that is nothing more than simple justice, and asks companies to do nothing more than to be fair to all employees regardless of gender.

So right now, while you are all hot and bothered about it, go here to send a message to your senator, or call him/her at 202-224-3121 and voice your support for the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill has already passed the house, so we’re within shouting distance (hey, maybe Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democratic party today will put them over the top!)

Wearing red to highlight the need for equal pay shouldn’t be necessary. Equal pay should just BE. But till it is, please see red and be red with passion for equal pay.

Let’s see, which of my 10 red tops shall I wear tomorrow?


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Girl’s Guide To The Economy: Elizabeth Warren Explains It All–Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About TARP And Were Very Afraid To Ask

With a big shout-out to Lucinda Marshall at Feminist Peace Network for allowing me to cross post, here are the answers to all your questions about TARP–sort of, as best they can be answered, and so forth. Be sure and read all three of Lucinda’s posts on this topic. (Then please e-mail me, gloria@gloriafeldt.com, and explain it to me.) Herewith, Lucinda, Elizabeth Warren, and Jon Stewart:

In Parts 11 and 12 of The Girls Guide To The Economy we have highlighted the work of Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel over the TARP. Below are Parts 1 and 2 of her interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show on Wednesday. Kudos to Stewart for having her on because clearly she is not getting the airtime she should be getting which will become totally clear to you when you view these videos. It is critical that what she is saying be heard. Listen, cross-post, send to your mother, your boss, your worst enemy and everyone else–let’s insist that the Obama administration and the media pay attention to Elizabeth Warren.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes The Daily Show on Facebook

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

And Now a Word from the Economy Herself

The economy is apparently a woman. Check out this intelligent parody from my friend Marcy Shaffer at Versus.

YouTube Preview Image

… a parody of “I Will Survive” (Words and Music by Dino Fekaris and Freddie Perren).

Credit to:

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VERSUS
Where politics and culture do their time in rhyme.
http://versusplus.com
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Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Is a Good Enough Stimulus Good Enough?

Seems like the 787 billion dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 stimulus package Congress has passed and sent to the President’s desk is just good enough. Though notable for its size, it doesn’t advance bold initiatives that could define Obama’s presidency, nor does it grapple with big, confounding issues like universal health care. It’s incremental rather than transformational. But it’s good enough to mind-shift us into a more optimistic view of the short term economy and to offer real help to many hurt by the downturn.

(If you want a quick look at how we’re going to spend 787 billion, see this chart. That sounds like “real money“, but it’s amazing how quickly it goes when you break it down–well, incrementally. For a more detailed summary, the Center for Law and Social Policy provides descriptions and tables with estimated state-by-state impacts of key provisions. Read that full report here.)

Though many economists say the package isn’t big enough, and feminists wonder whether it does enough to build the human infrastructure, Republicans are predictably squealing it’s too big and too diffuse. This despite all the effort Obama went to to engage and appease his Republican colleagues. I thought by now he would have learned the hooker principle (get paid first) and not have expended so much political capital trying to win over those who want only to create campaign issues with which to wrest back Congressional seats in 2010 and take the White House away from him in 2012. (Remember Newt and the Contract on America in 1994?)

I mean, caving to objections over a simple provision to reduce bureaucracy for states wanting to expand their Medicaid family planning programs was simply gratuitous political theater with a high ticket price. He has now framed birth control as “controversial”, despite its approval and usage by over 90% of Americans, and this will come back to haunt him when women’s groups start pushing him to deliver on promised family planning legislation such as the Prevention First Act.

But then, where were the women’s groups who should have stopped this silliness in the first place? They were with everyone else on the progressive to middle political scale, cutting Obama the slack a new president deserves, especially during crisis times.

On the plus side for Obama, perceptions about a leader’s prowess have as much to do with timing and the cushion of good will with which he/she is surrounded upon ascending to office as with actual performance. He’s riding high in the polls, and George Bush left things so bad that, with the exception of the Limbaugh-like loyalists, almost everyone is grateful for any forward movement.

Surely, this stimulus package is an important step forward, and it was accomplished with alacrity during the dawning days of the new administration. It shores up, pumps up, cheers up. It’s going to give relief to many low-and moderate-income families and help states avert drastic shortfalls in their budgets while saving major institutions. These are not small matters.

But courageous leadership isn’t just incremental. The New Deal was transformational. It changed government structure while building national infrastructure. Obama was swept into office in large part because voters saw him as a visionary who could transform and take the nation to qualitatively greater heights.

So let us give great credit to him for leading Congress and public opinion to embrace the current economic stimulus. That’s good enough for starters.

But onward now to universal health care, world class education, green and clean energy self-sufficiency, global leadership in women’s equality and human rights, and technological and scientific innovation that will fuel the next economic boom.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.