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20 Jan, 2015 05:14

Too little too late? Obama’s address: Words and figures to watch

Too little too late? Obama’s address: Words and figures to watch

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday will center on “middle-class economics,” according to the White House, in an attempt by the president to set himself apart from the first Republican-controlled Congress of his presidency.

Yet some observers see Obama’s address proposals – including heightened taxes on the richest Americans, paid sick leave, efforts to increase home ownership, and free community college – as being ‘too little, too late’ in the face of steep conservative opposition.

Meanwhile, Obama is expected to receive support from Congress on major trade deals that will strengthen corporate power across the globe and on a call for renewed authorization for use of military force to justify projecting American military might abroad, especially in the wake of US-led airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group (formerly ISIS or ISIL) in Syria and Iraq.

Tax hikes: Obama will propose a $320 billion plan to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans. The plan will include raising the capital gains tax for families with income more than $500,000 per year to 28 percent from the current rate of 23.8 percent.

READ MORE:Nearly 60 top corporations used loophole to avoid paying billions in US taxes

The president will also propose closing tax loopholes, including one known as the “trust fund loophole,” which allows individuals to receive around $5.4 million dollars in inheritance without having to pay any taxes on that amount. He will also propose new fees on financial institutions and expansions of child care and education tax breaks for middle-income Americans.

Overall, the tax plans face incredibly low odds of passing through Congress.

Compared to other rich nations, the US middle class has had a severely unlucky decade http://t.co/pcep8K8GM5pic.twitter.com/guX7h2XlYd

— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) January 19, 2015

College education: Obama will discuss a plan to provide students with two years of community college education free of charge, if states participate in the program. The proposal would save an average student $3,800 per year, possibly benefiting as many as 9 million students. Yet the proposal will not address the army of university students stuck holding the bill on over a trillion dollars’ worth of student loan debt.

READ MORE:American Dream delayed for students with $1.2 trillion debt

As Obama heads into the final stretch of his presidency, Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of politically-liberal magazine The American Prospect, wrote the plan is just not bold enough at this particular stage of Obama’s term, especially with this Congress waiting to knock it down.

“By contrast, the original G.I. Bill of Rights of 1944 covered living expenses as well as tuition. The point is that this Obama proposal is not going to be passed by the Republican Congress in any case, so why not think big and act bold? Why not propose something that would make a major difference in the lives of millions of moderate income Americans and dare the Republicans to oppose it?”

Paid leave: A $2 billion proposal with almost no chance of getting congressional approval would encourage US states to establish paid family and medical leave programs. Obama will also call for a federal law that would give government workers six more weeks of paid parental leave.

The United States is one of only three countries in the world that does not offer a monetary supplement to new mothers on maternity leave from their jobs, according to the United Nations.

22% of top earners get paid family leave. Only 5% of the lowest earners do. http://t.co/NLSqL8iNp4pic.twitter.com/uHrpQby6J8

— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) January 15, 2015

Trade deals: Obama is expected to renew a call for executive fast-track negotiating authority for major, corporate-friendly trade pacts in Asia and Europe, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), respectively. The deals have major bipartisan support in Congress, and supporters argue that they will boost the US economy and open new markets, particularly in the Pacific.

READ MORE:WikiLeaks: US pushes to extend drug monopolies in secret proposed trade deal

The TPP, for example, is a widely-contested deal between the US and 11 other nations adjacent to the Pacific Rim, and has been negotiated by representatives for those countries in largely in secret. According to leaked excerpts of the TPP and remarks from experts following the news closely, it is believed that the arrangement would allow corporations to oppose foreign laws while at the same time limiting the abilities for governments to regulate those entities. The deal signals restrictions on internet privacy, increased patent protections, greater access to litigation, and increased financial deregulation.

It's time to knock the Trans-Pacific Partnership off the "Fast Track": http://t.co/abV5QsJPeO@opednews#NoFastTrackpic.twitter.com/jymbD6lEeQ

— Henry Clay (@NeoProgressive1) January 14, 2015

Cybersecurity and Internet access: In the wake of the hack into Sony’s corporate systems, Obama will propose a plan, likely popular among both political parties, to increase cooperation between public and private entities to thwart cybersecurity threats.

READ MORE: Obama proposes cyber law update in wake of Sony hack

A proposal to expand government-run broadband internet access, however, will find opponents worried about its cost and regulatory ramifications, as states currently legislate most guidelines over local Internet access.