Politics

Obama’s State Of The Union Proposals Are Super Popular With Everyone Except Congress

CREDIT: AP Photo/Larry Downing

President Barack Obama shakes hands as he leaves after giving the State of Union address before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Washington.

President Obama’s sixth State of the Union address may fall on even more deaf ears Tuesday as both chambers of Congress have Republican majorities for the first time in his presidency. But polling shows that Americans actually support his progressive policies, from minimum wage hikes to increased tax rates for the wealthy. Here are some of the proposals we’re likely to hear tonight that have broad, bipartisan support and could become reality — if Congress didn’t stand in the way:

Minimum Wage

As he has in the past few State of the Union addresses, Obama will likely call for an increase in the federal minimum wage. But for the first time this year, a majority of the states have minimum wages above the federal minimum of $7.25. While November’s election brought a red wave across the country, four conservative states — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — approved raises to their minimum wages. Some Republican candidates were forced to flip positions to endorse an increase in order to win their races.

While only four states had the opportunity to increase their minimum wages this last election, a 2014 poll found that 73 percent of Americans favor raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Education

In announcing his plan for free community college last week, Obama was relying on bipartisan support for the ambitious and controversial proposal. “Opening the doors of higher education shouldn’t be a Democratic issue or a Republican issue,” he said. Republicans were quick to criticize the proposal and the amount it would cost taxpayers, but a recent poll found that Americans support the proposal to subsidize community college by 53-44.

The community college plan closely resembles Obama’s universal preschool proposal outlined in his 2013 State of the Union. And although little progress has been made on the national level, state and local initiatives have moved forward and a recent poll found bipartisan support, with more than seven in ten voters now supporting greater federal investment in early childhood education.

Gun Reform

Obama’s State of the Union guests include a 13-year-old boy from the South Side of Chicago who wrote a letter to Santa saying all he wants is to feel safe, as he is surrounded by gun violence and crime. Obama responded, telling the boy, “your security is a priority for me in everything I do as President.” Though Obama has attempted to prioritize gun reform, Congress has repeatedly rejected legislation to strengthen policies limiting who can purchase a gun. But a 2014 poll found that 79 percent of voters in swing congressional districts and states support stricter background checks. The year before the midterm election, a separate poll found that eight in ten Americans favored laws preventing the mentally ill from purchasing weapons and 85 percent of Americans thought gun purchasers at private gun shows should be required to pass a background check— both policies drew support of Republicans and Democrats.

While Congress and state legislatures have been unable to make progress on gun control, voters in Washington State in November sent a clear message that Americans are ready for reform and the state passed a ballot measure with 60 percent of the vote to require background checks on all gun sales. The vote came just over a week after a high school shooting in Washington left four students dead, and as is the case after many mass shootings, public support for gun control spiked after the event.

Tax Reform

Obama is expected to announce a tax reform plan aimed at narrowing the wealth inequality gap which is expected to raise $320 billion in revenue over the next decade. The proposal would raise the capital gains tax on Americans earning more than $500,000, close the tax loophole on inherited money and increase the tax rate for companies with more than $50 billion in assets.

Polling shows that Americans support raising taxes on the rich by a two-to-one margin, but the proposal doesn’t stand a chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress and Republican leaders have dismissed the plan.

Climate Change

As he did in his address in 2013 when he urged Congress to pursue a bipartisan solution to climate change, Obama is expected to pressure his audience to take action to prevent human-caused climate change. But Obama’s environmental proposals have been met with opposition across the aisle from Republicans who have attempted to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed limits on greenhouse gases from power plants and to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, so the president most likely is not holding out hope for Congressional support on any climate change proposals he announces tonight.

But while 68 percent of Republican members of Congress continue to deny what science says about the warming planet, a recent study found that 44 percent of registered Republican voters think that climate change is real. And another poll released last week by the Center for American Progress found that a majority of voters support more pollution controls (72 percent), protecting public lands like monuments and wildlife refuge areas (70 percent) and the expansion of wind, solar, and renewable energy development (66 percent).

Immigration

After his executive action this year granting deportation relief to 5 million undocumented immigrants, Obama will likely discuss the successes of his executive order and highlight some of the immigrants effected by the changed policy. Although the action has not gone over well with the Republican Congress, a new poll released Tuesday found that Americans support his executive action on deportations by 52-44. Even before he announced his action, 62 percent of Americans favored allowing undocumented immigrants a way to become citizens.