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Your State of the Union Guide

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"Your State of the Union Guide"

What You Need to Know Before You Watch

Tonight is President Obama’s first State of the Union address of his second term. He’s expected to focus on jobs — including investments in education, infrastructure, innovation, and clean energy — and how we create an economy that works for everyone. News reports indicate that he plans to outline new initiatives that will grow the economy and restore prosperity from the middle class out. In addition this overriding theme, the president is expected to touch on several areas he spoke of during his second inaugural address, including climate change, LGBT equality, and immigration.

Early excerpts released by the White House indicate that the president also intends to head off GOP criticism that he’s simply advocating for more spending and “big government”:

Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago.  Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.  It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.

While we’re all waiting to hear what the president has to say, here’s six key facts you should know:

1. We don’t have a spending problem. Republicans love to claim that government spending is out of control and is holding back the economy. But under President Obama, government spending has grown at its slowest pace since the Eisenhower administration. According to the latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office, the nation’s deficits have shrunk by trillions of dollars, and the debt is close to being stabilized as a percentage of the economy. In fact, spending cuts are holding back the economic recovery — what’s needed isn’t more austerity but a plan to create jobs. In fact, the deficit reduction achieved since 2011 has still overwhelmingly favored spending cuts to tax increases, meaning that any budget deal going forward should include new revenue in order to be truly balanced.

2. A path to citizenship will lead to economic growth. Obama will repeat calls for comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, a position that has strong backing from a majority of Americans, including 59 percent of Republicans. While a common conservative myth characterizes immigrants as “takers,” immigrants are essential to strengthening the economy and are no more likely to participate in social programs than the native-born. Legalizing undocumented immigrants would raise the nation’s gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion in the next decade, raise wages for everyone, and lead to between $4.5 and $5.4 billion in increased tax revenue. Conservatives’ answer to immigration reform, which omits earned citizenship, would create “a permanent underclass of workers.

3. Extreme weather fueled by climate change will cost the U.S. trillions. In his inauguration address, Obama said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” Without action, the U.S. faces a “scary truth” of the cost of climate change. A 2012 study found extreme weather, fueled by climate change, shaved off $1.2 trillion, or 1.6 percent, of global GDP. Climate change already affects Americans’ everyday lives, with record extreme weather costing the U.S. at least $126 billion since 2011. In his second term, Obama cantake additional action by rejecting the Keystone XL dirty tar sands, cutting carbon pollution, improving resiliency to extreme weather, and advancing clean energy, among other efforts.

4. LGBT people can be fired for being who they are. Obama made history by endorsing same-sex marriage, but in 29 states, employers can still to fire people for being gay, while employees in 34 states can lose their jobs for being transgender. Obama is reportedly considering an executive order protecting LGBT employees of federal contractors and has called on Congress to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) banning employers with 15 or more employees from terminating workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

5. Most Americans support sensible gun-safety regulations. Obama has offered sensible gun regulations like universal background checks in the speech,underpinning what NBC News calls “the largest effort to pass [sic] federal gun control measures in years.” It’s even backed by some Republicans, including Sen. Mark Kirk and Sen. Tom Coburn, as well as the overwhelming majority of the American population. 32,000 Americans die from firearm wounds every year, 11,000 of which are homicides. 80 percent of firearms used in crimes arepurchased privately, meaning the purchaser didn’t have to go through a background check under current federal law.

6. Reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles will not undermine national security.Obama has a long history of aiming to prevent nuclear proliferation andchampioning further disarmament. Obama is expected to announce a reduction in the oversized U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile during his address and warn of the dangers of proliferation around the world, particularly in states like North Korea and Iran.

After the president speaks, Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) will offer the official GOP response. Earlier this week we discussed eight reasons why Rubio is really just more of the same when it comes to adhering to some of the most extreme views held by conservatives.

We received a stunning reminder of Rubio’s extremism just hours ago when he was one of just 22 senators — all male and all Republican — who voted against the Violence Against Women Act:

Finally, Rubio previewed his response to the conservative Weekly Standard. His description of our economic problems showed a stunning lack of understanding of how our economy really works and the important role that government investments play in creating jobs and growing the economy.

Please direct your browsers to ThinkProgress this evening. We’ll be liveblogging starting at 8:45 Eastern time.

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You Might’ve Missed

Gun violence survivors will stand up for stronger guns laws at tonight’s State of the Union speech.

Connecticut senator condemns the NRA’s latest shocking comments on Newtown.

Three charts show why we don’t have a spending problem.

NRA convention helps distribute literature calling for secession and civil war.

GOP senator peddles debunked misinformation about gun violence.

Many Republicans back a pathway to citizenship — unless President Obama proposes it.

The most ridiculous reactions to North Korea’s nuclear test.

Five Republican senators opposed bipartisan measure to crack down on human trafficking.

The pricetag for extreme weather in 2011 and 2012: $188 BILLION.