“My presidency is entering the fourth quarter,” Obama said at a press conference in December. “Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.”
Tune in, and check out the list below for some of the policies and related CAP work that could be highlighted in tonight’s speech.
1. Middle class tax relief. The President is proposing to help the middle class through tax credits for working families, paying for college, and tripling the child care tax credit. His plan pays for this by raising taxes on big banks, the top 1 percent and by eliminating the “trust-fund loophole,” which currently allows the wealthiest among us to avoid paying taxes on assets by passing them onto their children. A CAP report found that the costs of key elements of middle-class security rose by more than $10,000 in the 12 years from 2000 to 2012, while incomes remained stagnant.
2. Free community college. Raising taxes on the top 1 percent and Wall Street would also pay for “America’s College Promise,” the President’s plan to eliminate tuition for 2 years of community college. This plan is modeled on the “Tennessee Promise,” which boosted community college enrollment in Tennessee to “almost 90 percent of high school seniors, more than twice as many as expected, and substantially increased enrollment among black and Hispanic Tennesseans. As states have decreased investment in public education, being able to earn half of a bachelor’s degree tuition-free would be a lifeline for low- and middle-income students.
3. Expand paid family leave. The President will also propose that Congress follow his lead in expanding paid family leave to workers for up to six weeks as well as require that workers be allowed to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave. Only 12 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers to care for a new child or seriously ill family member, and fewer than 40 percent have access to personal medical leave.
4. Broaden child care programs. In addition to expanding the child care tax credit, the President could propose ways to help promote access to high-quality, affordable child care programs, like the Strong Start for America’s Children Act or increasing Head Start funding. Only a handful of the 42 million women living on the brink of poverty and raising 28 million children have access to high-quality, affordable child care.
5. Strengthen the Voting Rights Act. The President could propose ways to strengthen the Voting Rights Act, in a continued effort to build up this landmark legislation following the Supreme Court gutting preclearance, a key tool in ensuring that everyone has the right to vote. To take one example, after the Supreme Court decision, Florida purged its voting rolls, and its voting purge list contained 90 percent nonwhite voters.
6. Standardize apprenticeship programs. The President could propose ways to standardize apprenticeship programs to ensure that they remain a gateway for workers to gain the skills they need to join the middle class. By 2020, we will have a shortage of nearly 8 million skilled workers, between workers who need at least an associate’s degree and workers who need technical certificates and credentials.
7. Reform the criminal justice system. The President could propose ways to reform the criminal justice system and improve police-community relations, such as enhancing data collection on fatalities involving police. Seventy percent of black people who have experienced the use of police force against them feel that the force was excessive.
8. Address sexual assault. According to the Department of Justice, one in five women experience an attempted or completed sexual assault while in college. The President could propose ways to address the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, ensuring the promise of college as a safe space for students to learn and live in peace.
9. Reforming coal subsidies. The President could propose ways to cut subsidies and close loopholes in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s coal program in the Powder River Basin. The Powder River Basin occupies a 40 percent share of the U.S. coal market, in part because of federal subsidies and an outdated royalty system that hurts American taxpayers.
10. Income inequality. This, of course, is a big one — a central theme that under-girds many of the policies above. In case you missed it last week, read the report on inclusive prosperity from a group of international experts assembled by CAP that the New York Times called “one of the best overviews of income stagnation and inequality” out there.
Finally, for the best viewing experience, check out the livestream of the speech at whitehouse.gov/sotu. It will have a ton of charts, facts, and other important context as you watch.