This article originally appeared on the New York Amsterdam News on January 27, 2011.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama created an atmosphere in which the Republicans and Democrats weren't just sitting next to each other, but one in which we all recognized that there are many challenges we face as a nation and that we must work closely together to move our country forward and "win the future."
In order to compete in the global economy, we have to create more jobs and strengthen our workforce. We have to cut back wasteful spending and at the same time invest in education, healthcare, and infrastructure to keep up with the rising demand and stay ahead of the competition.
It will be a difficult task to balance, but as the president said, we simply can't afford to cut spending at the expense of the disadvantaged. We cannot afford to cut Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security because these types of programs not only save lives but also save money.
Many of my constituents are currently unemployed. They, like millions of Americans in distressed communities, are depending on our government to work with the private sector in creating new opportunities so they can pull themselves out of this current crisis. We must make certain that there is a safety net until they get back on their feet. People should not have to live in anticipation whether Wall Street is up or down.
As the president emphasized, we have to invest in our children's education to be more competitive as a nation. America is currently falling behind in the number of our workforce with college degrees. 1 out of 100 Americans are behind bars. The more education we provide to our young people, the more productive they will be and the less we will pay to house them in jail.
I am glad that the president reiterated his commitment to bring our troops out of Afghanistan. If we must go to war, I hope we reinstate the draft so that it's not the same, few young men and women (less than 1 percent of the American population, many of whom are often unemployable or poor) who are making that sacrifice. And when these young soldiers who put themselves in harm's way return home, we must continue to do everything we can to ensure they receive all the resources they need.
The vision the president laid was inspiring. While he did not mention gun control in his speech on Tuesday, I hope he will be working with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and members of the New York Congressional Delegation to promote gun safety laws. The tragic shooting in Arizona taught us again that we must tighten our gun control laws and make sure that we close the loopholes to prevent further preventable violence in our society.
Clearly we face many challenges as a nation. It is going to be a rough two years, but I am confident that the history of our great nation would allow us to get America back to work. It's more than just money -- it's a matter of dignity and productivity.I look forward to reaching out across the aisle in support of the president's efforts to move our country forward to creating a better future for all Americans. Click below to hear the congressman's response to the State of the Union Address:
You can also watch the video response here:
Follow Rep. Charles Rangel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cbrangel