President Pushes for New Pension Savings, Job Programs

In his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, President Barack Obama proposed a new retirement savings plan, called for more efforts to create jobs and outlined other measures that could benefit older Americans.

Obama state of the union 2014Acknowledging that Social Security often isn’t sufficient and that many workers don’t have pensions, Obama described plans for a new type of IRA, called MyRA, to be created by the Treasury Department.

“It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg,” he said. “MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in.”

AARP CEO A. Barry Rand said in a statement that such a plan “could help encourage more private retirement savings for those without employer plans.” And he added that it “could be more effective if paired with automatic savings options and investor protections.”

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In addition, Rand urged the president and Congress “to fight for responsible solutions to strengthen Medicare and Social Security.” They “have an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of the earned benefits” of the programs and “thereby strengthen our families, the middle class and the American dream,” he continued.

Obama also called on Congress to “work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little to nothing for middle-class Americans.”

Obama focused much of his speech on income-inequality problems. He called for a higher minimum wage, restoration of long-term unemployment benefits that lapsed in January, and efforts to create jobs.

“Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better,” Obama said. “But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.”

In a speech steeped in the reality of the difficulty of passing his agenda in Congress, Obama said he would move forward on some efforts with or without Congress.

“America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” Obama said.

Some of his proposals to boost the economy and create jobs include

  • Closing loopholes that encourage companies to keep their profits abroad and not invest in the United States.
  • Creating jobs by funding the rebuilding of roads and other infrastructure and speeding up the permitting process.
  • Setting up six more hubs for high-tech manufacturing, to compete in drawing high-tech manufacturing jobs.
  • Reforming job training, with Vice President Biden leading the effort to better match workers with the skills employers need.

In the Republican response to the speech, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state said, “the president’s policies are making people’s lives harder” and criticized the Affordable Care Act, saying too many people had received insurance-policy cancellations or could no longer see the doctors they had before Obamacare became law: “This law is not working. Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s.”

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Obama touched on the law without talking about the rocky rollout of online marketplaces. He called on Republicans to lay out their own plan instead of holding votes to repeal his law.

“But let’s not have another fortysomething votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans …  The first 40 were plenty. We got it. We all owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against.”

Photo: Larry Downing/Pool via Bloomberg/Getty Images


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