(People celebrate in front of the White House upon the announcement of Obama's re-election. Credit: mattrosephotography.net)
How do Americans, ahead of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, feel about the health of the nation? Yahoo News asked readers to share how the current condition of the country is affecting them and what they hope to hear from the president. Below, we’ve compiled excerpts of their responses.
Congress is working ... to make our nation safer and more progressive
The state of the union, in my opinion, is strong. The phrase, a bit cliché, rings true to me as we continue to move forward as a nation. For me, 2013 is looking to be a year in which we continue advancements in major domestic policy issues like gay marriage, jobs and gun control. We cannot settle on the changes made in the last year. Our country faced catastrophic events, with the shooting in Newtown ringing home to most, which tested the strength of America. Congress is working on advances to policy that will make our nation safer and more progressive.
In 2012, I traveled on a national bus tour with the nonprofit Young Invincibles [which represents "the interests of 18 to 34 year-olds," according to its website]. We hit the road to learn about issues facing young Americans all across the country. We heard their feelings of frustration, uneasiness and fear about their future. Today we are seeing slight decreases in unemployment and more talk on ways we can improve the economy for their future.
While we saw small steps to move forward in 2012, I remain optimistic that 2013 will be a year of increased progress, compromise and action that will benefit all Americans.
The government needs to get federal spending under control
I hope to improve my financial situation in 2013 as I graduate college and hopefully find a decent job. The government, on the other hand, does not seem to have any decent plans for improving [its] financial situation in 2013. I find it appalling that there would even be mention of cutting pay for those in the military. Here's an idea: Why not cut Congress' and other government agencies' pay instead? The government needs to get federal spending under control before our debt ruins this country.
There is no reason to have undereducated children in this nation
My 2013 State of the Union concerns focus on education reform. There is no reason to have undereducated children in this nation. I believe we can curb the high-school dropout rate by giving instructors the opportunity to teach vital subjects. Reading increases spelling skills and knowledge. Arithmetic teaches value by showing how to do price comparisons and count money. Writing is a talent that lets people define thoughts so that others understand them. Adding value to learning will emphasize our goal as a nation to improve the lives of our most valuable resource: our children.
Opposition to gun control affects me in 2013
On July 24, 1993, my family and I suffered the same kind of loss as those families in Newtown, Aurora and Columbine. We lost a child to gun violence. I understand first hand what the families and friends who lost a child are going through and sadly, the pain of their loss will never go away.
So why am I against gun control in any shape or form? Gun control laws and gun bans don't work the way they are intended to; criminals could care less about laws and do not pay heed to them. When you take away guns from the law-abiding, only criminals will have them. In 1993, when my son Tom was shot and killed, California already had some of the strictest gun control laws in the country. Yet my son's murderer didn't abide by them, he bought his gun at a local donut shop.
So, Mr. President, when you try and sell the American public on the need for more gun control laws and you continue to use the victims simply to further your agenda of diminishing or eliminating guns, I am one of millions of other law-abiding, gun-owning citizens that will resist you (peacefully and lawfully) every step of the way.
Federal employees like me live in constant fear of being laid off
For the last few years, Congress has been unable to pass a federal budget on time and federal employees like me live in constant fear of being laid off. They call it a furlough ... [but] it's a layoff. It can be temporary or permanent; we have no idea if it will happen, when, or for how long. Given this, my family has cut back spending to a bare minimum in order to save money for the looming bout of unemployment. We're eating cheaper food and not spending on anything unnecessary.
I want all Americans to be successful in the job market
I am still one of the millions of underemployed Americans, and I want to see the economy expand and millions of new jobs developed. I want all Americans to be successful in the job market. I am not confident that President Obama will present a successful economic program. The economy is the primary issue, and I believe the Republican Party must make a major effort to reach working-class Americans in order to rebuild and to maintain a competitive two-party system.
Climate change affects us all
Happily, my husband retires early this summer. Consequently, we finally have the opportunity to fulfill our dream of growing most of the produce we consume. Typically, our hot summers offer perfect conditions for growing excellent veggies. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know what and when to plant. The weather is just too unpredictable, as evident from our tomatoes and squash rotting due to uncharacteristic cool summer evenings last year. It is undeniable that our climate has changed dramatically over the last few decades. This is not an isolated or individual event. Climate change affects us all.
Thus, I feel it is essential for Obama to clarify his plan of action concerning climate change in his State of the Union address. ... I am hopeful that he will fulfill the promise he made during his inauguration speech: "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations." If climate change is affecting my little garden so severely, I am genuinely concerned with its impact on world food production.
Gun deaths by 2015 will exceed traffic fatalities
Gun control is an issue for me because, several years ago, a shooter was in my neighborhood. Police officers arrived at my house to warn me to turn off the lights and stay away from windows. The situation resolved with no injuries or deaths but, despite this fortunate outcome, gun [violence] still concerns me.
According to the Center for Disease Control, gun deaths by 2015 will exceed traffic fatalities with shooting deaths rising to 33,000 and automobile deaths declining to 32,000. For this reason, gun deaths are tragedies that should be addressed in the State of the Union.
My house is ... valued at several thousand dollars less than I owe on the mortgage
In 2008, I had a decent job and bought my house. I paid 10 percent down. It is a modest home within walking distance of the public school. Now the company I worked for is out of business. I drive one hour each way to my new job. The new employer hired me at 32 hours a week and calls this position "majority time." I earn about the same wage as I earned in 2008.
I chose to drive the distance because this employer offers a benefits package, which includes health insurance, life insurance, a 401(k), paid time off and sick time. My new employer is very generous with benefits and a compensation package, and I am grateful to have been hired. I just wish I lived closer to work. I live in a rural area with businesses comprised mostly of taverns and gas stations. My car, a 1995 Subaru, is the same one I drove in 2008. It recently broke down and I was terrified it wouldn't be repairable because I cannot afford to finance a new one. To me, no car would result in no job.
My house is currently valued at several thousand dollars less than I owe on the mortgage. Two of my neighbors have left and their houses are on the market. They drop the prices on these homes monthly. A third house, across the street from mine, sold for less than $20,000 in a foreclosure.
I know there are other issues that need addressing, such as gun control and immigration reform. But, frankly, I don't have time to care. I am too busy trying to budget for ramen noodles and gasoline. I don't remember what steak tastes like.
[Coal] has been the backbone of our community
Every time we turn on a light, we know exactly where that power comes from. Men and, recently, women, have been mining the area for more than 100 years, selling the coal to power plants that not only power Utah, but other states as well.
This precious resource has been the backbone of our community, and when miners start losing their jobs and coal productions start decreasing, we know as a county and on the state level we are in trouble. Coal generates millions of dollars to the state and local economies; without it Carbon County may just shrivel up and blow away.
The current federal government is doing its best to see that this happens, enforcing unrealistic demands on power and coal companies, forcing lower productions which snowballs into layoffs. Some of these men have been mining since they were 18 years old, risking life and health for 40 years dedicated to their job.
We are the Americans on the chopping block the next four years.