In his sixth State of the Union address, President Obama pointed out the nearly 800,000 jobs that have been added in the manufacturing sector since 2010. “Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming,” he noted. Obama also stressed the importance of U.S. exports by reminding us that “95% of the world’s customers live outside our borders.”
National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) president and CEO Jay Timmons was critical of the new tax plan offered up by President Obama, which would raise rates for top income-earners. “We need more policies that encourage investment, entrepreneurship and success, not less. Punitive tax increases on investment and small businesses, coupled with increased government spending, are no way to unleash economic growth,” said Timmons.
In contrast, Timmons found common ground with the President on other proposals, namely the advancement of trade agreements, addressing the skills gap and investment in infrastructure.
In fact, Fortune magazine argued that the speech was notable for its pro-business trade agenda. That’s because proposals Democrats wanted to hear, such as a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave, have virtually no chance of getting through the new Republican congress. However, there is increasing agreement between GOP leaders and the President on not only the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but a pending European Union free trade agreement waiting in the wings.
When speaking about infrastructure, President Obama took an opportunity to criticize the Keystone XL pipeline, saying, “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet,” he added “Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.”
If Obama does ultimately reject the Keystone pipeline, the next step for the GOP leaders in Congress will be finding enough Democrats to get the two thirds majority necessary to override a veto.