For some, Obama's speech promises 'oceans of tomorrow' but delivers 'bread and circuses'

Yahoo News

Yahoo News asked Americans to respond to Barack Obama's speech on the economy and share whether their lives match the president's words. Here are excerpts from reactions we published Wednesday afternoon.

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Stop the personal parading: Obama should lead by example. Instead of wasting taxpayer money to travel around the United States to tout a "better bargain" for the middle class, why not roll up your sleeves and work with legislators instead of fighting them?

The vigor against Republicans in 2008 was fantastic campaign material, but now it's time to lead and get work done. Enough bread and circuses — Washington is burning due to huge debts and fiscal crises. Meanwhile, the leader of the free world is busy going on parade himself.

Obama simply seems out of touch as if he can do or say anything since he can't run for president again.

— William Browning, Branson, Mo.

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Education ideas merit support: I support initiatives like "blending teaching with online learning" that the president called for, with a caveat: It has to be done right. This summer, I taught an online course at LaGrange College, a small Methodist higher education institution in west Georgia. Students were able to work at their own pace, hold summer jobs to pay for school, and were motivated to turn in some pretty good work. It worked for 20 students, but not 200. If you push too much online volume without high quality, America won't be able to keep pace with its competitors.

— John A. Tures, LaGrange, Ga.

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Chicago has cut schools and teachers in 2013. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Less 'what,' more 'how': President Obama spoke of "an ocean of tomorrows" that can and will be available to the American people if we remain steadfast and continue to invest in ourselves. He focused much of his attention on education. He posits: "If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century." It's a hypothesis that resembles a prediction, and definitely a frightening forecast for everyone. Eventually, students will tire of investing $40,000 into a diploma only to become a barista.

Ironically, as the president advocates for the country to invest in education, his former chief-of-staff-turned-mayor-of-Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, has closed 54 schools in city the president calls home. Aside from those drastic closures, he has also cut 2,000 educator and support staff positions — all of this in areas of Chicago that already face high levels of poverty and crime, areas that need more resources and not less.

It would seem that those oceans of possibilities are not quite reaching the shores. Actually, it seems that we will not have to wait long to test the president's frightening hypothesis: the South Side of Chicago serves as an experiment for what happens when a society stops caring about education.

— Vickie Mansour-Hasan, Chicago

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Too difficult and partisan an environment for hope : Obama acknowledged that many in Congress (especially House Republicans who've voted nearly 40 times to repeal the plan) are actively seeking to undermine his plan in a politically motivated.

For most Americans who are still struggling to make ends meet, it will be difficult to be hopeful amid this political stalemate. While Obama should be given credit for putting out a clear vision of an economy in which Main Street can see gains along with Wall Street, it is difficult to see a pathway for his proposals, including an increase in the minimum wage, with an irreconcilably divided Congress.

— T. Joseph Dunne, California

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On the bright side, the worst does seem to be over: As an educated Chicago resident who is a part-time employee at a local business, and self-employed, I see a need for more economic help and full-time work. The job market is bleak for graduates, and the entry pay is weak. Many places expect me to work for free as an intern for years before offering a salary, or letting me go. And as a voter, I see cities crumbling because of pension debt and salaries. The system needs to be overhauled; instead, we're seeing cities like Detroit driving the issues to bankruptcy. The Chicago economy continues to struggle as 2,100 teachers were recently given pink slips, and schools closed down. I agree with the president about improvements, but we desperately need more.

However, as he pointed out, "America, we have made it through the worst of yesterday's winds." We have to keep trying.

— Janoa Taylor, Chicago

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(Flickr photo © Bob Jagendorf) Detroit's bankruptcy lingered as a backdrop to Obama's speech.

'More affordable' college is not enough: I am from Michigan. The ruins of the recession are all around me. My former employer, Central Michigan University, is losing enrollment. Almost a dozen people from my former department on campus have lost their jobs because of it. Multiple instructors in similar temporary capacities, people who were already in fragile economic conditions because of low salaries, have also lost their teaching positions. That low enrollment is linked to a poor state economy, whose residents have moved elsewhere, or who cannot afford to send their children to college.

President Obama's solution to make student loans and college "more affordable" for students is an inadequate solution to the problem of middle-class debt and class advancement. We need a radical solution to this problem of student loan debt. Students who are in the lower-middle class will likely always stay lower-middle class because of their enormous student loan payments after graduation.

The solution for truly moving people to the middle class is for America to invest its money in free public college educations at every level of college. This should be guaranteed for as long as a student wants to attend and can successfully complete their programs. If we allocate our money wisely and stop funding programs overseas, all of our children can have a chance at a decent education and fulfilling careers.

— Sandra Snow, Mount Pleasant, Mich.

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'Doomed to the customer service industry' : I have a different perspective on this economy, working two jobs here in San Anselmo, Calif., one as a real estate broker and another at a local community college. While real estate is lucrative, education is lesser so. It is clear that the educators of America are not appropriately compensated and stretching resources further than they need to be. Many students I work with have little hope of getting a high-paying job without a great deal of dumb luck. They fear their education is a waste of time and that they are doomed to the customer service industry. While I attempt to assuage their fears and espouse the value of a college education, the current climate does not support my words.

— Jared Feldman, San Anselmo, Calif.

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Ambivalent about Obama's speech : As with most speeches about the economy, President Obama's words don't have a huge impact on my life. While he talked about improving the rates of home ownership across the country, his speech isn't going to make it easier for me to find a loan when I purchase a home next year. His speech isn't going to change the way that government spends money, and it certainly isn't going to create new jobs that pay a living wage.

While I may be doing better than many in this country, I still feel the effects of the sluggish economy. My income taxes went up as a result of recent changes, while pay for people in my field has gone down. I live in a two-income household, so I am luckier than many of my fellow Americans. Still, I feel ambivalent about Obama's remarks.

— Whitney Levon, Chicago

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There's no 'I' in team: If one had imagined that President Obama's "economic" speech would actually have some new ideas to fix the economy, listening to it would quickly disabuse oneself of that notion.

It was a campaign speech without an actual campaign.

The second-most-used word in this portion of the speech, it appeared, was "investment" or perhaps it was "middle class" or "good jobs." The most-used word, or so it seemed, was "I," as in "I will do this" and "I demand that Congress do that." But there were no real new ideas, just versions of the old ones, including new spending and raising the minimum wage.

Speaking as a resident of Texas, a state run by a government with a very different view toward enabling economic growth, I was bemused by President Obama's bluster and his refusal to face reality.

— Mark Whittington, Houston

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