Obama's remarks on minimum wage, wealth imbalance strike nerves, stir hopes

Reactions to State of the Union range from invigoration to skepticism

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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

“Listening to the State of the Union, I can't help but feel invigorated,” Jason W. Schaver, a Fulton, Ill., resident said.

“In short, the speech was a waste of time and of breath,” Houston resident Mark Whittington countered.

Their responses to President Barack Obama’s remarks on Tuesday exemplified the diverse and polarized reaction Americans offered to his State of the Union. Below are lightly edited excerpts we received from voters shortly after the address.

There’s no free money, despite what Obama seems to believe

His proposal for employers to "give America a raise" sounds great, as do many campaign promises, but it falls short in the reality department. Most employers are struggling with higher costs, increased government red tape and climbing insurance costs. The economy isn't improving nearly as fast as the politicians would have one believe. Gas prices are still through the roof.

In spite of this, Obama seems to think employers can find a way to increase wages for their employees without the benefit of increased productivity or increased sales. Unfortunately, employers can't print money like the government to meet the president's demand. Even though Obama has a hard time grasping the fact, money has to come from somewhere. Business owners can't wave a magic wand and find free money to give away.

— Wiley Vaughn, Kingsport, Tenn.

Raising wages, beginning with the minimum, is a good start

Living across the Mississippi River from Clinton, Iowa, the state of the nation's manufacturing health and economy are very important to me. When President Obama talked about getting America back to work, I felt enormously proud. Raising the minimum wage would be a great start in closing the gap between the rich and the poor. The middle class (if it still exists) is the backbone of this country, and it needs to be treated with dignity and respect.

Doing what's right for the citizens of this great nation shouldn't be so difficult. So why is it? We're in this together, so why does it feel like we're not on the same team? I sincerely hope that Democrats and Republicans can put aside their differences in 2014 and get America back on track.

— Jason W. Schaver, Fulton, Ill.

Obama spent surprisingly little time addressing gun violence

President Obama challenged Congress on many important issues. Two that are meaningful to me: gun control and health care.

On the issue of guns, the president did not go into much detail, but he was firm in stating, "I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook."

It was surprising that was his only, and very brief, mention of gun violence in this country on the heels of yet another mall shooting. This issue hits home for me as I have two children and would like to see them live in a safer, saner country.

So let's see if Congress rises to those challenges and starts putting the American people's needs over politics.

— Joanne Hall, Los Angeles

Immigration reform is long overdue

President Obama urged Congress to come up with a comprehensive immigration reform bill. I agree with him very much on the fact that it's time to get it done because millions of immigrants like me are waiting for the change.

I came to United States for a bigger dream and a better life, but I've experienced extreme bureaucracy during my application for work authorization and wasn't be able to earn a living because of that.

There should be a more efficient immigration system to help immigrants build up a stable life in the United States so they can settle down, pursue their dreams and contribute to the U.S. economy.

— Lu Wu, Athens, Ohio

Hopefully his address is more than hot air

His jobs initiatives, including his push to modify the taxation of businesses that send jobs overseas, should be particularly invigorating for an economy that is still attempting to recover from upheaval.

But let's hope this State of the Union address was more than just an exit speech delivered earlier than intended. Americans like me are tired of political brouhaha and the proverbial “hot air” speech every three months or so; we simply want a results-driven government that steers the country away from overwhelming amounts of social stratification.

— Dave Klawinski, Kokomo, Ind.

Address rang hollow on ACA, Iran

The section about Obamacare was remarkable in what went unmentioned, including the bug-laden signup website, the millions of Americans who have lost their health care insurance and the tens of millions who are yet to lose theirs. The president was defiant concerning efforts to repeal the health care law. As for reforming the law, he stated, "So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice — tell America what you'd do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up." But one should not hold one’s breath waiting for a bipartisan bargain to fix the broken law, based on previous experience.

Obama's boast that he had halted Iran's progress toward acquiring nuclear weapons rang hollow. The agreement traded the lifting of sanctions for very little in return from Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated that Iran's nuclear program was set back by only six weeks.

— Mark Whittington, Houston

Yes, give America a raise

I support the president's call for an increase in the minimum wage, and I wonder at those who think $10.10 is a living wage. It is an embarrassment our poverty levels are so high compared to other developed countries. It is time we invested in ourselves, and part of that is supporting out poorest workers.

— Vickie Mansour-Hasan, Chicago

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