Local reactions mixed to Obama speech

The State College chapter of Organization For Action hosted a State of the Union viewing party at Webster’s Cafe and Bookstore, and those in attendance offered mixed opinions.

The group is a branch of the larger national organization dedicated to advancing current government policies.

The local chapter was formed in February and is recruiting people from the university and the public to join as a way to educate people on politics and spread awareness on what Obama’s policies mean for everyone, said Scott Patterson, organization fellow and Penn State senior.

Patterson said the group’s primary focus is on climate change, gay rights, gun violence prevention, the middle class and the Affordable Care Act, however it included Democrats, Republicans and those who consider themselves independent.

Patterson said he hoped to hear about environmental policy.

Obama said the nation is becoming energy independent due to domestic natural gas production.

The president said he is working on rewarding businesses that use natural gas, but clean energy doesn’t stop there.

“Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar,” he said.

Obama said he’s also working with the auto industry, manufacturers and small businesses on how to reduce their carbon footprint by increasing higher standards for clean energy and how much facilities like power plants can dump into the air.

While members of the OFA said they were happy with what Obama had to say Tuesday night, others who attended the viewing party said they don’t trust what Obama has to say.

“I like the guy, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Randy Foxx, of State College. “He talks about what affordable health care is and then says how he is an advocate of the middle class, but when you’re a blue collar worker who is shoveling too many dollars for health care, it becomes a little contradicting.”

Lee Worth, also of State College, said he doesn’t understand why American troops will remain overseas.

“I get that maybe we’re trying to be allies with everyone, but I just don’t get that,” Worth said. “You’d think it’s more important to train our own troops or help our own people who need it with the help of our military. Hopefully when he says these ideas are ‘bipartisan,’ they really are.”

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, released a statement that said he hopes the government can continue to work together on policies.

“With recent passage of a bipartisan budget deal, Congress has shown that it can work together. I would encourage the president to continue on this path and to focus on areas where we can find common ground,” Thompson said. “In the immediate future, issues such as comprehensive tax reform, the further development of domestic resources and technologies, and expanding job opportunities through the promotion of education and job training at all levels. These are all areas that have broad support and are ripe for collaborative action. Divided government isn’t easy, but we must strive to make it work.”

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., also said he hopes the government can continue with bipartisan issues, while improving the workforce.

“I am gratified that the president made jobs and the economy the central focus of his State of the Union address. Despite recent economic progress, far too many Americans are still struggling to get back on their feet. If you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed. I was encouraged by the president’s emphasis on worker training programs, hiring incentives and pay equity to ensure workers have the chance to get ahead,” Casey said in a statement.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said Obama’s policies have worsened many of the problems the president discussed, but the senator is “eager” to work with Obama on trade and other programs to grow the ecomnomy.

“The president overstated the extent of the economy’s recovery under his policies. In fact, the labor force participation is at its lowest point in 35 years because more and more people have become so discouraged with our dismal job market that they have given up looking for work in the Obama economy,” Toomey said in a statement. He also urged the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which, he said, would create jobs for Pennsylvania-based contractors and suppliers.

“On a bipartisan basis, we must allow the president to complete trade deals that will open up foreign markets for Pennsylvania exports. While we disagree on other economic issues, I am reassured that our president remains committed to maintaining America’s role as a global trade leader,” he said.

Over at Penn State, a small group of students gathered yesterday evening in the HUB-Robeson Center to watch the address.

Junior Stephen Payne said he believed that the President did an “admirable” job addressing this country’s education policies and promoting accountability among students and university administrators.

Sophomore Andrew Lanagan said he was happy to hear Obama was in favor of raising the minimum wage.

“Raising minimum wage is a good step,” Lanagan said. “It is not as high as it should be with the inflation rate, but he is utilizing his power to the extent he should.”