A review of the State of the Union

Guest Editorial
“The state of our union is getting stronger,” President Barack Obama declared in his annual speech to Congress on Tuesday. Pundits framed the State of the Union in terms of this fall’s election. Instead, let’s focus on some ideas that would be good for Michigan:

Other states should follow Michigan and State of the Union proposal to hike school drop-out age
What the president said: “We also know that when students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.”

What it means: The president offered a few education ideas, including raising teacher pay and standards. He offered his clearest proposal here, challenging states to increase the drop-out age. Today, in many states, students can leave school at age 16.

Michigan actually is ahead of the curve on this issue, having raised the drop-out age two years ago, starting with the Class of 2016. This state’s lawmakers recognized that professional achievement depends on education, and that most young people are not prepared for life at age 16.

Michigan has raised the drop-out age. We look forward to seeing other states follow our lead.

State of the Union speech correctly holds colleges accountable for rising tuition
What the president said: “So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can’t be a luxury — it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

What it means: Obama hit on an age-old realty when it comes to higher education. While many public colleges use slack state aid as an excuse to hike tuition, there’s little evidence they show much restraint when taxpayer money is flowing their way, either.

Gov. Rick Snyder tried to limit tuition increases at Michigan’s 15 public colleges last year, and yet most still pushed the limit of a nearly 7 percent cap that was the cutoff to lose state money. Maybe it will take a nudge from the federal government, too, to finally get colleges to show the same financial restraint that most of their customers already use as they save their dollars for school.

Obama has good idea in State of the Union to cut manufacturers’ taxes
What the president said: “… if you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut. If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making products here. And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers.”

What it means: The rebound in manufacturing has been a bright spot for the economy, particularly in Michigan. Obama suggests building on that strength, cutting tax incentives that he says encourage companies to send work out of the country and imposing a minimum tax on multinational manufacturers that do business in the U.S. Notably, he suggests tax cuts for American manufacturers.

Already, those companies have been hiring. It stands to reason they will put more people to work if they are paying less to Uncle Sam.