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Explaining 'middle-class economics'

Wed, 2015-01-21 09:55

Ask just about anybody, and they’ll tell you they’re part of the middle class.

“Certainly, it is the label of choice,” says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup. More than half of the people in Gallup's last survey identified themselves as middle class, he says. But there’s more to it than just wealth, or income. “Middle class seems to be a very comfortable place for Americans to put themselves,” Newport says.

In Tuesday's State of the Union address, President Obama called middle-class economics "the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. "

But "middle class" has no formal economic definition, meaning many people define it themselves.

“And that often means working, not relying on government," says Melissa Kearney, director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. "But it’s really a nebulous concept.”

Politicians love to talk about middle-class Americans, Kearney says, but it’s hard to tailor government programs to them, precisely because there’s no middle-class definition. As a result, Obama’s plan bleeds over to not-so-middle class Americans, she says.

“Some of these tax benefits would extend to folks – couples making $200,000,” she says, referring to beneficiaries of a proposed tax credit for two-income couples. 

Other parts of the president’s plan apply mainly to low-income Americans – things like increasing the minimum wage and instituting paid sick days. The president’s proposal would have to be more targeted to reach people truly in the middle of the pack.

Did he hit the target? 

“He threw a water balloon at it, and it splattered all over the place,” says Sharyn O’Halloran, a professor of political economy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. “He saw a target – middle class – and just made a bunch of big sweeping proposals which he thought would be appealing to them.”

The proposals won’t necessarily be appealing to Congress.  Still, O’Halloran says, the president has set the stage for Democrats who want to make middle class economics part of the 2016 presidential race.

Marketplace's live coverage of the 2015 State of the Union address

Wed, 2015-01-21 09:41
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Pennsylvania installs prefab bridges

Wed, 2015-01-21 08:40

Building a bridge takes years. That’s a problem, because many states have crumbling infrastructures, and they’re looking for ways to shore it up with limited funds.

That's why the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is speeding things up. PennDOT is hiring a team of private contractors to quickly replace hundreds of state bridges.

"We expect that we're going to deliver 558 bridges in 3½ years, instead of what would have taken us eight to 12 years under our traditional method," says PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch.

Prefab bridges

The key is mass production. First, the engineers will put together a couple dozen standard, cookie-cutter designs. They’ll mix and match pieces of those designs based on each bridge site.

Manufacturers will then make some of the concrete bridge parts, perhaps 50-foot bridge surfaces, for example. Everything can't be made in a factory, but they’ll standardize whatever they can.

A construction crew usually has to wait weeks for each section of concrete on a bridge to harden and strengthen before they can move forward, says Andrew Swank, president of Swank Construction, who says his company will replace some bridges under the state's new program. That means means construction on a small bridge can take months, he says.

Building a bridge with factory-made parts only takes a couple of weeks because the pieces are hardened ahead of time and arrive ready to assemble, Swank says.

It's kind of like buying a bookshelf from IKEA. "The pieces will have slotted ends. This piece will fit into this piece and key into this piece," he says.

The construction team uses a crane to lift the pieces, slides them into place and has "a bridge in very short order," Swank says.

Engineers say factory-built bridge parts are actually stronger than poured concrete, because they’re made at the exact right temperature, away from rain, snow and weird weather.

Other states

Pennsylvania isn’t the first state to mass-produce its bridges. Missouri recently fixed and replaced more than 800 bridges in 3½ years.

Utah has also tried replacing some of its bridges with prefabricated parts, says Andy Herrmann, former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “Florida, New York, Washington and Virginia are also looking into it,” he says, “because they have so many deficient bridges they have to fix, and they’re trying to do it quickly.”

Pennsylvania is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on its program, which it says will still be 20 percent cheaper than traditional methods.

Quiz: Extracurricular coding

Wed, 2015-01-21 07:39

Computer programming contests have become so popular on college campuses that an international organization formed to host events.

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Seaweed: ‘Adventurous' and a $6.4 billion industry

Wed, 2015-01-21 07:09

If someone mentions "edible seaweed," the first thing that often comes to mind is the sushi nori that holds a California roll together. And in fact, East Asia is one of the world's largest consumers of seaweed.

Over time, seaweed's global presence expanded to other parts of the world, and it has become a $6.39 billion farming industry worldwide – a move that hardly surprises Paul Dobbins, president of Ocean Approved, the first commercial kelp farm in the U.S.

"We saw the level of consumption of seaweed globally and realized it was only a matter of time before it started to be reintroduced into our country," he says. "Seaweed was eaten by our indigenous population before the colonists came along. When my great-grandmother in Newfoundland was a little girl, they would eat seaweed in the winter as a way to get your green nutrition at a time when there weren't any green plants available."

Dobbins says he holds a significant share of the seaweed market in high schools and colleges, as demand for healthier dietary options continues to grow.

"It's an adventurous food. It's not something they were probably served when they were really young," he says.

As for Dobbins' favorite way to eat seaweed? Tossed in with scrambled eggs, shrimp, and cheese, not terribly unlike an omelet.

Seaweed: ‘Adventurous' food's a $6.4 billion industry

Wed, 2015-01-21 07:09

If someone mentions "edible seaweed," the first thing that often comes to mind is the sushi nori that holds a California roll together. And in fact, East Asia is one of the world's largest consumers of seaweed.

Over time, seaweed's global presence expanded to other parts of the world, and it has become a $6.39 billion farming industry worldwide – a move that hardly surprises Paul Dobbins, president of Ocean Approved, the first commercial kelp farm in the U.S.

"We saw the level of consumption of seaweed globally and realized it was only a matter of time before it started to be reintroduced into our country," he says. "Seaweed was eaten by our indigenous population before the colonists came along. When my great-grandmother in Newfoundland was a little girl, they would eat seaweed in the winter as a way to get your green nutrition at a time when there weren't any green plants available."

Dobbins says he holds a significant share of the seaweed market in high schools and colleges, as demand for healthier dietary options continues to grow.

"It's an adventurous food. It's not something they were probably served when they were really young," he says.

As for Dobbins' favorite way to eat seaweed? Tossed in with scrambled eggs, shrimp, and cheese, not terribly unlike an omelet.

From seaweed to shining seaweed

Wed, 2015-01-21 07:09

If someone mentions 'edible seaweed,' the first thing that often comes to mind is the sushi nori that holds the innards of a California roll together. And in fact, East Asia is one of the world's largest consumers of seaweed.

Over time, seaweed's global presence expanded to other parts of the world, and has become a $6.39 billion farming industry worldwide—a move that hardly surprises Paul Dobbins, the president of Ocean Approved, the first commercial kelp farm in the U.S.

"We saw the level of consumption of seaweed globally, and realized it was only a matter of time before it started to be reintroduced into our country," he said. "Seaweed was eaten by our indigenous population before the colonists came along; when my great-grandmother in Newfoundland was a little girl, they would eat seaweed in the winter as a way to get your green nutrition at a time when there weren't any green plants available."

Dobbins says he holds a significant share of the seaweed market in high schools and colleges, as demand for a healthier dietary options continues to rise.

"It's an adventurous food. It's not something they were probably served when they were really young," he said.

As for Dobbins's favorite way to eat seaweed? Tossed in with scrambled eggs, shrimp, and cheese, not terribly unlike an omelet.

PODCAST: VIP internet

Wed, 2015-01-21 03:00

What Wall Street won't like about what President Barack Obama called "middle-class economics." Plus, chief executives from cities across the country gather in the nation's capital this week, as the U-S conference of Mayors meets in Washington ... amid an economic recovery that is boosting some but not all city budgets. And internet providers say its their equipment, so why shouldn't they be able to offer VIP fast internet to favored business partners? Supporters of network neutrality say all online content should be treated equal. But how the internet works has changed a lot in recent years, and as we find out, regulators aren't sure yet how to handle it.

Cities booming, with some left behind

Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

The U.S. Conference of Mayors meets this week in Washington to discuss the past and future of urban policy.

But while many urban centers are experiencing economic revitalization, hunger and poverty are also increasing in several major U.S. cities. 

Click the media player above to hear more.

The other Super Bowl halftime show ... on YouTube

Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

For this year's Super Bowl halftime, while Katy Perry entertains a broadcast TV audience, YouTube will be, for the first time, live streaming its own halftime show starring its video celebrities.

Research shows YouTube stars are hugely influential among teens, and that is translating to billions in advertising revenues.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Is net neutrality the real issue?

Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

It used to be, way back when — say, two years ago — that when you clicked on a Netflix video, it would take a winding journey from a server in one location, through wires owned by any number of companies, until finally it hit your internet service provider. These days, that journey is a whole lot shorter.   

“A few feet,” says Richard Bennett, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. 

More often than not, Netflix just connects a wire from its server to boxes owned by ISPs like Comcast, Verizon or Time Warner. They’re generally in the same building. 

This is called interconnection, and it’s how most of our internet traffic gets to us now. It’s more reliable and efficient. Think: less buffering. And, increasingly, content companies like Apple, Google, and, of course, Netflix are paying fees for this service.  

This is where things get controversial.

“In America, where these very few ISPs have so much market power that they can extract payments, it's just like the mob,” says Susan Crawford, who co-directs Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. "Just say, 'you’re not going to reach our subscribers unless you pay us.'” 

The Federal Communications Commission is getting more complaints about these deals. And, now, it has to decide what — if anything — to do about them. It’s not sure whether interconnection should be part of net neutrality regulations expected next month, tackled separately later on, or left alone completely.

That’s what many ISPs would like. 

“We all get the services we want,” says Matthew Brill, a partner at Latham & Watkins who represents many big ISPs. “There’s a real danger that if government gets in the middle of those relationships, it will distort things in a way that ends up very harmful for consumers.” 

But what if Netflix videos are basically unwatchable unless Netflix pays an ISP for a direct connection. Is that fair?

“Comcast could say, well, you’re using a third of our traffic, and we could say, well, we’re providing a third of the value your subscribers are getting, so you should pay us instead,” says Ken Florance, Netflix’s vice president of content delivery.  

What Netflix really wants is to pay nothing. It will be up to the FCC or Congress to decide whether they have a role in these disputes.

What can you make with cardboard and tape? A robot.

Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

There’s a new DIY robotics toolkit in town, and you don’t need to know anything about electronics or programming to use it. HandiMate, developed by researchers from Purdue and Indiana universities, lets children (or anyone else) build robots with cardboard, velcro, and other cheap, easily available materials. They can even control it wirelessly through hand gestures while wearing a glove that acts as a controller. And, according to Kylie Peppler, one of the researchers and an assistant professor at Indiana University, it’s also “gender neutral.”

“It can be whatever color you want it to be,” says Peppler. The idea is to use the kit to teach children concepts in a way that's fun and engaging. The play — the process of building the robot — lasts about 90 minutes, and in that time students use engineering principles that are typically taught in college.  

Since the toolkit uses recyclable materials like cardboard, Peppler says it’s cost-effective and accessible for schools across the board.

She thinks the DIY approach is a great way to get kids to think on their own and innovate. During the research, for instance, they found that children often improvised with the kit to make their robots different — Like the 11-year-old who wanted to build one with legs, or the 14-year-old who wanted to mount his robot on a car.

“A more playful approach to learning gets us to redesign and rethink,” she says.

And on the seventh day, Amazon applied dynamic pricing

Wed, 2015-01-21 01:30
43.3 percent

Of the proposals delivered during previous State of the Union speeches, 43.3 percent, on average, actually are enacted during the following year, according to data collected from 1965 to 2002. But the actual legislative success varies from year to year. Check out the State of the Union, by the numbers, here.

40 percent

That's how much the largest overseas investor in U.S. shale, BHP Billiton Ltd., will cut its oil rigs in the states, going from 16 to 26 by July. As Bloomberg reports, the move comes amidst worries about lower iron ore earnings as petroleum prices drop. 

115.3 million viewers

That's how many people watched last year's Superbowl halftime show, featuring Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That's the largest audience in the history of the game. But this year, viewership may be divided between the televised entertainment, and a YouTube halftime show featuring internet celebrities.

$1 billion

"Shh, I'm trying to Shazam this song," said your friend at every coffee shop ever. As reported by the New York Times, the smartphone app that can identify songs has raised $30 million in new funding, putting the company's valuation at $1 billion.

$8.49 to $16.99

And on the seventh day, Amazon applied dynamic pricing to the Bible. As reported by Quartz, the price of a standard King James version of the Holy Bible on Amazon has fluctuated quite a bit in the last couple years (100 times in five years, to be exact), ranging from $8.49 at its lowest to $16.99 at its highest. Most likely, its an automated algorithm responding to the ups and downs in consumer demand.

Oil prices tank, we save billions

Tue, 2015-01-20 13:32

Here are a few updates about the current state of the oil industry:

  • Crude oil closed down almost 5 percent today at about $46 dollars per barrel at the close in New York.
  • Gas is under $2 per gallon in more than half the states.
  • Gas that sells for an average of $2.45 cuts — in the aggregate — $120 billion from the amount we'll all pay for gas this year.

That's according to the Oil Price Information Service.

Oil traders are hedging their bets

Tue, 2015-01-20 12:18

Delta Airlines reported a fourth-quarter loss Tuesday because the company’s fuel-hedging contracts overshot the falling price of oil.

Some energy traders and banks seem to think that they might have better luck than Delta. With the forecast for crude starting to trend upward, investors are buying cheap oil and storing it in the hope of turning a profit in the future.

One preferred storage method: Parking the oil on so-called “VLCC’s,” or very large crude carriers, capable of carrying millions of tons of oil in a single delivery. Normally that’s what these tankers would be doing, except almost no one wants to ship oil when the price is so low. 

U.S. is a bright spot in slowing global economy

Tue, 2015-01-20 12:10

The International Monetary Fund has revised downward its global economic projections. The IMF predicts China will grow 6.8 percent in 2015 (the October 2014 estimate was more than 7 percent, compared to growth topping 10 percent in recent years) as it tries to deflate an investment bubble. The eurozone is projected to grow 1.2 percent. Japan is expected to grow just 0.6 percent. 

The United States is the bright spot in this forecast. The IMF now predicts higher growth for the U.S. than it did in October – 3.6 percent in 2015. The U.S. economy is benefiting from declining oil prices and low inflation. Plus, says Paul Ashworth at Capital Economics in Toronto, the U.S. is relatively insulated from troubles in Europe, Asia and other developing countries because of its size and its relatively low dependence on exports.

“Exports are a fairly small part – 11 to 12 percent – of U.S. GDP,” says Ashworth. “And within that, the U.S. main trading partners are Canada and Mexico, which have actually been doing quite well.”

Overall, the IMF expects global growth of 3.5 percent this year. 

Courtesy of: International Monetary Fund

 

Auction houses filled with high-end art – and drama

Tue, 2015-01-20 12:07

The business side of the high-end art world is as dramatic as a Baroque masterpiece – lots of light and shadow.

"Where insider trading is against the law in the financial markets, it is completely legal and actually frequently practiced in the art world," says Michael Plummer, a founder of Artvest Partners, an art advisory firm. Previously, he was COO of Christie’s Financial Services, and also worked with Sotheby’s for years.

 "That’s kind of the game of playing in the art world is that if you are an insider, and you have inside information, then you tend to capitalize on it," he says. And dramatic life events cause works of art to end up at auction houses in the first place.

 “Death, divorce and debt. These are the main consignors,” says David Nash, a co-owner, with his wife, of the Mitchell-Innes & Nash galleries in Manhattan. Before the gallery, Nash spent 30 years at  Sotheby's overseeing paintings, so he well knows how that same drama can trickle down, or up, to the staff.  

"It was pretty high pressure when I left. Now it’s 10 times worse," he says. "Soon as you’ve had one $400 million dollar sale, you’ve got to take the phone call the next morning for the next one.”

And both auction houses seem like they're giving in to some of that pressure, considering Christie’s is replacing its CEO, Stephen Murphy. Sotheby’s CEO, William Ruprecht, who served for 14 years, is also stepping down. Both companies want to become more profitable.

“What is making them less profitable is the intense competition between both houses,” Nash says.

While there are plenty of high-end pieces of art, only two auction houses can handle works of a certain worth. That means there’s often an auction before the auction when the two houses are bidding against each other as they try to offer better deals and land the customer.

"How far are you willing to go to get something that you have to have?” asks Michael Plummer. “Same psychology that’s in the auction room, that puts two people bidding against each other to drive something up to $140 million is the same psychology that puts two auctioneers bidding against each other to get that piece to the auction itself."

And it can seem worth it, for either Sotheby’s or Christie's to do what whatever is needed to lock down a deal to sell a headliner work of art, except it’s not, Plummer says.

“They just don’t make the kind of money that you think they do. When you see those hundreds of millions of dollars of sales, they’re not bringing in the money that people expect that they are, and that I know is a shocking thing to a lot of people.”

Even if you sell a $140 million painting, most of the commission may be given away to the client. Auction houses also offer guarantees that can sound an awful lot like gambling. To secure high-ticket items, the house may guarantee a minimum sale price. But if that sale doesn’t go through, the house is stuck buying that very same, and very pricey, piece of art. One of the problems Sotheby’s is facing, Plummer says, is too much focus on high end sales – the kind that often come with guarantees.

Still, both auction houses say they’re coming off of three years of record-setting sales. while it may seem counter intuitive, this could be the right time to make a bid for new leadership. While it may seem counterintuitive, this could be the right time to make a bid for new leadership, according to David Schick, a luxury industry analyst at investment banking firm Stifell.

"Making a change – I wouldn’t say getting rid of – making a change is easier when times are good," he says.

Auction houses filled with high-end art – and drama

Tue, 2015-01-20 12:07

The business side of the high-end art world is as dramatic as a Baroque masterpiece – lots of light and shadow.

 

"Where insider trading is against the law in the financial markets, it is completely legal and actually frequently practiced in the art world," says Michael Plummer, a founder of Artvest Partners, an art advisory firm. Previously, he was COO of Christie’s Financial Services, and also worked with Sotheby’s for years.

 "That’s kind of the game of playing in the art world is that if you are an insider, and you have inside information, then you tend to capitalize on it," he says. And dramatic life events cause works of art to end up at auction houses in the first place.

 “Death, divorce and debt. These are the main consignors,” says David Nash, a co-owner, with his wife, of the Mitchell-Innes & Nash galleries in Manhattan. Before the gallery, Nash spent 30 years at  Sotheby's overseeing paintings, so he well knows how that same drama can trickle down, or up, to the staff.  

"It was pretty high pressure when I left. Now it’s 10 times worse," he says. "Soon as you’ve had one $400 million dollar sale, you’ve got to take the phone call the next morning for the next one.”

And both auction houses seem like they're giving in to some of that pressure, considering Christie’s is replacing its CEO, Stephen Murphy. Sotheby’s CEO, William Ruprecht, who served for 14 years, is also stepping down. Both companies want to become more profitable.

“What is making them less profitable is the intense competition between both houses,” Nash says.

While there are plenty of high-end pieces of art, only two auction houses can handle works of a certain worth. That means there’s often an auction before the auction when the two houses are bidding against each other as they try to offer better deals and land the customer.

 

"How far are you willing to go to get something that you have to have?” asks Michael Plummer. “Same psychology that’s in the auction room, that puts two people bidding against each other to drive something up to $140 million is the same psychology that puts two auctioneers bidding against each other to get that piece to the auction itself."

 

And it can seem worth it, for either Sotheby’s or Christie's to do what whatever is needed to lock down a deal to sell a headliner work of art, except it’s not, Plummer says.

 

“They just don’t make the kind of money that you think they do. When you see those hundreds of millions of dollars of sales, they’re not bringing in the money that people expect that they are, and that I know is a shocking thing to a lot of people.”

 

Even if you sell a $140 million painting, most of the commission may be given away to the client. Auction houses also offer guarantees that can sound an awful lot like gambling. To secure high-ticket items, the house may guarantee a minimum sale price. But if that sale doesn’t go through, the house is stuck buying that very same, and very pricey, piece of art. One of the problems Sotheby’s is facing, Plummer says, is too much focus on high end sales – the kind that often come with guarantees.

 

Still, both auction houses say they’re coming off of three years of record-setting sales. while it may seem counter intuitive, this could be the right time to make a bid for new leadership. While it may seem counterintuitive, this could be the right time to make a bid for new leadership, according to David Schick, a luxury industry analyst at investment banking firm Stifell.

 

"Making a change – I wouldn’t say getting rid of – making a change is easier when times are good," he says.

Game-show winner pulls back the curtain on prizes

Tue, 2015-01-20 10:56

That's me, at the red position, talking to Pat Sajak on "Wheel of Fortune," during an episode in April 2014. I've taken my fair share of cash and prizes from three different game shows, $77,421 worth of stuff by my count. 

After doing my fair share of winning – and losing – I started to wonder where all the money come from, in the off-chance that this bit of trivia shows up in my question stack when I inevitably try my hand at "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." 

Art Alisi, president of Promotional Considerations, Inc., offers an answer. The network "may give them, let's say, $50,000 a week for their prize budget," he says. "And the show wants to give away $150,000, so they have to use the fee spots, and that brings them the extra revenue that they're looking for." 

These fee spots are usually shown at the end of the show, and the revenue from these spots is funneled into the weekly prize budget. 

Because "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" have been the top two game shows in syndication since roughly forever, they command a high price for these 10-second promotions. The typical going rate for one of those spots is $15,000, Alisi says.

While that money is used to pay for any cash prizes given away, the show can also use the funds to buy other material prizes, like cars. Buying prizes is common on "The Price is Right," which made it difficult for Alisi to secure cars when he worked for the original "Hollywood Squares" in the '60s and '70s, he says. In those days, shows could easily obtain cars for free from dealers, he says. After "The Price is Right" debuted in 1972, other shows had a hard time obtaining cars, because it was more lucrative for the dealers to sell a car to "The Price is Right," which typically offers two or three cars per show, instead of contracting out a car to another show. 

"So now we have to buy the cars, unless we do a special promotion with somebody," Alisi says. "Most of the time we have to buy the cars, we have to figure that as a cost. And we work with the different dealers, so we usually get it at their cost." 

But the shows don't buy every prize you see on the air. Trips, for example, are almost never purchased but are obtained via contract, as former "Wheel of Fortune" prize coordinator Adam Nedeff explains. That involves cold-calling hotels and airlines and making a detailed sales pitch. "At the time, we would contract them for two trips. The first trip was for the 'Prize Puzzle,' a guaranteed win," he says. The second would go to a viewer who played along from home.

Accepting a prize, or not, is up to the contestant. 

Shows give contestants the option to forfeit prizes, and I took advantage of that after I had my "Price is Right" showcase handed to me on a silver platter.

My big prize was a five-hour private jet flight, valued at $25,000, that came with all sorts of stipulations — the plane would only take me 2½ hours outside of Los Angeles, then 2½ back. I had to spend at least two days in my destination before returning home and any expenses incurred in my destination city were my responsibility.... 

To save myself the headache, I just forfeited the prize. I didn't get anything in return, and I couldn't have sold the plane ticket even if I did accept it. But I also didn't have to pay taxes on that prize. 

Prizes that aren't accepted are a good deal for the show. That five-hour private jet trip I forfeited went back in the show's inventory. If the show wants to, the prize can be offered again, although it might be packaged differently.

"Maybe then, next time they do it, they’ll give you a hotel in Vegas. So now the prize becomes $30,000 — and they already have the credits since you forfeited the prize," Alisi says.

Then again, if you can't use the prize (as long as it's not a trip, where you have to be one of the two people taking it),  you might know someone who can — as eight-time game show contestant Dan Avila did after he won six pairs of women's shoes on "Sale of the Century" in the '70s. 

Forecasting Tuesday's State of the Union address

Tue, 2015-01-20 10:38

President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver his sixth State of the Union address Tuesday night at the Capital. It will be the first time Obama has delivered a State of the Union address to a Republican-led Congress.

"What he can be proudest of and what he’s probably going to point to tonight is the job market," says Marketplace’s David Gura. "Last month, the economy added 252,000 jobs. The unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent, these are good metrics – metrics that the American people like."

In the past few weeks, President Barack Obama has previewed some of the main ideas that will be presented in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address: tax reform, income inequality, and paid parental leave, to name a few.

"I was struck as he gave these speeches by how much he’s focused on what the administration has done already," says Gura. "His hands have been tied over these last few years, he has not done a lot with Congress. So a lot of what we’ve heard are things he’s talked about a lot, I don’t expect he’s going to stop talking about them. I think he’s hoping that American’s appetites for things like that will grow now."

Tonight will be the second-to-last time President Obama will take part in the annual presidential address to Congress, plus the millions of people watching at home. 

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