What the 2013 State of the Union Means for Men

Policy-heavy speech blasts Congressional inaction, addresses several key issues for American men.

Tonight, there’s a lot of coverage about the number of words in the 2013 State of the Union address, there’s a lot of talk about the applause breaks and the surprise guests. There is even, for reasons surpassing all human understanding, talk about Ted bloody Nugent.

Here at the Good Men Project, we’d like to talk about policy. Applause breaks never paid anybody’s rent.

This speech outlined a lot of proposed policy initiatives, all based on one overriding theme: the president wants to follow through on the principles he ran on last year. Most of the policies outlined come down to direct economic stimulus, designed to combat the crippling economic inequality that holds back both our nation and ourselves as individuals. And many of them have direct implications for American men.

Take the president’s call for nationwide preschool education:

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.

I am a sucker for the phrase “do what works”, I admit, but more than that, this is a major men’s issue. The tension between family and work is enormous for any parent, and in two-parent homes where both parents work, the question of who will prioritize the kids over their job is inescapable. More than just helping with education, this preschool program would provide more resources for men trying to balance their career with their kids, an additional source of early childhood care that could make the difference between keeping a job and losing it for untold numbers of working parents.

On a similar note, the president called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to nine dollars an hour, and tie it to the cost of living, thereby bringing the nation much closer to having a standard living wage. There will be the standard kicking and crying from McDonald’s and Wal-Mart about how paying people almost enough to live on will permanently destroy their businesses, but they’ve said that about every single state and federal minimum wage increase ever, and they haven’t been right once, so at this point it seems safe to ignore them.

Men make up about 40% of minimum wage workers, and many are the sole earner for their family. Many more don’t have families yet, but are trying to make a living, pay off student loans and other debt, and build something for the future. If adopted, this policy would make a transformative difference in their lives.

In a brief foreign policy section, President Obama laid out a specific timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, which will bring to an end the most protracted war in our nation’s history. With the gender ratio in the military still running about 6:1 male to female, this means a long-sought homecoming for many thousands of men. We can only hope that their service will be adequately rewarded and that those who need help will receive it.



About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is a writer and editor, and quite possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.


  1. Someone made me aware of the last paragraph in the President’s speach:

    And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.

    I found it ironic how starkly pro-life the last part of that paragraph comes across if we switch the genders:

    because what makes you a woman isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.

  2. Uh, no. According to this article in the NYT penned by Casey B. Mulligan (economics professor at the University of Chicago), the last minimum wage hike cost approximately 800,000 jobs.

    WF Buckley’s formulation was correct. The minimum wage is either too low to be adequate, or it’s high enough to be destructive to the economy, or both.

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