Obama, Make These 5 Tweaks to SOTU
Ian Bassin lists 5 'bold' moves president could make at State of the Union
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2014 12:13 PM CST
In this Jan. 25, 2011 file-pool photo, President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File-Pool)

(Newser) – President Obama will announce a number of executive actions at tonight's State of the Union Address—but though the writing and planning of the speech likely started months ago, there are probably a number of aides considering last-minute additions even now. Ian Bassin should know: He used to be a White House lawyer serving Obama. On Salon, he lists five "bold and realistic" last-minute changes he thinks Obama should consider:

  • Take marijuana off the list of the most dangerous drugs. Though Obama has publicly declared pot to be no more dangerous than alcohol, it's still included on Schedule I of the controlled substances list—putting it in the same category as heroin. Remove it, and it will "become easier for scientists to research pot, including its potential medical applications." Plus, states will have more flexibility with their own drug policy approaches. "It would, in short, mark an end to the failed war on marijuana that has driven our mass incarceration crisis and devastated communities."

  • Reinstitute net neutrality. The DC Circuit court struck down net neutrality when it ruled that the FCC can only regulate common carriers (providers of public services, like telephone companies), not broadband Internet. "The president could fix this by urging the FCC to reclassify broadband Internet as a common carrier," Bassin writes. It makes sense: "We all rely on the Internet in modern society as much as we relied on the post office or telephone companies in the past to transport our information." And the FCC would likely do what Obama asked.
  • Ease student loans. Many Americans are struggling to pay their student loans, and that's bad not just for those Americans but for the economy at large. Obama can't do anything about private bank loans, but he can rewrite the terms of older government loans to bring them in line with newer ones. If he did so, repayment of those student loans could be limited to no more than 10% of discretionary income, and any debt not paid off after 20 years would be forgiven.
Click for Bassin's full list.