Nevadans key into Obama’s speech

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On Jan. 21, President Obama made his second inaugural address, marking the start of another four years of his leadership of the United States. While it could easily be viewed as a stream of prosaic axioms that attempt to reach the most American people possible, there are certain points that may become important for Nevadans.

In an unexpected twist, Obama turned part of his focus to climate change and discussed the importance of new energy sources: “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.”

If America is leading the transition to sustainable energy, then Nevada needs to lead America. With its vast, unoccupied stretches of land, Nevada is a hotbed of opportunity for the development of geothermal and solar energies. Harnessing these energies, however, has a high fixed cost, and this cost has deterred many from exploring what Nevada has to offer. If the U.S. Energy Department tapped these valuable natural resources instead of investing $535 million in loans to quickly bankrupted companies (I’m looking at your Solyndra debacle, Obama), it would not only create jobs but would also do more for long-term environmental sustainability.

While gay marriage is still not legal in Nevada, 2009 saw the adoption of the Domestic Partnership Responsibilities Act, which is essentially all of the defined aspects of marriage without calling it marriage. In his address, Obama made history by being the first president to explicitly support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights when he said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”

While his endorsement of gay rights is promising, the question remains what he will do to take action on the issue. As for the voters of the state of Nevada, there has been a decline in the number of voters who believe that same-sex marriage should be illegal, but there is still a split decision on whether the state should allow marriage versus civil unions. In a 2012 Public Policy Polling survey, 80 percent of Nevada voters supported same-sex couples receiving legal recognition, but were split 40 percent-40 percent on marriage versus civil unions. Time will tell how Nevada voters decide to cast their ballots in the next election, but with the executive branch backing same-sex marriage, we can expect to see a shift in support for the LGBT movement.

As a final point of discussion, we can take a look at Obama’s statements on immigration, a topic very close to many Nevadans: “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity.” Like much of the southwest United States, Nevada labor benefits from the addition of documented or undocumented immigrant workers. As many economic studies show, immigrants expand the U.S. economy. They are complements, not substitutes, to native U.S. workers.

As immigrants flood the less-skill-intensive labor markets, which often don’t require good English language abilities, cost per worker is initially low, but in the long run, businesses are able to grow, which creates a demand for communication-intensive jobs for U.S. workers, such as supervising. The free market serves to balance out the influx of a new labor market, and the best way to take advantage of this influx is to hasten the introduction of new U.S. citizens, who are then able to contribute to the economy by paying taxes.

Overall, there are things to both laud and abhor with Obama’s re-election. But in the local scheme of things, Nevada can expect to see some sizable shifts in both policy and attitude over the next four years.