State of the Union: Obama pledges to reignite economy

 

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President Barack Obama has urged Congress to back government action to revive the sluggish US economy, in his annual State of the Union speech.

The Democratic president promised "smarter" rather than bigger government for "the many, and not just the few".

He also called for action on gun violence, climate change and immigration reform.

In the Republican response, Senator Marco Rubio urged Mr Obama to drop his "obsession" with raising taxes.

Speaking in the House of Representatives, Mr Obama told his audience that his generation's task was "to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth - a rising, thriving middle class".

'North Star'

"We have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is strong,'' Mr Obama said in an hour-long address.

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Those hoping for a more conciliatory tone than this notably aggressive State of the Union speech were disappointed”

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Delivering growth and jobs will be the "North Star that guides our efforts", he added.

But he insisted that nothing he planned would raise the deficit "by a single dime".

Mr Obama proposed reforms to reduce the cost of Medicare, a federal healthcare programme for pensioners, but argued "we can't just cut our way to prosperity".

In his speech, Mr Obama went on to call for federal investment in infrastructure, clean energy and education.

And he vowed to act on climate change himself if Congress failed to enact legislation.

"I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change...," he said.

Watch President Obama's full address

"But if Congress won't act sooner to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."

Mr Obama also said he would reduce by more than half the number of US troops in Afghanistan over the next year.

He asked Congress to raise the minimum wage $7.25 to $9 an hour, called for legislation to ensure women are paid equally to men and announced a commission to improve the voting process.

On gun control, Mr Obama said an "overwhelming" majority of Americans supported "common-sense reform" on firearms, including tighter background checks and restrictions on "weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines".

Republican Senator Rubio: 'I hope the president will abandon his obsession with raising taxes'

And he urged gun-control opponents to allow a vote in Congress on his proposals.

"The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence - they deserve a simple vote," he said.

Conservative divisions

He also praised bipartisan efforts to draw up an immigration reform bill, adding that if he is sent legislation, "I will sign it right away".

House Speaker John Boehner told US media on Wednesday said that immigration was the only issue on Mr Obama's state of the union list that had any chance in Congress this year.

He added he believed the president was more interested in getting a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Less than a day after North Korea tested a nuclear device, Mr Obama said the US will "lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats".

Mr Obama will take to the road in the coming days to push his economic recovery proposals, stopping in the US states of North Carolina and Georgia and in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, was not impressed by what he called "pedestrian liberal boilerplate".

"An opportunity to bring together the country instead became another retread of lip service and liberalism,'' he said on Wednesday.

US media reaction

The New York Times says Mr Obama "continued trying to define a 21st Century version of liberalism that could outlast his time in office and do for Democrats what Reagan did for Republicans".

Part of that liberalism, the Washington Post says, included Mr Obama's call to "pivot away from the politics of austerity".

Politico called it an "aggressive speech with an even more aggressive message" and says that for the "Republican lawmakers who complain that [President Obama has] been too rough on them already - he's just getting started".

On Senator Marco Rubio's Republican response, Real Clear Politics says he delivered an effective "call for conservatives to govern by their principles and also an appeal to voters who have soured on the GOP in recent years, asking that they give the party another look".

Sen Rubio, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, delivered his party's official riposte.

In it, he attacked Mr Obama's economic policies and said "more government isn't going to help you get ahead, it's going to hold you back".

The Cuban-American senator, who also made his address in Spanish, referred to the pain felt by residents of the working-class neighbourhood in which he grew up.

He told Mr Obama: "I don't oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbours."

The Florida senator also warned the president that the "tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle-class families".

Underscoring conservative divisions, immediately after the Rubio speech Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul delivered the Tea Party's rebuttal to Mr Obama's address.

He said both parties had failed voters by driving up trillion-dollar deficits.

 

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 281.

    280.Aziz Merchant
    23 Minutes ago
    US economy was seriously damaged by Bush and his cohorts. It takes less time to damage an economy than to revive it. The Republicans have created a lot of hurdles for Obama's administration. The stigma of a black Prez still sticks. I am of the belief that if Obama cannot revive US economy, nobody can.

    +++

    He's only a lawyer with a stock of pretty words.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 280.

    US economy was seriously damaged by Bush and his cohorts. It takes less time to damage an economy than to revive it. The Republicans have created a lot of hurdles for Obama's administration. The stigma of a black Prez still sticks. I am of the belief that if Obama cannot revive US economy, nobody can.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 279.

    On North Korea, they're only starting their nuclear madness. When Kim Jung-un came along I said he'd be as bad as his father only madder & he is & will be as age grows on him...of course the Iranians will be by his side to be his partners in crime. & of course, America knew about the last test before it happened.

    On Guns, President Obama should ban all assault rifles forthwith as of now. Period.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 278.

    The US economy won't be fixed by Obama because it's a world problem that needs a world solution. It's amazing no leader in the West never mind the East can fathom that out. Afghanistan is not won it's only controlled for the moment, & America & others will be there well after Obama's 2nd term ends. The environment issues need to be tackled right now, but again the world is "Myopic" on this issue!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 277.

    273 Eastvillage

    I am surprised that you expect the President to solve all your problems when the system deliberately allows him as little power as possible.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 276.

    275.Makonnen
    50 Minutes ago
    . Time will tell if these Officials are listening to the Voice of the People who put them where they are or only to their Party Members.

    +++

    We'll know that if he follows the wishes of the majority who want gun control and not have the need to form one-(wo)man armies.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 275.

    State of the Union is an Important Event where the President & Elected officials draw the map of Economic & Social Growth for the American People.It is the time where all Elected Members Pledge to do what America needs together like Hand & Glove. Time will tell if these Officials are listening to the Voice of the People who put them where they are or only to their Party Members.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 274.

    His attacks on the 2nd Amendment will fail and will be the first of a string of setbacks he suffers, to the delight of the American people. Stay tuned.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 273.

    He's had 4 years, Blames BUSH, blames Republicans, Sun coming up in the East, anything and everyone for his failures. The only good outcome to this catastrophe will be his Impeachment in 2014.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 272.

    @269

    Sorry, finger trouble. That should have read-

    He's right about the guns. Since 9/11 American guns have killed 100 times more Americans than Bin Laden's lot ever did.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 271.

    Equal pay and raising the min wage to 9.00 are a good start for economy stimulation. Immigration Reform, better checkpoints for owning a gun, global climate change which means better gas milage for all. It's a start in the right direction for his legacy as President. He is a Civil Rights teacher from Chicago. I don't want to live in the 50's anymore.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 270.

    I'm not any Dem or Rep, never voted in any US election (non US citizen), neither I have any political ambition. But I was elated to see that black, competent guy becoming the president of USA- as a rare, very rare, probability in this declining socio-political situation with increasing dominance of mediocrity & 'elitism' in this country- used to be the beacon of equality, liberty & prosperity.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 269.

    He's right about the guns. Since 9/11 American guns have killed 1000 times more Americans than Bin Laden's lot ever did.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 268.

    Can our Leader start with a Clawback on GM to get back everything we loaned we will be in the hole 28 Billion (projected)when we have sold back all the shares. Lets get rid of the penny, Canada is doing this, how many years can our Leaders talk about this, the Post Office is finally going to cut back a day, how about Amtrak? I wish our Elected officials would do something...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 267.

    Watch the "The One Percent" in Netflix. "It's not the Qs if we (rich) can sustain it (money & power) for long, but what consequences will that bring. Can't it be a violent reprisal?"

    Just check the consequences in many 3rd World countries like India. Deteriorating governance, education, research, social & income equality with rising internal terrorism and violence does not make a great future!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 266.

    "U.S. Income Inequality Higher Than Roman Empire's Level"- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/19/us-income-inequality-ancient-rome-levels_n_1158926.html

    "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%"- http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105 (by Noble Laureate Joseph Stiglitz)

    GOP must understand the reality if it wants to win national elections in US again.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 265.

    The USA is bust and everyone knows it yet are too scared to say it.With a 17 trillion dollar deficit and no way to pay it the clock is ticking.
    To say America will `manufacture` its way out of its debt is just pure fantasy as you cant compete with slave labour wages paid in Asia to manufacture goods.
    The only reason they are keeping their head above water is that the dollar is the reserve currency

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 264.

    It's not that the opposition doesn't care about the poor and needy, as many of you seem to be purporting. It's about differing approaches to the economy. Even economists differ on how "best" to drive a healthy economy. USA Liberals & Conservatives have opposing views, and have for 200 years now. I really don't believe either party cares about anyone at this point; they just want to be re-elected.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 263.

    I understand that it hurts when a rich & powerful family/group/race start losing its grip over power/wealth. Sometimes it make them revengeful & violent. Traditional 'elites' in US were consolidating its grip over power & wealth for last few decades.

    How can they allow this Black guy, who seems to be un-corruptible, is ruining that progress & creating a dangerous trend of middle class awakening!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 262.

    He sounds like he wants to spend more money, and money we just don't have, which will one day bring on very high interest rates. I'm surprised Europe likes him so much. One day our total debt will be so high that we will have to start printing much more money which will make the euro very expensive. Both parties refuse to admit how much trouble we are in. They just blame the other side.

 

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