State of the Union: Obama pledges to reignite economy

 

President Obama: "Time for tax reform that encourages job creation"

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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
    -2

    Comment number 41.

    I think its disgusting that people can dismiss the republicans as racists just because they don't like the president. SHAME ON YOU "1. ColadadelCid"

    I think the fundamental point here, is
    1. Do you want a big state that provides for you..(downside is you as a person feel weak and dependent)
    2. Do you want a small state, where you provide for yourself and feel strong & independent but alone.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 40.

    I think the BBC's picture on this article captures Obama's situation perfectly , the leader of the republicans is looking at the president with barely disguised disdain . The GOP will do all they can to obstruct this president and their views on taxes would even be an embarrassment to past generations of republicans , they have slipped too far to the right .

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 39.

    In reality companies are starting to hire temps and contractors. This enables them to pay less to each individual by not having to fund any retirement plan, or provide health insurance. The average salary for many is being reduced. This is especially true for the common blue collar worker. Part time workers are also being hired to avoid paying out health care insurance, and other benefits.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 38.

    Amaricans should choose a way that can work well when ecnomoic crisis comes,just like China.More goverment control may be better

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 37.

    In the UK we off-shored everything including stuff that was bolted down, why? Because the clever blokes with their iPads or whatever said labour hours etc were cheaper in Romania etc....Guess what, a lot of ex UK manufacturers are discovering things are falling apart quicker than normal! Short term, the balance books looked great! Now their dealing with warranty claims..lol

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 36.

    He asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, called for legislation to ensure women are paid equally to men, and announced a commission to improve the voting process
    What do we get in Britain - spin spin spin and attacks on the poorest and the disabled supported a voting system designed to support the political elite which is populated by the super rich. We need change urgently!

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 35.

    Its a tough nut when you have a country like China with 1.3 billion people many who are paid slave wages competing with you and allowed to undercut you at every turn, With no environmental controls and no minimum wage the USA & EU and others should come to an international agreement to tax those countries that don't meet minimum standards in the production of goods & services.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 34.

    Just wondering if the US government (Democrats or Republicans) will be improving life back in the US by allowing American manufacturers to build more automobile plants in Asia? I just got the scoop on GM building several car plants over there. Interesting! What's next to move over there, maybe government itself?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 33.

    What ever happened to the discussion about the "green economy" being the way out of both our global economic and environmental mess?

    For example, we're still driving fossil fuel cars, like playing a vinyl record in the digital age. And still plug-in hybrids are barely coming out. Why is this?

    Obviously our rulers prefer things the way the are. Dragging our knuckles into the 21st century.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 32.

    @27.OkinawaHarvey
    "Even my so called All American Milwaukee drill was made in China."

    I have two Surefire flashlights. As far as I'm aware they are made in CA., USA. Though the soft toy beaver (animal, that is) I have that was produced for Canada Day was made in, um, China.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 31.

    @27: You neglect to mention how little tax Apple and there ilk pay. Americans are renowned for their alleged patriotism. If Americans are so patriotic, how come they go out of there way to pay so little tax? After all, an expanded tax base would allow for more spending on education, health etc - you know the stuff that could actually make a difference to the lives of the average American.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 30.

    Typical response from GOP: nothing but personal attacks on Obama and meaningless soundbites with no substance. When are they going to learn that people want actual policy and debate? Then people might actually support them. Instead we just get vitriol and cliche.

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 29.

    is this another promise from a fool personally i think he's been the biggest letdown america has ever had from some one who promised so much

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 28.

    If American presidents delivered on every cringeworthy pledge,in their almost religiously euphoric performances,the US would already by an earthly paradise.The evangelic fervour they drive themselves into only leads to disappointment as reality always bites.Still,Americans love their theatre and religion,presidents deliver both..

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 27.

    While the likes of Apple have their products manufactured in China rather than support workers in their homeland, your never going to improve the economy. Look around your house and your not likely to find anything made in the US. The main CPU in my pc and the windows software are the only things I own. Even my so called All American Milwaukee drill was made in China.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 26.

    19.Lafayette

    Not that I support the republicans but.. "The debt and deficit: Bush created the debt and under Obama the deficit is shrinking."

    ..but the national debt is rising and doesnt show any signs of stopping. The budget for the US for 2012 was 3.7tr, 1.1tr of which they couldn't pay for as they simply don't have the revenue. No austerity or cutting will fix this problem.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 25.

    A well thought out and passionate speech but politicians words are cheap and pledges worthless ... at least on this side of the pond they are.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 24.

    @19: On point 1 I agree, point 3 m'eh but on point 2 you're definitely wrong. If B.O. took US national security seriously, he would show considerably more foresight & realise that slaughtering Pakistani families, supporting the dispossession and subjugation of Palestinians and the slow choking of Iranians and Nth Koreans isn't going to win the US too many friends nor enhance US security.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 23.

    And while both parties pose and pout, US debt is at $16.5 trillion and climbing.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 22.

    Republicans really live in a fact-free bubble, repeating the same old tired memes:
    -Cut taxes for the rich and it wil rain jobs: No it won't, as shown repeatedly by all independent studies.
    -Obama does not take national security seriously: Please remind us who killed Bin Laden.
    -The debt and deficit: Bush created the debt and under Obama the deficit is shrinking.

 

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