September 25, 2020

Obama Focuses on ‘Thriving Middle Class’ in Speech

In his first State of the Union address since winning re-election, Mr. Obama offered an expansive second-term agenda focused heavily on the economy and jobs, according to summaries of his proposals provided to reporters in advance of the speech. He also proposed new reductions in nuclear weapons, announced that the United States would enter into negotiations for a free trade agreement with the European Union, and promised a speedy withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

“It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many and not just the few,” Mr. Obama said, according to a copy of his remarks released ahead of the hourlong speech. “That it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation of ours.”

After delivering an assertive defense of liberal values in his second Inaugural Address last month, on Tuesday Mr. Obama detailed his vision for how to achieve those goals through a federal government that is actively engaged in the well-being of all Americans.

He credited the “grit and determination” of the American people for helping turn the economy around, saying that “we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.”

The president argued for aggressive federal efforts to lift as many as 15 million people out of poverty by raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour from $7.25 an hour by the end of 2015. He also pushed for new investments in preschool programs as well as math and science education and community colleges to equip workers with new skills.

“Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty,” Mr. Obama said. “This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank, rent or eviction, scraping by or finally getting ahead.”

Despite raising the hopes of environmental activists in his Inaugural Address by calling for a robust effort to fight climate change, Mr. Obama did not call for a cap on carbon emissions on Tuesday. Instead, he pledged to increase the fuel efficiency of vehicles, double the use of renewable electricity generation and create a new energy security trust that would use oil and gas revenue from federal lands to finance clean energy research.

Immigration advocates had similar expectations about plans to overhaul the immigration system. Mr. Obama has said he favors changes that would eventually allow 11 million illegal immigrants to earn a path to citizenship, which he mentioned in the speech.

The president also urged Congress to approve a $50 billion “Fix It First” program of infrastructure improvements intended to repair and rebuild the roads, bridges and rail lines that are in the worst shape.

Mr. Obama, mindful of the debate over government spending, acknowledged that his agenda would cost money, but he said his proposals would not increase the deficit by “one single dime” because the federal budget would remain below caps that both parties agreed to during negotiations in 2011.

“It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth,” Mr. Obama said.

The president said he remained committed to reducing the budget deficit, but warned Republicans that he would support only what he called “balanced” efforts that included both spending cuts and tax increases, including the closing of tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

He made it clear that he believed that Washington had already reduced the deficit by $2.5 trillion over a decade, using a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. That is more than halfway toward the $4 trillion goal that he and some Republicans have set. He urged lawmakers to put off the automatic cuts to military and domestic spending to avoid a new economic slump.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/us/politics/obama-to-make-his-case-for-government-action.html?partner=rss&emc=rss