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January 23, 2012

Obama Touts Economic Plan in State of the Union Address

by Kent Klein

As he faces a tough re-election campaign, President Barack Obama devoted much of his annual State of the Union address Tuesday night to his plan to speed the U.S. economic recovery. 

President Obama went before a sharply divided Congress and a concerned American public to promote his ideas for boosting economic prosperity.

"Tonight I want to speak about how we move forward and lay out a blueprint for an economy that is built to last - an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers and a renewal of American values," he said.

A Look at President Obama's Previous State of the Union Addresses

  • 2011: Mr. Obama proposed a partial government spending freeze, and called for more investment in education and infrastructure.  He said the war in Iraq is coming to an end.  He said the U.S. stands with the people of Tunisia, whose protests drove their president out of the country.
  • 2010: Mr. Obama urged Americans to work together to solve the damaged economy and other problems. He said the U.S. faces a deficit of trust in government.  He also pledged to remove U.S. combat troops from Iraq and said the U.S. will succeed in Afghanistan.
  • 2009: While not technically a State of the Union, Mr. Obama delivered a speech on the economy to a joint session of Congress one month after taking office.  He said years of irresponsibility and short-term thinking had brought a "day of reckoning."

To reassure a worried middle class, the president stressed one of the main themes of his re-election campaign: reducing income inequality and making the economy more fair.

"The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive.  No challenge is more urgent.  No debate is more important," he said.

The president said it is time to reclaim what he called "American values."

"We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by.  Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules," he said.

Mr. Obama's plan includes tax breaks for companies that keep jobs in the U.S, a new Trade Enforcement Unit to investigate unfair trade practices in other countries, support for clean energy industries, tighter financial regulation, and programs to help send more Americans to college.

With comprehensive immigration reform stalled in Congress, the president called for smaller measures.

"But if election year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let's at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses and defend this country," he said.

Mr. Obama acknowledged that his proposals face fierce opposition from Republicans in Congress, and he said he will continue fighting, with or without their support.

"But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place," he said.

In the Republican response, Governor Mitch Daniels of the central state of Indiana blasted what he called Mr. Obama's "extremism" and "pro-poverty policy."

"No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others.  As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat," he said.

President Obama said the U.S. has achieved a number of foreign policy victories in the past year.  

He mentioned the end of the Iraq war, progress being made in the war in Afghanistan, and the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, as well as the Arab Spring movement and hope for greater freedom in Burma.  

Mr. Obama also said U.S.-led international pressure on Iran because of its nuclear program is having an effect.

He said the renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe, and that America is back.

"Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, does not know what they are talking about," he said.

The president leaves Wednesday on a three-day, five-state trip, during which he will take his economic plan to the American people.

Watch the entire speeches: