Mon, Feb 11, 2013 - Page 1 News List

US president to devote State of Union address to jobs

AGENDA:Aides said Barack Obama would focus on job creation, higher taxes for the rich, laws to curb gun violence, as well as immigration, energy and education reform

AFP, Washington

US President Barack Obama will build his annual State of the Union address tomorrow around a push for job creation as the fragile economy, which dogged his first term, threatens to hamper his second.

Obama will lay out a governing program that he hopes to squeeze through a divided US Congress, so as to complement the soaring progressive vision he sketched for history in his inaugural address last month.

Aides said Obama would seek to build support for new laws to curb gun violence, as the horror of December’s massacre of 20 school children begins to fade, at least outside the town of Newtown, Connecticut that it blighted.

The president also told Democratic lawmakers last week he would focus on job creation, new forms of energy and education reform in his ceremonial annual address delivered from the House of Representatives.

Moreover, he will make a pitch for immigration reform, the centerpiece of his second-term agenda, amid signs that Republicans keen to ease the distrust they suffer from among Hispanic voters may be ready for some rare cross-party compromise.

With political capital renewed by his re-election triumph in November, Obama will retool some old suggestions for jobs programs that never made it past Republicans in Congress and add some new ideas, advisers said.

After a sluggish economic recovery, there are new signs of alarm in the flat economy, after GDP contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the final quarter of last year and the unemployment rate has ticked up to 7.9 percent.

Obama will not shun conflict with Republicans over taxes and spending, a spat currently being waged over huge budget cuts due to come into force on March 1, with potential to hammer the economy.

“We’re going to talk about, yes, deficits and taxes and sequesters and potential government shutdowns and [the] debt ceiling,” Obama told the Democrats.

“But all from the perspective of how are we making sure that somebody who works hard in this country — a cop, or a teacher, or a construction worker, or a receptionist — that they can make it if they work hard,” he said.

Obama has fashioned his crusade for a more equitable economy for the middle class around higher taxes for the rich — a stance that Republicans oppose, arguing unsustainable public spending should be issue No. 1.

The president barely mentioned foreign policy in the inaugural address, which enshrined his second White House term on Jan. 21, but the watching world may get a window into his thinking tomorrow night.

Aides expect Obama to note the impending return home of the remaining 60,000 US troops in Afghanistan next year, but it is unclear if he will offer more details on the pace of their withdrawal.

US Vice President Joe Biden gave a few hints on the State of the Union address on a recent trip to Munich, Germany.

He said Obama would mention his bid to reduce global nuclear stockpiles and halt the proliferation of the components of weapons of mass destruction.

Biden also previewed initiatives on climate change, global poverty and a new effort to reduce trade barriers, including with Europe, plus a commitment to Middle East peace and the US pivot to Asia.

Obama’s speech will also be watched for any response to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has rejected a US offer for direct nuclear talks.

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