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Obama: Nation stronger, GOP should back his plans

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:11 p.m. HST, Feb 12, 2013

WASHINGTON >> Uncompromising and politically emboldened, President Barack Obama urged a deeply divided Congress tonight to embrace his plans to use government money to create jobs and strengthen the nation's middle class. He declared Republican ideas for reducing the deficit "even worse" than the unpalatable deals Washington had to stomach during his first term.

In his first State of the Union address since winning re-election, Obama conceded economic revival is an "unfinished task," but he claimed clear progress and said he was seeking to build on it as he embarks on four more years in office.

"We have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is strong," Obama said, speaking before a joint session of Congress and a television audience of millions.

In specific proposals for his second term, an assertive Obama called for increased federal spending to fix the nation's roads and bridges, the first increase in the minimum wage in six years and expansion of early education to every American 4-year-old. Seeking to appeal for support from Republicans, he promised that none of his proposals would increase the deficit "by a single dime."

In the Republican response to Obama's address, rising GOP star Marco Rubio of Florida came right back at the president, saying his solution "to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more."

Sen. Rubio, in prepared remarks, said presidents of both parties have recognized that the free enterprise system brings middle-class prosperity.

"But President Obama?" Rubio said. "He believes it's the cause of our problems."

Obama also announced new steps to reduce the U.S. military footprint abroad, with 34,000 American troops withdrawing from Afghanistan within a year. And he had a sharp rebuke for North Korea, which launched a nuclear test just hours before his remarks, saying, "Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further."

Despite the pressing foreign policy concerns, jobs and growth dominated Obama's prime-time address, underscoring the degree to which the economy remains a vulnerability for the president and could disrupt his plans for pursuing a broader agenda, including immigration overhaul, stricter gun laws and climate change legislation.

Standing in Obama's way is a Congress that remains nearly as divided as it was during the final years of his first term, when Washington lurched from one crisis to another.

The president implored lawmakers to break through partisan logjams, asserting that "the greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next."

"Americans don't expect government to solve every problem," he said. "They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can."

Yet Obama offered few signs of being willing to compromise himself, instead doubling down on his calls to create jobs by spending more government money and insisting that lawmakers pay down the deficit through a combination of targeted spending cuts and tax increases. But he offered few specifics on what he wanted to see cut, focusing instead on the need to protect programs that help the middle class, elderly and poor.

He did reiterate his willingness to tackle entitlement changes, particularly on Medicare, though he has ruled out increasing the eligibility age for the popular benefit program for seniors.

Republicans are ardently opposed to Obama's calls for legislating more tax revenue to reduce the deficit and offset broad the automatic spending cuts — known as the sequester — that are to take effect March 1.

Obama broke little new ground on two agenda items he has pushed vigorously since winning re-election: overhauling the nation's fractured immigration laws and enacting tougher gun control measures in the wake of the horrific massacre of school children in Newtown, Conn. Yet he pressed for urgency on both, calling on Congress to send him an immigration bill "in the next few months" and insisting lawmakers hold votes on his gun proposals.

"Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress," he said. "If you want to vote no, that's your choice."

Numerous lawmakers wore green lapel ribbons in memory of those killed in the December shootings in Connecticut. Among those watching in the House gallery: the parents of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, shot and killed recently in a park just a mile from the president's home in Chicago, as well as other victims of gun violence.

On the economy, Obama called for raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 by 2015. The minimum wage has been stagnant since 2007, and administration officials said the increase would strengthen purchasing power. The president also wants Congress to approve automatic increases in the wage to keep pace with inflation.

Looking for common ground anywhere he could find it, Obama framed his proposal to boost the minimum wage by pointing out that even his GOP presidential rival liked the idea. He said, "Here's an idea that Gov. Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let's tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on."

Obama also renewed his calls for infrastructure spending, investments he sought repeatedly during his first term with little support from Republicans. He pressed lawmakers to approve a $50 billion "fix it first" program that would address the most urgent infrastructure needs.

Education also figures in Obama's plans to boost American competitiveness in the global economy. Under his proposal, the federal government would help states provide pre-school for all 4-year-olds. Officials did not provide a cost for the pre-school programs but said the government would provide financial incentives to help states.

Among the other initiatives Obama is proposing:

— A $1 billion plan to create 15 "manufacturing institutes" that would bring together businesses, universities and the government. If Congress opposes the initiative, Obama plans to use his presidential powers to create three institutes on his own.

— Creation of an "energy security trust" that would use revenue from federal oil and gas leases to support development of clean energy technologies such as biofuels and natural gas

— Doubling of renewable energy in the U.S. from wind, solar and geothermal sources by 2020.

7/8Tuesday night's address marked Obama's most expansive remarks on the economy since the November election. Since securing a second term, the president has focused more heavily on new domestic policy proposals, including immigration changes and preventing gun violence following the horrific shooting of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn.

Obama also called on Congress to tackle the threat of climate change, another issue that eluded him in his first term. The president pledged to work with lawmakers to seek bipartisan solutions but said if Capitol Hill doesn't act, he'll order his Cabinet to seek steps he can take using his presidential powers.

Taking a swipe at those who question the threat of global warming, Obama said, "We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science - and act before it's too late."

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st1d wrote:
prediction: increased entitlement benefits to core democrat voters; removal of incentives for individual success and creativity; increased current investments (taxes); weakened military readiness and ability to respond to national security threats.
on February 12,2013 | 03:20PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Obama first inauguration: unemployment was 7.9%

Obama second inauguration: unemployment is still 7.9%

Meantime, trillions of dollars of stimulus, QEI,II,III, Twist, etc. etc. And still no jobs. Highest food stamp usage in history. Fixed income seniors eating the cat food.

on February 12,2013 | 03:21PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Bush had a gun on him.
on February 12,2013 | 03:49PM
thepartyfirst wrote:
Bush ain't the POTHUS any more.
on February 12,2013 | 05:43PM
Tanabe wrote:
President Okaying The Highly Unlimited Spending?
on February 12,2013 | 07:54PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Try to think before you comment...
on February 13,2013 | 12:59PM
jussayin wrote:
"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics." "And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth." This was from Obama's first speech four years ago. Hmmm. I guess he's a nice guy. Invest in China since the folks on the hill can't even set a ONE year budget for the last 3 years let alone tackle the huge national debt which is at $16 trillion from $10 trillion four years ago.
on February 12,2013 | 03:51PM
RichardCory wrote:
"Job creation" is meaningless. You could take all the unemployed people in America, pay half of them to dig holes in the ground, and pay the other half to fill those holes back up. Zero unemployment. But what value has been added? Can he really promise to just "create" jobs with real value and sustainability without being a drain on tax dollars? I doubt that.
on February 12,2013 | 04:21PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Well, that's a relief. According to the prez. things are so much better economically. (I thought the percentage of working age americans unable to find work was at its lowest in 30 years). And those Republican meanies who acceped his idea for the sequester. Shame on them. And wow, the deficit has ALREADY been reduced by $2.5 trillion (seems like these numbers reflect the reduction in the EXPECTED future expenses, not real spending cuts. And I'm guessing they also include ending the Iraq and Afghan wars, that we were going to end anyway. Say, why not claim the savings since 1946 from not fighting WWII and erase the entire debt!) And more good news. Obamacare may have lowered the RATE OF INCREASE of medical insurance costs. Break out the bubbly. (Meanwhile, the taxes, fines, penalties of Obamacare, and the job killing impact will first be felt this year and the next.) Climate change, version 2.0: (well that worked out well during the first term, but now that the prez is reinvigorated, prepare for skyrocketing utility costs again, one of the few campaign promises he's kept). Oh yeah, and the whole speech was filled with great ideas that cost money, offer no substantial rational for success, and just result in a larger more intrusive government. (Great, when will this thing we call the Federal government get so top heavy that it just falls over? Or has that already happened given that we've not had a national budget in four years which is the equivalent of giving our teenage sone a case of beer, a credit card, the car keys and saying "nock your self out".) Going to be a great second term.
on February 12,2013 | 05:14PM
kuroiwaj wrote:
"Waha nui," we have heard the words over the past four years and they have lost their meaning. How sad, President Obama has pulled the biggest fraud on America.
on February 12,2013 | 05:49PM
64hoo wrote:
yea also the same old stupid hot temperature and forest fires and global warming shut the radio off when he mention that. same old stuff every speech.
on February 12,2013 | 06:03PM
64hoo wrote:
SA cant I call Obama a dictator instead of the president he seems to be headed that way.
on February 12,2013 | 06:06PM
menloboy wrote:
History will show, not in our life time, this President will go down as one of the poorest in our history. He has been getting a free ride by he media, but his actual accomplishments are a zero as to the growth of the nation. He means well, but I doubt if he ever took a beginning course in economics. His speeches are wonderful to some, but that's it. A Chicago pol all the way, no more, no less.
on February 12,2013 | 06:08PM
Kuniarr wrote:
The problem with Obama is his being naive on how and why his Stimulus I, II, did not "create jobs" nor will his Stimulus III.

The Stimulus type spending by Roosevelt energize the economy because at that time the US manufactured almost all consumer goods in the US. Thus, when people began spending on consumer goods, manufacturers had to increase production of these consumer goods to meet the demand for them. Result? A lot of jobs in the manufacturing and retail were created as companies began hiring more people to satisfy increased production.

What Obama still fails to realize is that China and other countries and not the US manufacture most of the consumer goods sold in the US. And that is why Stimulus I, II, and now his proposal for a III won't create jobs like that in the 1930's.
on February 12,2013 | 06:19PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Count on the GOP Pajama Squad to mock Our President! UnAmerican actions, unpatriotic. God Bless America,God also Bless the meek, because GOP is coming after ur foodstamps.
on February 12,2013 | 06:28PM
Kuniarr wrote:
Your political racism, NanakuliBoss is unpalatable. Stimulus I and Stimulus II were dismal failure in energizing US economy and ended up doubling and even tripling our yearly budget deficit. Being in denial of the fact that most consumer products in the US are manufactured in China and other countries only underscores your political racism. All the consumer products you see in our stores represent millions and millions of high paying jobs lost. Care to explain why Stimulus I and Stimulus II did not energize the economy in a similar way in the 1930s?
on February 12,2013 | 08:31PM
HD36 wrote:
The market will show Obama who is boss real soon.
on February 12,2013 | 07:14PM
9ronboz wrote:
What plan?
on February 12,2013 | 10:08PM
9ronboz wrote:
Where is I hate usa allie?
on February 12,2013 | 10:10PM
hikine wrote:
I thought these were his promises in his first four years and now we're hearing it all over again! Spend, spend, spend. our national roads are still in disrepair, what happened in the last four years? More money into energy yet most of the companies that got Fed monies folded and millions lost. Same rhetoric delivered in a animated manner, and all the Democrats are admiring the Emperor's new clothes!
on February 13,2013 | 01:22AM
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