State of The Union: President Obama as Economist-in-Chief

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[The State of the Union]

President Barack Obama came out swinging in his State of the Union Speech sounding more like Economist-in-Chief rather than Commander-in-Chief.

President Obama focused the earlier parts of his remarks on the draw-down of U.S. troops in Iraq, the killing of Osama bin Laden, and ceding of more control to Afghan troops in the war with the Taliban.

The president praised the U.S. military, noting that the multi-ethnic and multi-racial forces operated efficiently regardless of their party affiliations; if the U.S. Congress could operate in the same manner the legislative gridlock would be broken.

The president spoke about the doubling of spending for VA hospitals by his administration and the commitment to Michelle Obama and Biden by corporations to create at least 135,000 jobs for U.S. Veterans.

In addition to the draw-down in Iraq, the President spoke about the U.S. support for the revolts in north Africa and the Middle East. Yet by noting that no one knows where the transition would lead to, the president realizes that stormy clouds are gathering in the region. In fact: Libya is much more chaotic today than before the U.S. and NATO intervention; Egypt could end up with a more anti-U.S. government; Syria is in increased turmoil, and; Yemen remains chaotic. The president noted the demise of Muammar al-Quathafi.

The president spent the bulk of his speech on the economy. He stressed the need to level the playing field and proposed that all Americans who make more than $1 million pay at least 30% in taxes; the so-called Warren Buffet rule. This was also a direct jab at multi-millionaire Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney whose tax returns yesterday showed that he pays less than a 15% effective rate.

Republicans in their response later opposed the proposed tax hike, falsely claiming that the move would create a disincentive to jobs creation, when in fact the wealthy have not been creating any new jobs during the recession. Data show that wealthier Americans have become richer.

President Obama said critics can denounce the proposal for wealthy Americans, including himself, to pay more in taxes, as "class warfare" for as long as they want but that most Americans would call it "common sense." He called for the payroll tax suspension that benefits 160 million Americans to continue, further putting pressure on Republican lawmakers.

The president proposed tax incentives for in-sourcing, when U.S. companies return jobs from overseas to the United States. He said companies that continue to outsource should not be rewarded.

The president highlighted the recovery in the U.S. automobile industry noting that Detroit car makers had created more than 160,000 jobs.  "Today General Motors is back on top as the world's number one automaker," President Obama said. "And tonight the American auto industry is back," he said.

This was also an additional jab at Romney who has said he would not have bailed out the car industry.

The president said more jobs could be created by rebuilding the nation's transportation infrastructure and U.S. energy independence increased by developing alternative sources. He said the money freed up by the draw-down of U.S. troops from Iraq should be used for new projects.

The natural gas industry alone could create 600,000 new jobs within the decade.

The president said the U.S. was on target to meet goals for increased exports and that he would travel to any country in the quest for more markets for American products. He noted that the U.S. had created an enforcement unit to monitor competing countries that engage in unfair trade practices.

The president said he would not allow the country to return to the days when Wall Street firms spent investors' money on toxic financial products and he praised the creation of the consumer protection agency. This was also a jab at Republican presidential candidates, all of whom oppose the regulation of the financial industry, as do Republican members of Congress.

Yesterday the president proposed that banks that were bailed out by the government at the height of the recession support refinancing of mortgages so American home owners can save at least $3,000. He said this would also restore the "deficit in trust" the public have in banks that have so far sat on billions of dollars.

The president proposed the creation of a Financial Crimes Unit in the Department of Justice to prosecute Wall Street crimes. This is also a nod to the Occupy Wall Street movement and to Americans appalled by the leniency that's been shown towards Wall Street transgressors.

President Obama spent significant time on education saying that while schools should be provided with more resources, they should also be given the flexibility to reward good teachers and to fire bad ones. The president said community colleges should focus on training people for jobs in the tech industry, noting that there were job openings that could not now be filled because the skills sets were lacking.

The U.S. had to spend more on education in order to maintain its competitive edge and to avoid falling behind rising economic powers abroad.

The president also denounced filibustering that's created the gridlock in Washington; rather than a 51 vote count, a majority party needs at least 60 votes in the Senate to pass legislation. The president proposed that judicial proposals be subjected to an up-and-down vote within 90 days.

The president denounced influence peddling in Washington, the ability to lobby Congress by former officials or lawmakers. This was also a direct jab at Newt Gingrich, whose Republican rivals for the party's nomination have condemned him for earning more than $1.6 million lobbying Freddie Mac.

The president noted that 4 million jobs were lost in the months before he took office and another 4 million before the policies to reverse the collapse started working. He said more than 3 million jobs had been created since then.

The president noted the agreement to cut $2 trillion from the U.S. deficit.

The president noted that while an election year will make it hard for comprehensive immigration reform, Congress should move towards easing the path towards citizenship for young undocumented people brought to the U.S. by their parents--a clear nod to Hispanic Americans who will provide a critical vote in the 2012 election.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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