Obama shifts gaze to home, avoids peace process in State of the Union

Washington– President Barack Obama’s main focus in his State of the Union address on Wednesday was job creation but he touched on many other issues as well.
Obama encouraged Congress not to walk away from his stalled healthcare reform drive but made it clear it would no longer be the focus of his legislative agenda.

He steered clear of any suggestions on how to push the bill through its procedural quagmire.

Obama did not list specific elements of the overhaul that he wants to see survive, continuing his policy of leaving the heavy lifting of crafting the bill to congressional leaders.

Obama called for passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives to make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

He reached out to Republicans, saying the United States needed to build "a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants" and make "tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development."

He did not specifically include the "cap-and-trade" approach to controlling carbon emissions blamed for global warming in his laundry list of requests.

Obama said he wanted bank reform but did not give the institutions a heavy tongue-lashing.

"One place to start is serious financial reform," he said. "Look, I am not interested in punishing banks, I’m interested in protecting our economy. A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs."

Obama proposed taking $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid to the government and using it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat.

Obama painted himself as a big-time tax cutter.

"We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. … And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person."

The president did not discuss any tax increases or in depth details on how to pay for the tax cuts. When it came to raising revenue, he discussed imposing a fee on the biggest banks or not continuing tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers and those making over $250,000 a year.

Obama talked about how, when he came to office in January 2009, the deficit was more than $1 trillion and the projected deficits over a decade were $8 trillion. And he said another $1 trillion was added to the national debt to prevent a second depression.

He did not provide many specific details about proposals to reduce the deficit. Presumably they will be in his budget proposal to Congress next week.

Obama said US forces had captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda fighters, expressed confidence of success in the Afghan war and said he was fulfilling his campaign pledge to end the war in Iraq.

Foreign policy and national security took a backseat to job creation and the economy in his speech.

He mentioned Iran and North Korea in the context of the pursuit of nuclear weapons but did not mention seeking direct dialogue with Iran or six-party talks with North Korea.

He also did not mention the Middle East peace process.


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