Obama to devote State of Union to jobs
By Stephen Collinson, AFPWASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will build his annual State of the Union address Tuesday around a push for job creation as the fragile economy, which dogged his first term, threatens to hamper his second.
February 11, 2013, 12:52 am TWN
Obama will lay out a governing program that he hopes to squeeze through a divided U.S. Congress, so as to complement the soaring progressive vision he sketched for history in his inaugural address last month.
Aides said Obama will seek to build support for new laws to curb gun violence, as the horror of December's massacre of 20 school kids 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.
And he will make a pitch for immigration reform, the centerpiece of his second-term agenda, amid signs that Republicans are keen to ease the distrust that they suffer from among Hispanic voters and 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 last quarter of 2012 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?”
Obama has fashioned his crusade for a more equitable economy for the middle class around higher taxes for the rich — a stance which Republicans oppose.
On Tuesday night, aides expect Obama to note the impending return home of the remaining 60,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2014, but it is unclear if he will offer more details on the pace of their withdrawal.