Obama to focus on middle class in State of Union address

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Obama faces Republican-held Congress for State of the Union.

US President Barack Obama will challenge the Republican-led Congress to back his tax-raising ideas for helping middle-class Americans in a State of the Union speech tonight that will set up a tough debate and may impact the 2016 campaign to replace him. Looking to burnish his legacy with two years left in office, Mr Obama will appear before a joint session of Congress in the well of the House of Representatives. The annual speech, the most important in the US political calendar, comes two years to the day of his scheduled departure from the White House in 2017, and the American president does not have an easy road ahead of him. Six years ago, he was defined by the word “hope.” He had arrived on the scene as a political innocent, and many who voted for him inevitably projected onto the blank screen of his future a cluster of aspirations that had more to do with a generation’s longing than with likely trends going forward.

He has already taken his message to the public, previewing his administration’s plans to boost American manufacturing and access to higher education. “In December, our businesses created 240,000 new jobs. The Obama administration and House Speaker John Boehner and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell have pledged to work together to pass a congressional resolution giving the president the authority to prosecute the five-month-old bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Yet some observers see Obama’s address proposals – including heightened taxes on the richest Americans, paid sick leave, efforts to increase home ownership, and free community college – as being ‘too little, too late’ in the face of steep conservative opposition.

Tuesday will mark the first time since his election in 2008 that Obama will address a Congress whose two houses are entirely controlled by his Republican adversaries. Still, Obama’s slogan “Yes, we can” had come to seem both an acknowledgment of the difficult road ahead, and a savvy rebuttal to the “realists” who ruled out as impossible any actual progress toward peace, justice, or broad prosperity.

But they will probably face some strong headwinds from members of both parties who believe that previous resolutions — passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 — have been abused. The President’s aim is to help those left behind by an economic revival taking hold six years into his tenure, which began with the Democrat facing a crippling financial crisis. “Now that we have fought our way through the crisis, how do we make sure that everybody in this country, how do we make sure that they are sharing in this growing economy?” Mr Obama said in a White House-produced YouTube video preview of his speech. Obama will push a plan to increase taxes by $320 billion over 10 years on the wealthy by closing tax loopholes and imposing a fee on big financial firms. But coming off a midterm election defeat that handed full control of Congress to Republicans, the president faces long odds in actually enacting his agenda and in essence is trying to frame the debate for his remaining time in power and for the emerging 2016 contest to succeed him.

The plan will include raising the capital gains tax for families with income more than $500,000 per year to 28 percent from the current rate of 23.8 percent. But six years on, in many important ways, Barack Obama has become a figure of American disappointment, with last week’s inexplicable failure to properly honor the trauma of France only a latest instance of mystifying solecism. Obama’s political and personal enemies never saw him as a force for good, yet by now even many of his once-passionate admirers admit to a profound disenchantment.

The speech will also allow Mr Obama to update Americans on the struggle against Islamic extremists, two weeks after 17 people were killed in Paris attacks. But White House officials are betting that Republicans, also under pressure to help the middle class and needing to prove they can govern, will be willing to compromise on some aspects of the plan. “So are they going to agree on everything? The president may be able to move some of his initiatives forward with executive action, but Obama also knows that he needs support from the now Republican-dominated Congress to make serious change.

The two largest issues that confronted Obama when he first became president were war and race, realms in which his fabled hope was trumped by the inexorable cruelty of historic forces over which he had little control. Republican Mitch McConnell, the new leader of the Senate, said Friday that the president will have to listen to his opponents if he hopes to accomplish his policy goals.

The present state of America’s far-from-finished Middle East wars, and the recent escalations of the cross-border conflict with suicidal terrorists make the point. Obama’s senior adviser, said Monday. “We have proof that President Obama’s strategy is working, and the Republicans now have a Chicken Little problem — all the doom and gloom they predicted did not come to pass.” Republicans cast Mr.

Alan Gross, the US aid worker whose release from a Cuban prison helped pave the way toward restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba, will be among first lady Michelle Obama’s guests for the speech. Facing the tough negotiations that lie ahead, the president recently reminded Congress that he has a powerful political weapon at his disposal: he can veto the bills that arrive on his desk. As Obama heads into the final stretch of his presidency, Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of politically-liberal magazine The American Prospect, wrote the plan is just not bold enough at this particular stage of Obama’s term, especially with this Congress waiting to knock it down. “By contrast, the original G.I. Most importantly, the once anti-war Obama was unable to successfully rewrite the deadly narrative created by Osama Bin Laden: that the way for his ilk to advance the jihadist cause is to provoke reliably belligerent US interventions in Islam’s brutal and multi-faceted civil war. In defying reality, they said, he simply wants to return to the tax-and-spending ways of the past. “I see this as the president returning to the theme of class warfare,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois. “It may have been effective in 2012, but I don’t find it to be effective anymore.

With a Republican-controlled Congress, the president’s proposals to create manufacturing hubs, expand broadband access and offer free tuition will likely run into opposition, particularly if the programs require lawmakers to sign off on more spending. Obama has used the period since his party’s election defeat to reassert himself through a climate agreement with China, executive action to liberalize immigration rules and a diplomatic rapprochement with Cuba. Why not propose something that would make a major difference in the lives of millions of moderate income Americans and dare the Republicans to oppose it?” Paid leave: A $2 billion proposal with almost no chance of getting congressional approval would encourage US states to establish paid family and medical leave programs.

The original sin generating the Middle East fury into which the hapless United States has been drawn is primordial European contempt for the “infidel,” whether Muslim or Jew, which morphed over centuries into racist colonialism and anti-Semitism — for both of which a day of reckoning has arrived. His long-sagging approval ratings in polls have gone up, reaching 50 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News survey, a nine-point jump since December, although other polls have not measured quite as big an increase.

Several legal scholars and lawmakers have said that both previous resolutions should either be repealed or at minimum modified to reflect new realities. The United States is one of only three countries in the world that does not offer a monetary supplement to new mothers on maternity leave from their jobs, according to the United Nations. Unemployment has fallen to 5.6 percent, gasoline prices are down, stock markets are up and the economy grew by 5 percent in the third quarter of last year, its fastest rate in more than a decade. Trade deals: Obama is expected to renew a call for executive fast-track negotiating authority for major, corporate-friendly trade pacts in Asia and Europe, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), respectively. At minimum, Schiff and others believe the authorization needs an expiration date so that the overall authority for the so-called war on terrorism gets revisited.

The deals have major bipartisan support in Congress, and supporters argue that they will boost the US economy and open new markets, particularly in the Pacific. The TPP, for example, is a widely-contested deal between the US and 11 other nations adjacent to the Pacific Rim, and has been negotiated by representatives for those countries in largely in secret. Beyond any expectations of policy, legislation, or executive action, most Americans lionized their new president simply for being who he was, even as many others quietly reviled him for the same reason. But lately, he has been pushing the nation’s economic prospects more robustly and without as many caveats, saying it is time to move to a new stage. “Over the last six years, we have been weighed down by the legacy of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” Mr. According to leaked excerpts of the TPP and remarks from experts following the news closely, it is believed that the arrangement would allow corporations to oppose foreign laws while at the same time limiting the abilities for governments to regulate those entities.

Cybersecurity and Internet access: In the wake of the hack into Sony’s corporate systems, Obama will propose a plan, likely popular among both political parties, to increase cooperation between public and private entities to thwart cybersecurity threats. A proposal to expand government-run broadband internet access, however, will find opponents worried about its cost and regulatory ramifications, as states currently legislate most guidelines over local Internet access. Obama has already let the citizenry in on “little previews” of the issues he will take up, like cybersecurity and the expansion of community colleges, but the stakes are far larger than any single initiative he can propose. Bernstein said of the president. “ ‘What you got?’ ” But Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office director who has advised Republican leaders, said Mr.

Obama has no popular mandate for his latest initiatives. “We just had an election in which the president said his policies were on the ballot,” he said. “Hard to see what is different today than 60 days ago.” In laying out his agenda, Mr. While they want to approve the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline, cut costly regulations and adjust the health care law to spare more businesses with part-time workers, Mr. Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the president’s tax plan was “a nonstarter” that would not help businesses grow. “More government, a $300-plus billion tax bill from Barack Obama, is not the formula for this country to succeed,” he said.

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