By BVN Staff –
In his third State of the Union address, President Barack Obama promised the nation an economy that gives a shot to everyone - not just the rich.
Standing in front of a divided Congress, with bleak hope this election year for much of his legislative agenda, the president used Tuesday night's address to connect with voters.
"We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules," the president said.
Lawmakers leapt to their feet when Obama said near the start of his speech that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, killed by a raid authorized by the president, will no longer threaten America.
President Obama pitched his plans to Congress and a country underwhelmed by his handling of the economy. He vowed to fight congressional obstruction with action.
Targeting anxiety about a slumping middle class, the president urged higher taxes on the wealthy and pushed to help U.S. manufacturers expand hiring. He said businesses that create jobs at home and bring them back from overseas should be rewarded with tax breaks and aided with funding.
The president also urged Congress to allow funding for infrastructure and domestic projects.
"Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home," President Obama said.
In a step away from the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind" program, Obama praised the value of good teachers, saying, "Stop teaching to the test [and] replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn."
He also called on every state to require students to stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18. To further their education, Obama urged Congress to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling as scheduled in July, extending the tuition tax credit and double the number of work-study jobs in the next five years. In a firm challenge to colleges and universities constantly raising tuition rates, the president warned that if they can't harness technology and redesign courses to help students finish more quickly, they will face less taxpayer funding.
"The state of our union is getting stronger," Obama said, calibrating his words as millions remain unemployed. Implicit in his declaration that the American dream is "within our reach" was the recognition that, after three years of an Obama presidency, the country is not there yet.
He spoke of restoring basic goals: owning a home, earning enough to raise a family, putting a little money away for retirement.
"We can do this," Obama said. "I know we can." He said Americans are convinced that
"Washington is broken," but he also said it wasn't too late to cooperate on important matters.
Republicans were not impressed. They applauded infrequently, though they did cheer when the president quoted "Republican Abraham Lincoln" as saying: "That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves - and no more."
A rare wave of unity splashed over the House chamber at the start. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, survivor of a shooting massacre one year ago, received sustained applause from her peers and hugs from many. Obama, too, embraced her as he made his way to the front.
Among this year's guests were Debbie Bosanek, the longtime secretary for billionaire Warren Buffett. Obama frequently cites Buffett's complaint that the nation's tax code is unfair because Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.
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