Obama says US must ‘turn the page’

Published: Wednesday 21st January 2015 by The News Editor

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President Barack Obama said it was time for Americans to “turn the page” on years of economic troubles, terrorism and lengthy wars.

He was using his sixth State of the Union s peech to remind listeners that his presidency ushered in an era of smarter American leadership and a growing US economy.

Mr Obama was to speak to a Congress controlled by Republicans for the first time in his presidency. But the policies the president was to call for suggested that he had no plans to curtail his own agenda in favour of Republican priorities.

“It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come,” Mr Obama said in excerpts released ahead of his State of the Union address.

The 2016 presidential election loomed over Mr Obama’s next-to-last State of the Union address, a speech to Congress and a national television audience that will focus on his bid to use tax policy to ease the economic woes of beleaguered low income Americans and the country’s shrinking middle class.

Faced for the first time with a Congress that is dominated in both houses by opposition Republicans, Mr Obama’s speech will propose increased tax rates for wealthy Americans with much of the new revenue earmarked to low- and middle-income earners who have seen wages stagnant for years.

While he is making a bold proposal, tax-averse Republicans are unlikely to act on the president’s plan.

But Mr Obama will be using one of his biggest platforms, a speech that will be nationally televised to tens of millions of Americans, to highlight the issue of growing economic inequality, a critical marker for the next presidential campaign.

“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?” Mr Obama asked in the excerpts of the speech released by the White House.

“Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”

Answering his own question, he said: “So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way.”

The president came out of his party’s bruising November election losses with a surprising burst of activity and a bump in approval ratings.

He has already vowed to veto seven legislative measures that are coming out of the new Republican-controlled Congress – measures ranging from the forced construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to the US Gulf coast to an effort to hobble his health care overhaul to budget actions that would undo his executive actions on immigration reform.

While the economy was expected to dominate the president’s address, he was also promoting his recent decision to normalise diplomatic relations with Cuba and congressional approval and fund for the military campaign against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

“I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL,” Mr Obama said, referring to IS.

While Republicans will not pass the new tax measures, Mr Obama is putting them in the unappealing spot of blocking measures that would offer broad economic benefits to the middle class.

The president has a strong argument in that the US economy is on course for a robust recovery from the Great Recession but most of the benefits have not found their way to middle America.

He looks ready to continue the partisan battle with Republicans that dominated all but the first year of his presidency.

Published: Wednesday 21st January 2015 by The News Editor

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