Next up were exports, and Obama set a goal of doubling exports over the next five years to support 2 million jobs in America. Then came education and the need to regain our competitive edge. And that led io the big one: health care.
Obama made clear he would not back down on reforming the health care system. He defended the emerging plan in Congress, but also offered that "if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know."
Yes, he mentioned the deficit and talked about the need for the government to start tightening its belt. Somehow, Obama thinks he can do all these grand things for America -- things like tax breaks that reduce the government's available funds and things like spending on infrastructure to create jobs -- but somehow still reduce the deficit. (Just not this year -- for now we need to spend to stoke the economy and create jobs, he said.)
Starting in 2011, Obama called for freeze "discretionary" government spending for three years -- but not for the big-ticket items like national security, Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.Obama also said he wants to create new laws to put limits on lobbyists and election campaign contributions to override the recent Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations to spend without limit to influence elections. But wait, there's more. Obama knew that he couldn't deliver a state of the union address without talking about national security and the war on terror, especially the "unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack." He mentioned taking the fight to al Qaeda but at the same time working to wind down U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nuclear disarmament, outreach to Muslim communities and other global leadership themes also came up in the speech, and Obama touched on the need to defend human rights and prosecute civil rights violations. Toward the end, as the speech wound down, he came back to the things that irk him most, saying that the ideals of the American people need to be upheld and that "each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people's doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith." Clearly, bankers remain very squarely in his crosshairs. Reading between the lines, it sounded to me like Obama is bearish on banks, insurers and big oil and bullish on small business, manufacturers, construction firms, exporters and energy. I would also offer this cautionary note, with so many things on Obama's to-do list, there's a good chance that some won't get done. --Written by Glenn Hall in New York.
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