U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday night used the State of the Union address to formally lay out his second-term agenda and generate public support to deal with the "unfinished tasks." (Xinhua Photo)
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday used his first State of the Union address in his second term to return focus on his "unfinished task" of reigniting the economic growth for middle-class Americans.
He also made another bid to seek public support for a broad agenda including long-time divisive issues of immigration reform, gun control and climate change.
TARGETING JOBS AND MANUFACTURING
In his annual address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Obama returned focus on the "unfinished task" of economic growth and job creation in his first term. He called for strengthening the middle class by reviving the manufacturing industry, suggesting that the economy remains the top priority of Obama's second-term agenda.
Although the U.S. economy appears to have been better than four years ago, Obama stressed that too many people still couldn't find full-time employment and wages and incomes had barely budged for more than a decade.
The nation's unemployment rate edged up to 7.9 percent in January from 7.8 percent in the previous month, and the economy needed to add more than 3.2 million jobs to get back to the level of employment in January, 2008, governmental figures showed.
"Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing," said Obama. He suggested the U.S. should endeavor to upgrade its aging infrastructure to attract more jobs and proposed to raise U.S. federal minimum wage to 9 dollars per hour in an effort to raise the incomes of millions of working families and boost consumption.
In addition, the nation needs a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs in America, said Obama.
BALANCED DEFICIT REDUCTIONS
As a series of automatic spending cuts set to kick in on March 1, Obama used the prime-time TV address to argue for a balanced approach to reduce deficits and set a tone for the next fiscal battle with the Congress.
The "sudden, harsh and arbitrary" spending cuts would jeopardize U.S. military readiness and devastate priorities like education, energy and medical research. They would certainly slow U.S. recovery, and cost the nation hundreds of thousands of jobs, Obama stressed.
Recent data showed that U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, the first time that U.S. economy shrank in about three years, due to a sharp decline in defense spending.
Broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share, Obama argued.
"Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit." The United States can save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected, he said.
BROAD SECOND-TERM AGENDA
Obama also took advantage of his re-election victory to seek public support for a broad second-term agenda, including immigration reform, gun control and climate change, with an aim to shape his legacy while dealing with a divided Congress.
In the highlighted speech to the lawmakers, Obama reiterated his commitment to "real reform" to the country's broken immigration system.
He also repeated his calls for the Congress to move on the long-time divisive gun control issue, about two months after the Sandy Hook school shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
Obama noted that senators of both parties are working together "on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals."
He again urged the Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to combat climate change and suggested he could direct his Cabinet to come up with executive actions to speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy, if the Congress wouldn't act soon.
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