In his third State of the Union address, President Obama delivered a speech Tuesday night introducing a number of new initiatives, declaring “America is back!” and proclaiming that the world is experiencing a rebirth of U.S. leadership.
He began by noting that the last of U.S. combat troops have now returned from Iraq and the nation is “safer and more respected around the world.” Obama then transitioned to the economy, outlining steps he believes are essential to improve a weak economy that is showing signs of sluggish recovery after the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.
“In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs,” he noted. “Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we’ve put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that never happens again.
Obama said the nation is getting stronger, and he threatened to “fight obstruction with action” and “oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.”
The president presented his blueprint for American manufacturing, arguing that the auto industry “was on the verge of collapse” when he took office.
“Some even said we should let it die,” he said. “With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. … We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.”
Pledging to revamp the tax code to benefit businesses that hire American workers, Obama told business leaders: “It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.”
He presented the following tax proposals for businesses:
1) No tax deductions for businesses that outsource jobs
2) Creation of a basic minimum tax on every multinational company, with proceeds benefiting companies that choose to stay in the U.S. and hire here.
3) Bigger tax cuts for American manufacturers, with increased tax deductions for high-tech manufacturers. Financing assistance for businesses that relocate into a community that was hit hard when a factory left town.
Obama also announced the creation of a trade enforcement unit to investigate unfair trade practices in countries such as China. He promised to demand more inspections to prevent counterfeit and unsafe goods from entering the nation.
On education, the president called on states to “require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.” He also proposed limits on interest-rate increases for student loans, extension of tuition tax credits, doubling the number of work-study jobs and refusing to subsidize “skyrocketing tuition” at universities.
“So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,” he said. “Higher education can’t be a luxury – it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”
Obama touted his administration’s record on illegal immigration and urged Congress to begin working on “comprehensive immigration reform” immediately.
“[M]y administration has put more boots on the border than ever before,” he said. “That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.”
The president also used his speech to advocate for “American-made energy.”
“Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources,” he said, also advocating development of natural gas and clean energy.
Obama continued, “I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs.”
He chastised Congress for its failure to “pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change” or “set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.”
“So far, you haven’t acted,” the president said. “Well tonight, I will. I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history – with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.”