Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama focuses on economy

There were big cheers as Michelle Obama entered Capitol Hill wearing a dark purple dress and a pearl necklace. Even as President Obama arrived he was met with loud applause. But there is little enthusiasm from the Republican camp. Throughout much of the nearly 80 minute address, many Republicans remained seated. Much of his speech focused on the economy. Obama said that his administration had "acted immediately and aggressively " to tackle the economic problems. "The worst of the recession has passed," Obama said, but he conceded there were many Americans still out of work. "This recession compounded problems for American families," he said. While the worst was over, Obama said, "we face big and difficult challenges" but added, "I have never been more hopeful about America than I do tonight."

He tried to gather bipartisan support as he talked about measures he implemented to tackle the recession. "We all hated the bank bail out," he said, "I hated it, you hated it. It was as popular as a root canal. But without it more homes would have been lost." 

"Markets are now stabilised and we have recovered most of the money we spent on the banks," Obama said. But he said not all that money had been recovered and "proposed a fee on the biggest banks." While acknowledging it may not be popular, Obama insisted, "If these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again then they can afford to pay a modest fee." Serious financial reform was still needed however, the president said.

The American president went on to talk about how his policies had helped America. "We cut taxes for small businesses," Obama said. As a result "millions of Americans have more money to spend on necessities," he said, "because of steps we made, two million Americans are working who would otherwise be unemployed." 

He insisted that after two years of recession the economy is growing again. But he said he would continue to focus on the economy and unemployed. "Jobs should be the focus of 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight," Obama said. He proposed small business tax credits, an eradication of capital gains tax on small business and tax incentives for all large businesses. In a move to bring more industry home he also suggested giving tax breaks to "companies that give jobs to people right here in America and not to those that ship business overseas." 

"I do not accept second place for the United States of America," Obama said. And the health of Americans was still a top priority. "we still need health insurance reform" he said. "I didn't take on health care because it would be good politics, I took it on because of stories I'd heard," the president said. "By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Co-pays will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber."

As well as helping to protecting Americans' health, the security of the nation also remained important. But his comments on the War on Terror were more an afterthought. "Some of the unity after 9/11 has dissipated," he said while saying he did not want to point any blame. He said his administration would "do what it takes to defend our nation" from the continuing threat of terrorism. "There are difficult days ahead but we will succeed," he said. There was too a continuing threat of nuclear weapons. He said he would further commit himself to reversing the spread of nuclear weapons and help secure nuclear materials around the world so they never fall into the hands of terrorists. One country singled out was Iran which he said would "face growing consequences" if it continued in its nuclear ambitions. In addition Obama said he would lay a foundation to counter threats of bio-terrorism at home and disease abroad.

Afghanistan also remained a top priority and his defended his continued commitment to deploying troops in the region. He also said he make good on his promise of pulling all troops from Iraq by August this year. He called on greater respect for those in America's armed forces and better support for military families.

Obama wrapped up his speech with a rallying call. "America must always stand on the side of human dignity and freedom... We won't quit, God bless America," he said.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

No comments: