Faced with dismal approval ratings and bitterly divided Congress, United States President Barack Obama focused his annual State of the Union speech on the single bright spot on his agenda: the economy.
More than half his speech was centred on the economy and how the US can seize growth opportunities before it and create more jobs for Americans. He started by rattling off all the good news emerging from America’s recovering economy.
“The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. Our deficits – cut by more than half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is,” he said.
The number of times each topic has been mentioned in US President Barack Obama's State of The Union addresses.
Note: Economy/jobs includes economic, economists, unemployement, unemployed; Education includes school, college; Tax includes taxes, taxplayer.
GRAPHICS ADAPTED FROM REUTERS
But in a move that is sure to generate the fiercest debate, he made it clear that he going to do it whether Congress cooperates with him or not.
"America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.
The White House announced a dozen different executive orders to accompany the speech. These include raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers and creating a new retirement account that guarantees a decent return while guaranteeing the capital. He did, however, also call on Congress to push through immigration reform, raise the minimum wage for all Americans, pass a patent reform bill and create more high-tech manufacturing hubs – all of which, he argued, would help grow the American economy. Mr Obama also launched a defence of his controversial healthcare reform, in one of numerous subtle jabs at Republicans.
“If you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice – tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. But let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans…” he said to loud applause from Democrats.
As was the case last year, foreign policy took a backseat to his domestic agenda. One call he made on that front was to hold off new sanctions on Iran. He promised to veto any bill calling for new sanctions until diplomacy has had a chance to succeed.
He also briefly touched on Asia, saying his administration will continue to focus on the region, support their allies and “shape a future of greater security and prosperity”.