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BLOG: State of the Union address recap

President Barack Obama covered a plethora of issues in his State of the Union address Wednesday, admitting the United States faces “big and difficult challenges” but that he’s “never been more hopeful of America’s future.”

Economy

His primary focus was job-creation to aid the economy.

After pledging to impose fees on large financial firms that received Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to recover taxpayer money, (“[if they] can afford to hand out big bonuses, [they can] can afford to pay back taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need” he said), Obama called for new legislation that would help create jobs and support businesses.

He called it a “new jobs bill” that would take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and reallocate it toward helping community banks lend to small businesses, it would create a new small business tax credit, it would eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment and provide tax incentives for businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.

The House of Representatives has approved legislation that includes some of these steps and Obama urged the Senate to take up the same task. On the same note, Obama also urged the Senate to approve financial reform legislation comparable to what the House has already approved.

The financial reform legislation would “guard against recklessness that nearly brought down our economy” in the first place, he said.

Encourage American innovation/climate issues

Citing progress in the House again, Obama continued on by urging the Senate to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives for businesses to make clean energy achievable.

He wants America to concentrate on creating innovative advanced bio-fuels and clean coal technologies.

Concerning climate change, Obama said: “Even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future — because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.”

Export more American goods

“We need to export more of our goods,” the president said.

Obama’s goal is to double American exports over the next five years, an increase he said that will support more than 2 million jobs in the U.S.

“To help meet this goal, we’re launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security,” Obama said.

Invest in education, skills

Obama discussed in detail his plans to help people afford higher education while subsequently calling on colleges and universities to do their part as well to make higher education more affordable.

Obama proposed giving families a $10,000 tax credit with students enrolled in four-year universities and called for an increase in Pell grants. He also said monthly student loan payments shouldn’t exceed 10 percent of a graduate’s income and that all student loan debt be forgiven after 20 years of payment or after 10 years if the graduate goes into public service.

“No one in America should be broke because they chose to go to college,” he said.

Health insurance reform

“This problem is not going away,” Obama said.

Obama called upon Congress to approve a comprehensive health care reform bill that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit and stop insurance company abuses.

“I want everyone to take another look at the plan we’ve proposed,” he said, citing the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that the bill he supports will save $1 trillion over the next two decades.

Government spending

Obama admitted his stimulus package added $1 trillion to the national debt but is “absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do” to prevent a second great depression.

To pay for that $1 trillion, Obama said that in 2011, when the economy is stronger, he is prepared to impose a three-year freeze on the federal government’s discretionary spending that’s not related to national security, Medicare or Medicaid.

“(We)will work within a budget … invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t and if I have to support this by veto, I will,” he said.

Obama said his administration has already identified $20 billion in savings for next year though the cuts won’t affect middle-class families because he said he’s committed to extending middle-class tax cuts to help them out.

To help prepare for the freeze, Obama said he’s going to create a Bipartisan Fiscal Proposal Commission to offer a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline to tackle the budget deficit.

Other initiatives Obama discussed

- Requiring lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a Congress member

- Imposing strict limits on contributions lobbyists can make to candidates trying to get elected

- Approve legislation to in response to the recent Supreme Court decision on campaign finance laws

- Continue on earmark reform by mandating Congressmen to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there’s a vote

- Overturn the law that denies homosexuals the right to serve in the military

- Crack-down on equal pay discrimination

- Fix the broken immigration system

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