Obama says ‘shadow of economic burst passed’

Obama says ‘shadow of economic burst passed’

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Obama says ‘shadow of economic burst passed’

US President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of the Congress on Capitol Hill with strong economic messages. AFP Photo

President Barack Obama on Jan. 20 declared America has turned the page on years of war and economic hardship; in a populist-tinged State of the Union address that set up the battle to succeed him.  Emboldened by a stronger economy and better approval ratings, Obama called for a new chapter in US history that ushers in a fairer economy with a better shake for the middle class.

“We are 15 years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world,” he said.

“It has been, and still is, a hard time for many. But tonight, we turn the page.”       

He heralded the “growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production” that have also helped revive his political fortunes as his time in the White House nears its end.

For six years Obama’s presidency was often subsumed by an economic crisis that stymied efforts to narrow inequality and put other liberal policy priorities on the back burner.

Appealing to Democrats determined to retain the White House in 2016, Obama on Jan. 20 called for an increase in the minimum wage, equal pay for women and tax breaks for the middle class. Drawing a stark contrast with tax-averse Republicans, he dared his foes to oppose proposed tax hikes for the rich that would pay for middle class breaks.        

On Jan. 20, Obama redoubled calls to end the half-century-old embargo on Cuba and vowed to veto any move to put further sanctions on Iran.

“Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere,” he said.

Support for Cuba, Iran

Polls suggest Americans support the Cuban outreach and Obama hammered home his advantage by inviting Alan Gross, a former US prisoner in Cuba, who whispered “thank you, thank you” during the speech.

On Iran, Obama warned that any move to impose new sanctions could scupper delicate negotiations aimed at reaching a complex nuclear deal. “New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails ,” he said.         “That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.”       

Obama also asked Congress to give him the powers to fully negotiate huge transpacific and transatlantic free-trade agreements, arguing it will boost the economy and help American workers.

Obama warned in his annual State of the Union address that China is aiming to write its own trade rules for the Asian region, a move “that would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage.”

“Why would we let that happen? We should level the playing field,” he said.