U.S. President Barack Obama began the annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday by listing the accomplishments he hopes most Americans will identify with, saying, “for the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban's momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.”
America's determination to prevent Iran's nuclear threat from being realized and the USA's committment to Israel were there, but they were last on the list in a speech that focussed on the issue that interests Americans most at this point, the state of the economy.
Leading into the economy, Obama used the military as an example, adding: “These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness, and teamwork of America's Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They're not consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.”
The president then noted that American businesses have created more than three million jobs in the last 22 months.
“Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005,” he said. “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.”
“The state of our Union is getting stronger,” Obama said. “And we've come too far to turn back now. As long as I'm President, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.”
“No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits,” he said. “Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.”
Obama stressed the importance of American manufacturing as helping to create jobs and said that if business leaders ask themselves what they can do to help bring jobs back to their country, and in return their country will do everything it can to help them succeed.
He also stressed the important of education and teachers, saying, “Let's offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn.”
The president also spoke about the U.S. oil and gas exploration, and said, “Right now, American oil production is the highest that it's been in eight years. Not only that – last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.”
“But with only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, oil isn't enough,” he added. “This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy – a strategy that's cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.”
“We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.”
Speaking about taxes, Obama called for a change in the American tax code so that everyone pays their fair share of taxes.
“Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes,” Obama said. “In fact, if you're earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn't get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn't go up. You're the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You're the ones who need relief.”
Finally, he addressed the situation in Iran and said promised to “safeguard America's own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests. Look at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran's nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent. Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.”
He also mentioned the strong ties the U.S. has with other countries, also mentioning Israel and noting that “our iron-clad commitment to Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history.”
“Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about,” he said. “That's not the message we get from leaders around the world, all of whom are eager to work with us. That's not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than they've been in years. Yes, the world is changing; no, we can't control every event.
"But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs – and as long as I'm President, I intend to keep it that way.”