Obama pledges economic revival and gun control in union address
The US President's 'wide-ranging' State of the Union address sets out a bold vision for his second term
PRESIDENT Obama has used his annual State of the Union address to commit his second term to restoring the "basic bargain" that prosperity in the US is shared by most Americans not just a privileged few, The Guardian reports.
As part of that vision, he vowed to revive the sluggish US economy and said his government would be smarter, but not necessarily bigger. The wide-ranging speech also included pleas for urgent action on gun control, climate change and immigration.
Here are six of the key topics the President addressed last night:
Deficit reduction: Obama highlighted the pressing issue of US debt by referring to it "near the front" of his address, reports MSNBC. He proposed a "balanced approach" which would include both revenue and spending cuts.
The US has already cut the deficit by $2.5 trillion in recent years, he said, and it was "half way" to the $4 trillion reduction in the deficit economists say is necessary to stablise the US economy. Obama said the job of deficit reduction would be finished by Medicare reform and the elimination of various tax deductions.
Comprehensive immigration reform: Reform of the US immigration system is an issue that Obama has a real chance of achieving in his second term because both sides of politics "have recognised that now is the time to get it done", the Daily Beast says. The president reflected the bipartisan support for change in his speech last night by talking about immigration using "self-consciously Republican rhetoric".
He said "real reform" means strong border security and "the establishment of a responsible pathway to earned citizenship—a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally".
Serious action on climate change: The president said the "extreme weather" patterns afflicting the US and other parts of the world have highlighted the need to fight climate change. He called for research funded by the oil industry to help "shift our cars and trucks off oil" and proposed a doubling of energy efficiency within 20 years, USA Today reports.
Obama warned Congress that if it didn't take action on the issue, his administration would, promising "executive actions" to "reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy".
An end to the war in Afghanistan: Obama announced a "substantial drawdown" of US troops from Afghanistan over the next year. He said half of the 34,000 US personnel in the war-torn country will leave by this time next year and all Nato combat troops will exit by the end of 2014.
Real action on gun control: Obama used his address to make an "emotional plea" to US lawmakers to take urgent action on the issue of gun control, says Sky News. His words were given extra potency by the fact that some of the victims of gun crimes – including the former Democrat representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in Arizona two years ago – were in the audience.
Obama, who referred to the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School during his speech, acknowledged that it "wasn't the first time" the US has debated gun controls . But "this time is different", he said.
A free trade deal between the US and Europe: The details were scant, but Obama's announcement of new talks between his administration and the EU on a "comprehensive transatlantic trade and investment partnership" was widely reported by the European press.
The Guardian says a deal would "centre on phasing out tariffs and reduce regulatory barriers in a move that would create closer ties between the two trading powers at a time when they face slower growth at home and increasing competition from China".