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Obama to Draw an Economic Line in State of Union

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  • Obama to Draw an Economic Line in State of Union

    Obama to Draw an Economic Line in State of Union

    By JACKIE CALMES
    Published: January 21, 2012

    WASHINGTON — President Obama will use his election-year State of the Union address on Tuesday to define an activist role for government in promoting a prosperous and equitable society, hoping to draw a stark contrast between the parties in a time of deep economic uncertainty.

    In a video preview e-mailed to more than 10 million supporters on Saturday, as South Carolina Republicans went to the polls to help pick an alternative to him, Mr. Obama promised a populist “blueprint for an American economy that’s built to last,” with the government assisting individuals and businesses to ensure “an America where everybody gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everybody plays by the same set of rules.”

    Mr. Obama has honed that message for months as he has attacked Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, contrasting it with what he has described as Republicans’ “go it alone” free-market views. His advisers say they hope to make Republicans seem as out of step with public opinion as they were when Barry Goldwater was soundly defeated as their presidential nominee in 1964.

    Notably, Mr. Obama will again propose changes to the tax code so the wealthy pay more, despite Republicans’ consistent opposition. It is a theme the White House hopes will hit a nerve with voters after the front-runner in the Republican presidential race, Mitt Romney, acknowledged last week that he pays taxes at a lower rate than many middle-class Americans because the majority of his income comes from investments.

    With most Americans registering disapproval of his economic record after three years, it is all the more imperative for Mr. Obama to define the election not as a referendum on him but as a choice between his vision and the vision of his eventual Republican rival.

    Mr. Obama’s third State of the Union address is widely seen in parallel with the one delivered in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton likewise was seeking re-election that year, after voters in the midterm elections had put Republicans in power in Congress as a rebuke to his perceived big-government liberalism.

    Yet Mr. Obama is charting an opposite response. While Mr. Clinton sought to co-opt Republicans’ small-government message — his State of the Union line “the era of big government is over” is among the most memorable of his presidency — Mr. Obama is confronting it, and framing the election-year debate in a way that aides say will challenge Republicans’ view of the role of government in a time of economic transition.

    Advisers and people familiar with the speech say Mr. Obama will expand again on the administration’s effort to resolve the housing crisis with both carrots and sticks to lenders dealing with homeowners behind on their mortgage payments — after yet another debate between his economic and political advisers.

    The political team has long argued that most Americans oppose bold government action to stem home foreclosures, like forcing lenders to reduce borrowers’ principal, seeing it as rewarding those who had bought houses they could not afford. The economic team holds that until the housing market recovers, the broader economy cannot — and that all Americans suffer.

    On Tuesday Mr. Obama will flesh out his populist message with new proposals to spur manufacturing, including tax breaks for companies that “insource” jobs back to the United States; to double-down on clean-energy incentives; and to improve education and job training initiatives, especially for the millions of long-term unemployed, the officials familiar with the speech said.

    Mr. Obama is expected to harden his challenge to China to increase its currency’s value for fairer trade — addressing the one area in which Mr. Romney, the Republican candidate whom the Obama team still views as the president’s likely challenger, has struck a more populist chord that appeals to working-class voters that Mr. Obama needs if he is to be re-elected.

    In the video preview, like one sent to supporters last year, Mr. Obama said he would call for “a return to American values of fairness for all and responsibility from all.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/us...-of-union.html
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