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Obama to lay out economic growth plan in State of Union speech

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Sun, 10 Feb 2013 03:07 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Addressing "kitchen-table worries" of Americans

* New spending could face stiff Republican opposition

By Jeff Mason and Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will describe his plan for spurring the economy in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, offering proposals for investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, clean energy and education, a senior administration official said on Saturday.

In the annual presidential address to Congress, Obama plans to show he has not lost sight of the economic woes of middle-class Americans - issues that dominated the 2012 election campaign but have been overshadowed recently by efforts to cut the deficit, overhaul immigration laws and curb gun violence.

"The potential success of his second term is hugely dependent on the rate at which the economy grows," said Ruy Teixeira, a political scientist with the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.

"There's no problem the Democrats have that can't be solved with faster growth. Conversely, there's not much they'll be able to do if growth stays slow."

In a speech to House of Representatives Democrats earlier this week, Obama previewed how he would make job creation a focus of the televised State of the Union address, usually viewed by tens of millions.

"It means that we're focused on education and that every young person is equipped with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century," he told his fellow Democrats.

"It means that we've got an energy agenda that can make us less dependent on foreign oil, but also that we're cultivating the kind of clean energy strategy that will maintain our leadership well into the future," he said.

There were no details on Saturday on the new initiatives for infrastructure, manufacturing, clean energy and education, elements first reported by the New York Times.

But any new spending will face tough opposition from Republicans in Congress who are focused on cutting spending and reducing the deficit.

Obama has urged Congress to take steps to postpone harsh government spending cuts slated to take effect on March 1, and the White House took pains on Friday to describe how the cuts would affect ordinary Americans' lives.

Obama has said he is willing to cut a "big deal" with Republicans to trim spending on the Medicare and Social Security programs for the elderly, but has insisted in ending long-standing tax breaks for oil companies, private equity firms and corporate jet owners to create more revenue for government.

But a strong jobs message will appeal more to Americans, said Elisabeth Jacobs, who studies domestic social policy at the Brookings Institution think tank.

"Four out of five Americans have been impacted by job loss - either through their own or a family member's or friend's job loss," Jacobs said in a blog post, citing data from a recent Rutgers University study.

"Many viewers are still struggling with the consequences of the Great Recession, and will be looking for their president to offer a governing vision that speaks to their kitchen-table worries," she said.

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