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Obama focuses on fiscal policy in State of the Union

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
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Daily News Editor
Published January 26, 2011

President Barack Obama’s delivered his annual State of the Union address last night in the nation’s capital, stressing the importance of bipartisanship particularly in regard to issues of fiscal and economic policy.

Among the topics Obama addressed was education reform which he said is a factor in encouraging more diversified job creation and re-establishing the country as a global force. He also focused on the growth of technology and sustainable initiatives, calling this effort “our generation’s Sputnik moment.”

In his speech, Obama said that since Republicans now hold a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the two chambers of Congress must make an effort to work together to solve national issues rather than get caught up in partisan bickering that has plagued past split Congresses.

“With their votes, the American people determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties,” Obama said. “New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all, for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.”

Michael Traugott, a University professor of communication studies and research professor at the University’s Institute for Social Research, said in an interview last night that he found the speech to be “particularly low key.” Obama didn’t go into detail about many issues, Traugott said, leaving little for the House Republicans to be discontented with.

“I don’t think that he wanted to strike a belligerent tone, he wanted to strike an accommodating tone,” Traugott said. “And so by being relatively vague rather than quite specific, he provided very few targets for the Republicans to attack.”

In his address, Obama also stressed that his re-election endeavor isn’t the most pressing issue for his administration in the coming year, but rather, it is ensuring the continual growth of the national economy and job development.

“At stake right now is not who wins the next election,” Obama said. “After all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world.”

Obama continued by saying that the economy has demonstrated growth since he took office and that it is in a position to keep climbing, particularly through strengthening national programs in areas like education.

“We are poised for progress,” Obama said. “Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.”

As part of his efforts to reduce the national deficit as well as appeal to both sides of the aisle, Obama proposed a domestic spending freeze over the next five years that would reduce the national deficit by by more than $400 billion.

In a statement released following Obama’s speech, U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.) lauded Obama’s initiative to consolidate areas of federal government and make “precise and rational spending cuts.” However, Dingell wrote that a total freeze on domestic spending fails to deal with more specific fiscal issues.

“I personally think a budget freeze would be an inefficient and arbitrary way to deal with the problem; it would not take into consideration specific problems and issues that we face today,” Dingell wrote.