President lays out economic proposals, foreign policy priorities - – Rockford’s News Leader

President lays out economic proposals, foreign policy priorities in State of the Union address

President Barack Obama says after years of war and recession, "The shadow of crisis has passed."

In remarks prepared for delivery for the State of the Union address, Obama is arguing for a new economic agenda that he says will expand opportunity.  He is calling for a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans to help those less well off.  And he is vowing to hunt down terrorists from "Pakistan to the streets of Paris."

Obama says the first 15 years of the new century have been a hard time for many.  He says the question is what America will be in the next 15 years.

President Barack Obama says, "The verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works."

Obama says the economy's upward trajectory should not only help a few do well, but should generate rising incomes for everyone who makes an effort.

Obama says, "We need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn't halt the progress we're making."

The recession technically ended in June 2009, but the ensuing recovery sputtered.  Only now is public opinion beginning to acknowledge improvements.

Obama's speech comes amid numerous signs that the economic recovery is taking hold, including 5.6 percent unemployment, cheap gas and greater consumer confidence.

Obama says U.S. policy toward Cuba is "long past its expiration date" and is urging Congress to end the long-running embargo.  He offered a welcome home to Alan Gross, whose release from Cuba in a prisoner exchange last month cleared the way for a new relationship.  Gross was given a place of honor with first lady Michelle Obama for the speech.

Obama's remarks came on the eve of talks between U.S. and Cuban officials about reopening embassies in each other's capitals.  A U.S. delegation is scheduled to arrive Wednesday in Havana.

The President says the U.S. should aim higher than one single pipeline as it works to modernize its infrastructure. Obama isn't referencing the Keystone XL pipeline by name in his State of the Union address.  But he's alluding to it by asking Congress to look beyond just one oil pipeline.

Obama says 21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure, including modern ports, faster trains, speedy internet and stronger bridges. He says Democrats and Republicans once agreed on infrastructure.  

He's asking Congress for a bipartisan infrastructure plan that he says could create 30 times more jobs than Keystone.  Republicans have made Keystone their top priority this year.  A House-passed bill is under consideration in the Senate.

Obama has promised to veto that bill but hasn't said whether he'll approve Keystone.

President Obama says he wants to raise taxes on higher-income Americans to pay for lower taxes for the middle class and pay for an education initiative that is a centerpiece of his 2015 agenda. 

In his State of the Union Address, Obama says the tax code is "riddled it with giveaways the superrich don't need."

Obama wants to raise the top capital gains rate from 23.8 percent to 28 percent on couples making more than $500,000, eliminate a tax break on inheritances and impose a fee on large financial firms.  The proposal would generate $320 billion in revenue over 10 years to pay for new tax credits and other measures for the middle class.  And it would cover the cost of making community college free.

Obama says he'll veto any attempts by Congress to roll back progress that's been made on his key priorities.

The President is vowing to relentlessly hunt down terrorists from "Pakistan to the streets of Paris." Obama is calling on Congress for a new war authorization to pursue Islamic State militants.

He argues that American military leadership in Iraq and Syria is stopping the group's advance.  He says it will take time and focus to stand up to what he calls the "bankrupt ideology of violent extremism."

But he says the effort will succeed. Obama also is laying out a vision for what he calls "a smarter kind of American leadership" that combines military power with strong diplomacy.  He says America does not lead with bluster, but with "persistent, steady resolve."
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