WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address on Tuesday to a packed Congress. Here are the main points in a speech that kicked off his campaign ahead of the November 6 election:
A FAIR ECONOMY FOR ALL
Obama said the "the basic American
promise" was that "if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement" and that the "defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive."
"We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules," he said.
TAX THE MILLIONAIRES
"We need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes," Obama said.
"If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 % in taxes."
Pledging no tax increases for those earning under $250,000 a year, Obama also proposed eliminating housing, healthcare, retirement and childcare tax breaks for millionaires.
"If you make under $250,000 a year, like 98% of American families, your taxes shouldn't go up. You're the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You're the ones who need relief."
BACK TO MANUFACTURING
Obama proposed to radically shift the US economy back to a manufacturing base after decades of ceding jobs in goods production to factory-heavy countries like China.
In a move to rebuild the weakened economy, create jobs and bolster his reelection chances in November, Obama said the US has an opportunity to wrest production from rivals like China and burnish the "Made in USA" label.
"I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last," Obama said. "This blueprint begins with American manufacturing."
The President brandished the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Moamer Kadhafi as an election year show of foreign policy force aimed at disarming his Republican foes.
Trumpeting his commander-in-chief credentials, Obama made it clear that the traditional avenue of attack -- Democratic presidents are weak on defense -- would not hold in 2012.
"For the first time, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country," the President said. "Most of Kl-Qaeda's top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban's momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home."
PEACEFUL OUTCOME STILL POSSIBLE ON IRAN
Obama insisted a peaceful outcome was still possible in the international standoff with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
His remarks suggested the window for diplomacy was narrowing at a time when Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz -- a key waterway for the world's oil -- in the face of tightening international sanctions.
"The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent," Obama said.
"Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.
"But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better," the president said. "And if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations."
NO BACKING DOWN ON CLEAN ENERGY
Obama pledged that he would not back down on efforts to boost clean energy, warning that the United States risked being left behind by China and Germany.
But in a nod to political realities, he acknowledged that the deeply divided Congress would not approve comprehensive legislation to fight climate change.
Obama vowed "every possible action" to develop natural gas and pledged support for "fracking," the controversial technology that extracts gas from rock deep under the soil.
"This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy -- a strategy that's cleaner, cheaper and full of new jobs."
Obama issued an election year challenge on immigration to Republican lawmakers, pledging to sign even limited reform.
With Hispanic voters making up vital constituencies in battleground states such as Arizona, Colorado and Florida, Obama insisted "we should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now."
"The opponents of action are out of excuses."
"But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let's at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country. "Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away."