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Obama seeks to ‘reboot’ America

on 11/01/2019

President Barack Obama bluntly has told Americans that world economic rules had changed, demanding a wave of innovation to meet challenges from rising powers like India and China.

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In an annual State of the Union address unusually high in thematics and lacking the normal flurry of policy proposals, Obama sought to define his nation’s challenge and reboot its economy for a new century.

Dozens of lawmakers meanwhile ditched the usual partisan seating plan to sit side by side, in a nod to Obama’s soaring call for political civility after a deadly shooting that was aimed at Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Obama spoke directly to millions of Americans, conjuring up the days before globalization when there were jobs for life, decent paychecks and good benefits.

“That world has changed, and for many, the change has been painful,” Obama said, as he sought to frame the slow recovery and prepare his nation for a new, highly competitive global economy.

“The rules have changed. In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business,” Obama said, noting that rising powers like India and China were now highly competitive.

But he added Americans should not give up the fight, saying the United States still had the most prosperous economy in the world.

“Yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn’t discourage us. It should challenge us,” he said, citing US pathfinders from the Wright Brothers and Thomas Edison to Google and Facebook.

“In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living,” the president said, using his remarks to call on Republicans to support investment in education, innovation and infrastructure.

Obama also warned that US politicians should ditch partisan sparring, saying that Americans faced a “Sputnik” moment — similar to the time of 1950s national crisis when the Soviet Union launched the space race.

And he also acknowledged changed political realities after Republicans seized the House of Representatives in mid-term elections in November seen as a rebuke of the first term president and his Democrats.

“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.

“At stake right now is not who wins the next election — after all, we just had an election.

“At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else.”

In a nod to the inflated budget deficit, Obama said he would call for a five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending, after proposing a three-year freeze last year.

But in excerpts from the Republican response to Obama’s address, Republican House Budget chief Paul Ryan met the president’s challenge head on, accusing Obama of embarking on a ruinous spending spree.

“Our nation is approaching a tipping point. We are at a moment, where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century.

“This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.”

Reflecting the split between establishment Republicans and Tea Party insurgents, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann planned a dueling Republican response, targeting members of the grass roots movement.

Obama has vowed to put the slowly recovering US economy into “overdrive” and made one word — “jobs” — the focus of his administration, as he seeks to accelerate employment growth with an eye on his 2012 reelection hopes.

The key speech, the president’s best chance to reach out to voters each year, comes with Congress chastened by the Arizona shooting rampage targeting a lawmaker — which sparked calls to quell explosive rhetoric.

In a powerful reminder of the tragedy, First Lady Michelle Obama has invited the parents of a nine-year-old girl killed in the attack, and an aide who helped save congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, to sit in her box in the House chamber.

One striking picture during the address will reflect the change of political alignment in Washington.

New Republican Speaker John Boehner will sit alongside Vice President Joe Biden, behind the president, following his party’s seizure of the House in November.

But Obama’s maneuvering toward the center since an admitted “shellacking” from voters has blunted Republican euphoria, and seen a sudden rise in his opinion poll ratings.

There are also signs of tension within the Republican coalition as the reality of power sinks in.


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