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A U.S. Economy “Built to Last” Must be Fair, Obama Says

By Stephen Kaufman | Staff Writer | 24 January 2012
Wide angle view of House chamber (AP Images)

In his address, Obama cited “a wave of change” that has washed across the Middle East and North Africa.

Washington — President Obama, in his 2012 State of the Union address, outlined his vision for America’s future.

As the United States recovers from an economic recession, Obama said January 24, it needs “an economy built to last” that will support all who want to work, as well as risk-takers and entrepreneurs who will create new jobs in startup companies and small businesses.

“It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts and no cop-outs. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody,” he said.

The president’s remarks came after months of protest by the “Occupy” movements in several cities across the United States, as well as statements by billionaire investor Warren Buffett and others who have highlighted the growing gap in earnings between wealthy Americans and most of their fellow citizens.

Obama warned U.S. banks and financial institutions that in the aftermath of a recession caused by risky investments, new laws now require them to describe exactly how they would pay back bad investments “because the rest of us are not bailing you out ever again.”

“We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it,” Obama said. But he added that the wealthiest Americans need to pay their fair share of taxes rather than increasing the U.S. national deficit or forcing those with less means to make up the difference.

Americans “know that this generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other and to the future of their country, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility,” he said.


In his remarks on U.S. foreign policy, the president said “a wave of change” has washed across the Middle East and North Africa in the form of Arab uprisings against despotic governments and, although the United States cannot predict how the region’s transformation will end, it has a huge stake in the outcome.

“While it is ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well. We will stand against violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings — men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews. We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets because tyranny is no match for liberty,” Obama said.

The president welcomed the fall of Libya’s Muammar al Qadhafi, and said that the regime led by Syria’s Bashar al-Assad “will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied.”

For the first time since 2003, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq, he said, and May 2011 saw the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the end of his threat to the United States and other countries around the world.

In Afghanistan, the United States has begun to wind down the war and transition responsibility for the country’s security to Afghan authorities. Obama said the United States is building an “enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks.”

The president also warned Iran that the world is united in its response to the country’s nuclear activities, and that as long as Iran’s leaders shirk their responsibilities to the international community, the global pressure against them “will not relent.”

“America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal,” Obama said. “But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.”

The U.S. Constitution requires the president to periodically inform the Congress on “information of the state of the union,” and to recommend “measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient” for their consideration. During an election year, the speech is also an opportunity for the president to put forward his vision in a manner that contrasts with those of his likely opponents.

The constitutional requirement has evolved into an annual televised address to the Congress, members of the Cabinet and U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. military leaders and other invited guests. Obama will follow up on the speech by sending Congress a proposed budget for the 2013 fiscal year in which he will offer further details on his vision by specifying his spending priorities.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)

President Obama delivers his State of the Union address (AP Images)

Vice President Biden, rear left, and House Speaker John Boehner look on as President Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union address.