President Obama appeals for help for middle class

 WASHINGTON (AP) - He may not be able to get his proposals
through a divided Congress -- but President Barack Obama is hoping
that the ideas he outlined in his State of the Union speech have
been heard by voters.

President Obama, flanked by Vice President Biden and Speaker of the House John Boehner, delivers his State of the Union speech Tuesday in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) - He may not be able to get his proposals
through a divided Congress -- but President Barack Obama is hoping
that the ideas he outlined in his State of the Union speech have
been heard by voters.

As Republicans -- including those seeking to challenge him in
November -- call for the government to back off and let the free
market rule, Obama pleaded for an active government that ensures
economic fairness for everyone.

He offered a plan to help more struggling homeowners refinance,
and to help students afford college. And he called for higher taxes
on millionaires, saying it's not "class warfare" but simply a
matter of fairness.

Obama said instead of a country where "a shrinking number of
people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely
get by," there can be an economy "where everyone gets a fair
shot," does their "fair share" and "plays by the same set of

Obama said that while the economy is on the way back, there's
still more to be done. He suggested that half of the money that is
no longer being spent on the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan
should be used to help create jobs and increase competitiveness.

U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) released the following statement in response to the President’s State of the Union Address:

“Despite the rhetoric and long-winded speeches, President Obama has done virtually nothing these past three years to bolster our economy and create private sector jobs. Since he took office, two million more Americans are looking for work, gas prices have doubled, and unemployment continues to hover above 8 percent – double that in some Kentucky counties. Right now, our country needs pro-business, pro-growth policies, disciplined spending, and regulatory restraint to put the 10 million unemployed Americans back to work and encourage our job creators to invest here at home. Just last week, President Obama had an opportunity to help create those jobs. Instead, like he has with so many coal mining jobs in my region, he rejected a common-sense proposal to create 20,000 American energy and construction jobs through the Keystone XL Pipeline and further set our economic and energy security back. Now more than ever, the United States of America needs strong leadership over strong rhetoric; sadly, tonight we heard more slogans than solutions.”

Other highlights of President Barack Obama's State
of the Union address:

Said the wealthy should pay their fair share in taxes, arguing
that anyone who makes more than $1 million should pay a minimum tax rate of at least 30 percent. He also provided more details about
the so-called Buffett rule, which sets a goal of a minimum tax rate
for those earning $1 million or more a year.

Pushed measures for college affordability, including taking
federal aid from colleges that don't keep net tuition down and
provide good value, and urged Congress to make permanent a tuition
tax credit worth $10,000 over four years. He also called for a new
emphasis on the teaching profession to include better evaluation
systems and incentives for teachers and improved teacher education.
And he challenged state governments to require students to stay in
school until they graduate or turn 18, as 20 states already do.

Proposed a nationwide program to allow homeowners with privately
held mortgages to refinance at lower interest rates. It would cover
both loans issued by government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie
Mae and Freddie Mac and private bank mortgage lenders. Congress
would have to approve, a difficult hurdle. Under the plan, any
homeowner current on his or her mortgage could take advantage of
lending rates now at 4 percent or below. Administration officials
offered few details but estimated savings of about $3,000 a year
for average borrowers.

Reiterated a call for comprehensive immigration reform,
including giving responsible young people a chance to earn their
citizenship. He suggested creating a Veterans Job Corps to help
communities hire veterans, and he committed to closing the wage gap between men and women.

Called for the creation of a new trade enforcement unit that
would go after unfair trade practices around the world, including
China. Obama said the U.S. would provide financing to put its
companies on even footing when the Chinese or other competitors use unfair export financing to help their businesses. He also called
for better inspections to stop counterfeit, pirated or unsafe goods
from entering the U.S.

Proposed using half the savings achieved by winding down the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to cover costs of new investments in
infrastructure. Obama wants the money to go toward fixing existing
roads and building new high-speed rail projects. He also plans to
sign an executive order in the coming weeks to clear some of the
bureaucratic roadblocks that have slowed work on projects that have
already been funded. The White House says the other half of the
savings from drawing down the wars would go toward reducing the
national debt.

Proposed eliminating tax incentives that make it more attractive
for companies to ship jobs overseas. The proposal would require
American companies to pay a minimum tax on their overseas profits
in order to prevent other countries from attracting U.S. businesses
with unusually low tax rates. Obama also wants to eliminate tax
deductions companies receive for the cost of shutting down
factories and moving production overseas. Instead, Obama wants to
create a new tax credit to cover moving expenses for companies that
close production overseas and bring jobs back to the U.S. He also
wants to reduce tax rates for manufacturers and double the tax
deduction for high-tech manufacturers in order to create more
manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

Directed his administration to develop a plan for safe
extraction of natural gas from shale deposits, which the White
House says will support more than 600,000 jobs. The administration
is moving forward with what it calls "common-sense" rules to
ensure that safe drilling practices are followed and the types of
chemicals used in the so-called fracking method are disclosed for
operations on public lands. Obama said he would offer incentives to
manufacturers to boost the energy efficiency of the industrial
sector by upgrading equipment and eliminating wasted energy in
their facilities. The White House estimates those incentives and
efforts to reduce regulatory barriers could save $100 billion from
the nation's energy bills and cut energy imports. Obama also said
he will direct the Defense Department to make the largest renewable
energy purchase in history - 1 gigawatt, or 1 billion watts. Obama
plans to direct his administration to establish solar energy zones
and wind energy areas on public lands to power 3 million homes by
the end of 2012.

Proposed steps to target fraud in the financial sector and
mortgage industry, with a Financial Crimes Unit to crack down on
bankers and financial service professionals, and a separate special
unit of federal prosecutors and state attorneys general to expand
investigations into abusive lending that led to the housing crisis.
"This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law,
speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans," Obama said.

Responded to criticism from Republican presidential challengers,
who have accused him of inciting class warfare by seeking higher
taxes on millionaires and assailed his administration's ties to
Solyndra, a clean energy company which went bankrupt despite
receiving a $528 million federal loan. Obama said critics could
"call this class warfare all you want," but argued that most
people would consider it common sense for a billionaire to pay at
least as much as his secretary in taxes. Obama did not mention
Solyndra by name, but defended the promise of renewable energy from wind and solar power, saying he would "not walk away from the
promise of clean energy."

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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