In State of the Union, Obama Unveils Expansive New Agenda
Obama Urges Action on Expansive Agenda (Wall Street Journal)
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama outlined an ambitious agenda in his State of the Union address Tuesday that included raising the minimum wage, increasing spending on infrastructure, attacking climate change and passing gun-control legislation.
Mr. Obama repeated his earlier calls for reducing the budget deficit through a mix of tax increases and spending cuts. He also said he would support "modest reforms" in programs including Medicare, as long as wealthy Americans contribute as well. And he said he would reduce troop levels in Afghanistan by half over the next year, an acceleration of the U.S. departure and an effort to wind down America's longest war.
In a speech largely focused on the economy, the president's rollout of his second-term agenda included many proposals aimed at helping low-income Americans advance. He urged Congress to work with states to provide "high quality'' preschool to all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds, and he proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour, up from $7.25 today.
"It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation,'' Mr. Obama said.
Reopening a fight with Congress that he lost in his first term, he called for tens of billions in spending to rebuild the nation's aging roads and bridges. He also said he would work toward a comprehensive trade agreement with the European Union—an effort that would face considerable obstacles, such as more stringent European regulations compared with U.S. rules. But Mr. Obama said a deal would support "good-paying'' jobs.
Mr. Obama, addressing a Congress riven by disputes over how to rein in budget deficits, rejected broad changes to Medicare, the federal health program, as some Republicans have proposed. The president, who won an increase in tax rates on high wage-earners earlier this year, said he would press for deficit reduction by ending tax breaks and deductions for wealthier Americans, as well as for spending cuts.