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Obama's State of the Union: 'Getting Stronger'

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama delivered his third State of the Union address on the evening of January 24, highlighting some of his administration’s military accomplishments, while forcefully calling for tax code reform, job creation, and energy and education initiatives.

“The state of our union is getting stronger,” the president summarized, noting that America is still in the process of recovering from the 2008 banking and housing crises. “And we’ve come too far to turn back now. As long as I’m president, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.”

In one of his major points of the nearly hour and a half speech, Obama asked that Congress alter the tax code so that rich Americans pay a greater share. “Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent 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….

“Now, you can call this class warfare all you want,” the president continued. “But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.”

Also on the tax code, Obama asked for Congress to send him reforms that would stop rewarding businesses for relocating overseas. The president said that he wants to eliminate the tax deduction companies receive for the cost of shutting down factories and moving production overseas, and create a new tax credit to cover moving expenses for companies that close production overseas and bring jobs back to the United States.

One of Obama’s main plans for moving forward “with an economy that’s meant to last” centered on supporting increased construction. Along those lines, he promised in the next few weeks to sign an executive order “clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects.”

“But you need to fund these projects,” Obama admonished the assembled Congress members. “Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”

Domestically, he also discussed a plan for re-kindling stalled energy initiatives. “The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change,” the president said. “But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.”

The president said he is directing his administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes.

On the housing front, Obama said that he is sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low interest rates. “No more red tape,” the president said. “No more runaround from the banks. A small fee on the largest financial institutions will ensure that it won’t add to the deficit, and will give banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust.”

On education, Obama called on every state to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen. Twenty states have already taken such a step, to some success, according to federal studies.

The president also spent a memorable portion of his speech honoring the U.S. military: “We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world,” Obama said. “For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.”

The military section of his address was a place where the president specifically mentioned American Indian contributions to the country, given their traditionally high levels of service.

Toward the end of his speech, Obama grandly recalled the May 2011 American military mission to kill Osama bin Laden, saying that one of his “proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission.” Unfortunately, the mission brings up something other than pride for many Native Americans, given that it was inappropriately called, “Geronimo.” It was a major slight for an Indian hero to be associated with bin Laden, one of the most hated terrorists.

Television commentators, including Lawrence O'Donnell and Ed Schultz of MSNBC called Obama's reference to the mission, "powerful."

A State of the Indian Nations address is scheduled to be delivered by National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel on January 26 at 10:30 a.m. ET. The address will be streamed live online from the Newseum in downtown Washington.