Obama seeks to reward firms that do not outsource their jobs

Voice of America graphic Barack Obama makes a point to the joint session.

President Barack Obama says U.S. companies should be rewarded for keeping jobs at home, rather than getting tax breaks for moving them overseas.

The president said in his State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday that the U.S. tax code must be changed so companies no longer get a deduction for outsourcing jobs. He said manufacturers who keep factories and jobs at home should get a bigger tax cut.

The proposal has relevance in Costa Rica where a number of U.S. companies, including Intel Corp., have set up operations here.

Obama also announced the creation of what he calls a trade enforcement unit, that he says will investigate unfair trade practices from nations such as China. The unit will also investigate cases of pirated American movies, music, and software and increase inspections to stop fake and unsafe products from entering the country.

He also urged Congress to ensure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing finance or new markets, such as Russia. If the playing field is level, President Obama says, “America will always win.”

Obama faces a tough re-election campaign. He devoted much of his annual State of the Union address Tuesday night to his plan to speed the U.S. economic recovery.

“Tonight I want to speak about how we move forward and lay out a blueprint for an economy that is built to last, an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers and a renewal of American values,” he said.

To reassure a worried middle class, the president stressed one of the main themes of his re-election campaign: reducing income inequality and making the economy more fair.

“The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important,” he said.

The president said it is time to reclaim what he called “American values.”

“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” he said.

Obama’s plan also includes support for clean energy industries, tighter financial regulation, and programs to help send more Americans to college.

With comprehensive immigration reform stalled in Congress, the president called for smaller measures.

“But if election year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses and defend this country,” he said. Obama acknowledged that his proposals face fierce opposition from
Republicans in Congress, and he said he will continue fighting, with or without their support.

“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,” he said.

In the Republican response, Governor Mitch Daniels of the central state of Indiana blasted what he called Obama’s extremism and pro-poverty policy.

“No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others. As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat,” he said.

President Obama said the U.S. has achieved a number of foreign policy victories in the past year.

He mentioned the end of the Iraq war, progress being made in the war in Afghanistan, and the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, as well as the Arab Spring movement and hope for greater freedom in Burma.

Obama also said U.S.-led international pressure on Iran because of its nuclear program is having an effect.

He got one of his biggest ovations when he called for a bill that would prevent insider trading by members of Congress. Some lawmakers have used knowledge gained in congressional committees to win big on the stock market.

He said the renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe, and that America is back.

“Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, does not know what they are talking about,” he said.

The president leaves Wednesday on a three-day, five-state trip, during which he will take his economic plan to the American people.

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