Economy will dominate State of Union address

In his State of the Union Address tonight to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, President Barack Obama will attempt to prod lawmakers to join him in further steps to strengthen the economy, create jobs, and support the middle class.

Obama will deliver what is technically his fourth State of the Union Address, aware that most Americans view the economy and unemployment as the country’s biggest problems.

He also knows that despite political capital from his reelection victory, public dissatisfaction remains high with the failure of leaders in Washington to deal with these problems.

In a speech White House aides say began to be drafted last November, he is likely to return to themes he sounded as he campaigned for reelection.

He will urge Republicans and Democrats to work with him to keep the economy moving forward by strengthening and expanding the middle class, rebuilding American infrastructure and boosting manufacturing.

The president gave this hint as he addressed Democratic lawmakers last week.

“I’m going to be talking about making sure that we’re focused on job creation here in the United States of America,” said Obama. “It means that we’re focused on education and that every young person is equipped with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century.”

On the eve of tonight’s address, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney described the State of the Union as the second act of a play that includes Obama’s inaugural address last month.

Obama, he said, will directly speak to American’s concerns about lingering effects of the recession.

“He would address those Americans directly and talk about the need for Washington to take positive action to help the economy grow, to help it create jobs, the need for Washington to refrain from taking negative action by allowing for example, the sequester to kick in which would do direct harm to Americans, direct harm to the middle class, direct harm to our defense industries and national security interests,” said Carney.

Carney said the president will say work is not done to boost the economy, that positive trends are not irreversible, and that a stronger foundation is needed for growth.

Listening Tuesday night will be Republicans who control the House of Representatives, and who since mid-term elections in 2010 have posed major roadblocks to the president’s domestic agenda.

Obama will again warn about potentially damaging effects for the economy of Congress allowing about $110 billion in automatic spending cuts to occur at the beginning of March.

On foreign policy, Obama is expected to mention the accelerated process he announced in December of drawing down U.S. troops from Afghanistan, turning over security to Afghan forces, heading for a complete foreign combat force withdrawal by 2014.

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