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Obama’s agenda

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President Obama in his State of the Union message Tuesday night recycled many of the same themes and proposals he offered in his first term.

Espousing a philosophy that calls for more government intervention to spur economic growth, President Obama called for more spending on infrastructure, expanding early childhood education, additional federal aid to help communities hurt by the housing market collapse and a hike in the minimum wage.

His address struck a populist tone in its appeal for aid to low-income and middle-class Americans while raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for the programs.

The president, in a speech focusing on the economy, proposed a $50 billion “Fix It First” program to repair the nation’s infrastructure and create jobs, which were the goals of the first stimulus program proposed under President Bush’s administration and embraced by Mr. Obama shortly after he was elected in 2008.

A public works proposal from the president two years ago also failed to make it through Congress.

The president took credit for “over 6 million new jobs” created during his first administration. It fails to take into consideration the nearly 5 million jobs lost after he became president for a gain just over 1 million jobs with a national unemployment rate of 7.9 percent.

President Obama repeated his call to increase the minimum wage for 15 million low-income workers from $7.25 an hour now to $9 an hour by 2015 with automatic increases after that tied to inflation His first-term proposal went nowhere, but to gain Republican support this time, President Obama cited GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s support for indexing it to inflation.

Pre-kindergarten for families with low or moderate incomes would get a boost from the federal government, although the president provided neither a cost nor estimate of aid that might go toward implementing the initiative. He also proposed a competition to modernize high schools to increase American competitiveness.

Tax credits for renewable energy to combat climate change, gun control legislation and immigration reform are also on the president’s second-term agenda.

Rather than a possible compromise on deficit reduction, President Obama took a confrontational tone.

To avoid $85 billion in automatic budget cuts due to kick in March 1, he stood by his position that the deficit should be paid down through targeted spending cuts and tax increases, mainly by closing loopholes used by the “well-off and well-connected.” Republicans have rejected tax increases while calling for entitlement reforms.

Mr. Obama mentioned the need for “modest” reforms, particularly to Medicare. Again, he offered no specifics.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, giving the Republican response to the address, criticized the president’s big government approach, saying his solution “to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.”

That same, basic philosophical difference that blocked President Obama’s first-term initiatives will also stand in the way of his second-term programs.

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