President Barack Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address on Jan. 25 in which he called for both new spending on government programs in an effort to keep up with ever-increasing global competition, and for deep budget cuts to help with the gargantuan national deficit.
Obama set the tone for the need to compete with growing economies across the world. “We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” Obama told Congress. “We have to make America the best place on earth to do business.”
He also called for 100,000 new math and science teachers in an effort to give America a competitive edge in education.
This proposal came after the disappointing results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which showed that less than one-third of elementary and high school students scored in the “proficient” range, were released mere hours before the president’s address.
Obama also proposed a new $8 billion research and development program for clean-energy resources. He said 80 percent of America’s electricity should come from these innovative resources. Obama also called for a $4 billion tax plan on oil companies to help fund the new spending.
Some of Obama’s other goals included making high-speed rail available to roughly 80 percent of Americans by 2025. He also promised a new national wireless program that would make high speed wireless Internet available to 98 percent of Americans.
Without going into significant detail on these goals, Obama urged the importance of spending on research and infrastructure.
Despite all his spending proposals, Obama also called for spending cuts, including a five-year freeze on discretionary spending that, according to the Wall Street Journal, would account for about 15 percent of the $3.5 trillion spent by the government last year alone. This would save the government roughly $400 billion over the next decade.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and other Republicans remained unimpressed by the president’s proposed spending freeze.
“We are at a moment, where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged. America’s best century will be considered our past century,” Ryan told the press.
Obama also called for a reconstruction corporate tax law. While calling for a reduction in the 35 percent corporate tax rate, he urged Congress to eliminate certain corporate tax deductions to help offset any addition to the federal deficit. Obama is expected to run into problems with both parties on this proposal.
“It’s a solid stone wall that you run into if you want to try and do it without losing revenue,” Rep. William Archer (R-TX) told the Journal.
Obama also addressed the ever-present question of handling the looming Social Security problem. He promised that he would not cut any benefits from Social Security and that he would oppose investing the surplus of the fund into the stock market, something that President George W. Bush tried to push during his tenure.