Obama makes jobs top priority, vows to fight on after tough year

Written by Bloomberg | Updated: Jan 29 2010, 06:00am hrs
President Barack Obama used his first State-of-the-Union address to strike a defiant tone about his plans for jobs, health care and energy policy, and a scolding one for banks, lobbyists and Washingtons tired battles of partisanship.

The President defended his decision to support taxpayer bailouts to save companies like Citigroup Inc and General Motors Co, even as he vowed to fight for the middle class and not bank executives, in his address to a joint session of the US Congress.

While Obama pledged to push for the broad programmes he offered in a speech to Congress a year ago, his new proposals were smaller in scale, a recognition of the more than $1 trillion he said his administration spent to staunch the financial crisis. We have finished a difficult year, we have come through a difficult decade, but a new year has come, Obama said. We dont quit. I dont quit.

With an emphasis on the middle classa term he used five times in the 69-minute address of more than 7,000 wordsObama proposed tax credits for small businesses and called on Congress to eliminate capital gains levies on small business investment. He also offered proposals to tackle the federal budget deficit, forecast to be $1.35 trillion this year.

With his approval ratings hovering around 50%, the President stood before Congress with the hopes of moving past a bruising political year where his top domestic priorityoverhauling a health-care system that accounts for about 17% of the economyabsorbed his attention and dominated lawmakers time in the last six months.

In his State-of-the-Union message, Obama pledged to slap tough new regulations on Wall Street but said: Look, I am not interested in punishing banks. Im interested in protecting our economy. He also said he wanted the financial sector to pay for a massive taxpayer bailout.