President Obama claimed credit on Tuesday for an improving economy and defiantly told his Republican adversaries in Congress to “turn the page” by supporting an expensive domestic agenda aimed at improving the fortunes of the middle class.
Released from the political constraints of a sagging economy, overseas wars and elections, Mr. Obama declared in his sixth State of the Union address that “the shadow of crisis has passed,” and he vowed to use his final two years in office fighting for programs that had taken a back seat.
He called on Congress to make community college free for most students, enhance tax credits for education and child care, and impose new taxes and fees on high-income earners and large financial institutions.
“It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years,” he said.
But the plans are unlikely to make it past a Republican-controlled Congress.
In a speech which he described as more focused on values than policies, Mr Obama declared America had turned a page after the worst recession since the Depression.
The president said he planned to build on this growth by providing working families with help in the form of sick and maternity leave and affordable childcare.
“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”
Mr Obama’s speech included plans to build a competitive economy by improving America’s infrastructure and providing free access to community college.
“This plan is your chance to graduate ready for a new economy, without a load of debt,” he said.
At the weekend, the White House pledged to close tax loopholes on large inheritances, raise capital gains tax on the richest earners from 23.8% to 28% and introduce new fees on US financial firms with assets about $50bn.
Some senior members of the Republican party dismissed this as “class warfare”.
Other plans outlined by the president include: