President Barack Obama rallied the nation to a new brand of liberal politics focusing on relatively modest spending proposals outlined in his first State of the Union address of his second term in office Tuesday night.
Obama focused on reforming minimum wage, education and the nation’s infrastrastructure during the annual address to the usual joint-session of Congress.
Obama began by addressing the recovery America has seen in recent years, stating that “We have cleared away the rubble of crisis and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.”
While Obama’s first campaign banked on hope and change, the theme of this state of this union address was not about the possibility of hopeful changes, but instead a statement of “Now is the time to get it done.”
“It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth—a rising, thriving middle class,” said Obama. “It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country—the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like or who you love.”
Members of the nation’s armed forces sat with members of Congress as the president revealed his plan to end the war in Afghanistan, putting forth a promise that “by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.”
The president also supported other controversial wartime issues, such as women in combat and gays in the military.
Obama also called for several actions to come into effect, such as creating an energy security trust to move away from the use of gasoline, cutting energy waste in homes and businesses and implementing a “fix-it-first” program set on repairing structurally deficient buildings and bridges.
Addressing the topic of energy, the president offered an incentive of more federal support for energy efficient buildings for businesses, which is meant to cut down the effects of global warming.
Commenting that the minimum wage rate was the only subject that both he and presidential candidate Mitt Romney agreed on, Obama proposed the increase of the national minimum wage to $9 an hour.
“Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it can finally become a wage you can live on,” Obama said.
An assortment of attending members of Congress, guests of honor and others, including Vice President Joe Biden, wore green ribbons in support of the president’s recent push for gun control.
These ribbons signified that the wearer was close to a victim of gun violence, or a victim themselves. Retired Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and husband astronaut Mark Kelly were among those wearing the green ribbon. Giffords herself was the victim of a shooting in Arizona in 2011.
Obama noted that both Democrats and Republicans are working together to pass legislation to prevent the sales of high capacity ammunition magazines and of firearms to criminals.
North Korea’s nuclear test on Monday night was also discussed, with Obama pushing for a scaled back global nuclear armament, citing an engagement by the U.S. and Russia to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in their arsenals.
“Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate (North Korea) further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats,” Obama said.
Since 2011, the Tea Party Express has also delivered their own address in response to the president. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul delivered the address this year on behalf of the tea party caucus of Republicans.
He accused both parties of dirty political meandering. “Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses,” he said Tuesday.
Paul pointed a finger at “big government,” and promised to deliver his own five-year balanced budget next month.
Following the address by Obama, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio gave the official Republican response and rebuttal. A relatively new tradition, the opposition address has been given by the party out of the White House every year since 1966.
Rubio spoke out against the Obama platform of clean energy expansion. He pushed forward the belief by Republicans that clean-energy is not the solution to the current energy situation faced by the nation.
Rubio stood alone in a draped room rebutting many of the initiatives pushed forward by the president just minutes before. He blamed the president of trying to raise taxes and increase borrowing and spending. Rubio also accused the president of painting Republicans as a party out of touch with the middle class.
“I hope the president will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy,” said Rubio.