THE ERA OF BIG GOV’T IS BACK…

by
January 23, 2012
By , The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama will use his election-year State of the Union address on Tuesday to argue that it is government’s role to promote a prosperous and equitable society, drawing a stark contrast between the parties in a time of deep economic uncertainty.

In a video preview e-mailed to millions of supporters on Saturday, as South Carolina Republicans went to the polls to help pick an alternative to him, Mr. Obama promised a populist “blueprint for an American economy that’s built to last,” with the government assisting the private sector and individuals to ensure “an America where everybody gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everybody plays by the same set of rules.”

Mr. Obama has honed that message for months as he has attacked Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, contrasting it with what he has described as Republicans’ “go it alone” free-market views.

Last week at fund-raisers in New York, he told supporters that his push for a government hand had a precedent dating to the construction of canals and interstate highways, and the creation of land-grant colleges and the G.I. Bill. He said that Republicans had moved so far to the right that 2012 will be a “hugely consequential election.”

Notably, Mr. Obama will again propose changes to the tax code so the wealthy pay more, despite Republicans’ consistent opposition. Americans overwhelmingly support the idea, polls show, and the White House hopes that it gains traction with voters, given last week’s acknowledgment by the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that he pays taxes at a lower rate than many middle-class Americans because most of his income comes from investments.

With most Americans registering disapproval of the president’s economic record after three years, it is all the more imperative for Mr. Obama to define the election not as a referendum on him but as a choice between his vision and that of his eventual Republican rival.

Mr. Obama’s third State of the Union address is widely seen in parallel with the one delivered in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton likewise was seeking re-election, after voters in the midterm elections had put Republicans in power in Congress as a rebuke to his perceived big-government liberalism.

But Mr. Clinton sought to co-opt Republicans’ small-government message; his State of the Union line “the era of big government is over” is among the most memorable of his presidency. Mr. Obama is confronting them instead, and framing the election-year debate in a way that aides say will challenge Republicans’ support for unfettered American markets and “you’re-on-your-own economics,” as he put it in December in Osawatomie, Kan., in a speech that was a prelude for Tuesday’s address.

Advisers and other people familiar with the speech say Mr. Obama will expand again on the administration’s effort to resolve the housing crisis with both carrots and sticks to lenders dealing with homeowners behind on their mortgage payments — after yet another debate between his economic and political advisers.

The political team has long argued that most Americans oppose bold government action to stem home foreclosures, like forcing lenders to reduce borrowers’ principal, seeing it as rewarding those who had bought houses they could not afford. The economic team holds that until the housing market recovers, the broader economy cannot — and that all Americans suffer.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama will flesh out his populist message with new proposals to spur manufacturing, including tax breaks for companies that “insource” jobs back to the United States; to double-down on clean-energy incentives; and to improve education and job training initiatives, especially for the millions of long-term unemployed, the officials familiar with the speech said.

Mr. Obama is expected to harden his challenge to China to increase its currency’s value for fairer trade — addressing the one area in which Mr. Romney has struck a more populist chord that appeals to the working-class voters that Mr. Obama will need if he is to be re-elected. The Obama team still views Mr. Romney, despite his defeat in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, as the president’s most likely Republican challenger.

In the video preview, like one sent to supporters last year, Mr. Obama said he would call for “a return to American values of fairness for all and responsibility from all.”

To read more, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/us/politics/obama-to-draw-an-economic-line-in-state-of-union.html?_r=2&ref=politics

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