Jan 28, 2010

Plenty of real straight talk in State of the Union speech

BRIGHTON -- President Obama hijacked the real “Straight Talk Express” Wednesday night in the first of eight State of the Union speeches.

Like many people, I attended a speech watching party, and I attended the party hosted by the Livingston County Democratic Party. The people in the crowded banquet room at Memories Lounge at times sat in rapt attention, cheered and laughed. The President not only delivered a great speech, but he talked off the cuff directly to the American people and Republicans, who are blocking everything in an attempt to regain power.

The president covered a wide variety of subjects, from the banking crisis to nuclear weapons. He pleaded for bipartisan action on the country’s pressing problems, but judging from the crowd shots of the Republicans and past history, their only concerns is just defeating the President at all costs.

He took banks to task for not lending to help stimulate the economy, even though they gladly took bailout money.

“Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis,“ he said. “It was not easy to do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, and everybody in between, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal.”

He also talked about his efforts that have begun to turn the economy around, and he did so with tax cuts to people who need it most and spend more.

“Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families,” he said to thunderous applause. “We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.”

But while he acknowledger the success of the Recovery Act, the President acknowledged how far we have to go to dig ourselves out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

“But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from,” he said. “That is why jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight.”

That’s something people here in Michigan are very interested in. Michigan Senate Democratic Leader Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, called for action today on state legislation that upholds the priorities outlined by President Obama in the last night’s speech.

“Following the President’s speech, it’s clear that certain core values resonate from the highest level of government on down to the state and even local level,” Prusi said. “Senate Democrats have placed an emphasis on these priorities and we have been fighting for Michigan’s middle class all along, and it's time to start moving legislation that can offer them real relief.”

That federal jobs bill will focus on small businesses and entrepreneurs where most of the jobs are created.

“So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat,” he said. “I'm also proposing a new small business tax credit -– one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages.”

Despite speculation that he will back off health care reform that is choking our economy, he renewed his effort to reform health care.

“Now, let's clear a few things up,“ Obama said. “I didn't choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics.

“I took on health care because of the stories I've heard from Americans with preexisting conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage; patients who've been denied coverage; families –- even those with insurance -– who are just one illness away from financial ruin,” he said.

He also asked for some real bipartisanship and said Americans are sick of the constant fighting. The President acknowledge there will always be differences between the two parties, but he said the parties must get together to address the problems.

“But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day,” he said. “We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win.”

He left people with some of the inspirational words that led so many people to vote for the first time ever in 2008.

“We don't quit. I don't quit,“ he said “Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.”

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