State of the Union to Offer a ‘Blueprint’ for the Economy

Daily News Article   —   Posted on January 24, 2012

(by Jessica Yellin, Washington — President Barack Obama will use Tuesday’s State of the Union address to frame the message of his re-election campaign.

It will lay out…a theme he’s been repeating recently about economic inequality and a government that should ensure “a fair shake” for all.

Democratic sources briefed on the draft speech say it will describe a “blueprint for an economy that’s built to last.”

That blueprint will focus on manufacturing, energy, education and middle-class values, according to a video released on the Obama’s campaign website and Democratic sources who have been briefed on the address.

Given the [terrible] state of the economy, the president’s campaign aides are attempting to make the theme of the upcoming election a choice about the role of government and the future of the middle class — not a referendum on the president’s handling of the economy. They say this speech and it’s underlying theme — income inequality — go a long way to shaping that message.

The president will continue to challenge Congress over the ongoing gridlock that blocked most elements of his jobs bill and embroiled Washington in a debt fight last summer. One democratic official says the president will offer to work with Congress if Congress agrees to work with him — but [says] that his tone will not differ significantly from the approach he’s taken in recent months when he’s attacked Republicans in Congress for [refusing to vote for the policies he has proposed].

The speech will build on a notion the president laid out [in a speech] in Kansas last month — that in today’s economy the game has been rigged against the nation’s middle class. He will say he wants to return to the “values” that define America, where hard work pays off and where responsibility — not recklessness — is rewarded.

In [the] December 6 address in Osawatomie, Kansas, Obama described stark differences between a Republican ideology he described as leaving people to fend for themselves and his vision of government that helps provide equal opportunity for all Americans….

Democratic sources told CNN Sunday that the bullet points of Obama’s blueprint will focus on American manufacturing, including “insourcing” — or bringing back jobs from overseas. The sources say he’ll argue that during his term, the United States has seen the manufacturing industry grow for the first time in 15 years — especially in the auto industry that he helped with bailout funds.

Under the topic of energy, the president will stress alternative energy and energy independence from unfriendly nations. He’ll also tout his record of doubling fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

The address will include new proposals to prepare American workers and students for the jobs of the future. Obama will also suggest job training for the long-term unemployed and veterans, the sources said. He’ll also highlight his record of expanding Pell grants for college students.

Throughout his speech, the president will [include] an emphasis on what his administration calls middle-class values and that this is a make-or-break moment for that segment of American society, likely putting it into stark terms, according to the sources. He’ll suggest that the United States has a choice to either become a place where only the wealthy succeed, or it can level the playing field and give everyone an opportunity.

“They’re big ideas, because we’ve got to meet the moment, and this speech is going to be about how we do it,” the president’s preview video released over the weekend said.

“We can go in two directions,” Obama said. “One is toward less opportunity and less fairness. Or we can fight for where I think we need to go — building an economy that works for everyone.”

Democratic sources tell CNN the draft version of the speech will also propose a task force to monitor and enforce trade rules with China, tough language on Iran, and seek to put the president’s foreign policy actions and vision in context.

The day after the speech the president will begin a three-day swing to states that are expected to be battlegrounds in the upcoming election.

(CNN’s Ed Payne contributed to this report.)

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"The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."  US Constitution Article II, Section 3

  • The State of the Union is an annual address presented by the President to the United States Congress. The address not only reports on the condition of the nation but also allows the president to outline his legislative agenda (for which he needs the cooperation of Congress) and his national priorities.
  • By tradition, the President makes this report annually.

  • While not required to deliver a speech, every president since Woodrow Wilson has made the State of the Union report as a speech delivered before a joint session of Congress. Before that time, most presidents delivered the State of the Union as a written report.

  • Since Wilson, the State of the Union is given typically each January before a joint session of the United States Congress and is held in the House of Representatives chamber of the United States Capitol.

  • George Washington gave the first state of the union address on January 8, 1790 at the Federal Hall in New York City.

  • Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third president, did not continue this practice. In 1801, Jefferson detailed his priorities and sent written copies of his message to each house of Congress. Jefferson "was concerned that the practice of appearing before the representatives of the people was too similar to the British monarch's ritual of addressing the opening of each new Parliament with a list of policy mandates, rather than 'recommendations.'"

  • For the next 112 years, the President's annual message was written, not spoken.

  • In the 20th Century, the oral address was revived, first with Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Like Washington, he spoke to both Houses of Congress. Ten years later, Calvin Coolidge broadcast his address on radio.

  • Franklin D Roosevelt called the speech the "State of the Union" in 1935. In 1947, Harry Truman, FDR's vice president - who succeeded him as President, was the first to broadcast his State of the Union address on television.

  • Since 1966, the State of the Union address has been followed by a response from a member of the opposition party.