In contrast to his inaugural address, President Obama’s State of the Union speech will focus primarily on jobs and the economy, outlining new initiatives on manufacturing, education, clean energy and infrastructure.
He will elaborate on the big themes of the inaugural — immigration, gun violence and climate change — but a top White House official tells me the State of the Union will have a “heavy economic focus,” specifically on “the middle class as the driver of economic growth.”
To drive home the point that the president sees jobs and the economy as his number one priority, the president’s travel after the speech will be used to promote his new economic initiatives.
The new initiatives will entail new federal spending, but the spending will be off-set by reductions elsewhere in the federal budget. In terms of cost, these initiatives will be relatively modest: the days of big economic stimulus programs are over.
The president will use his speech to warn Congress to avoid automatic spending cuts — the dreaded “sequester” — scheduled to go into effect on March 1. The across-the-board cuts, the president will warn, would jeopardize the economic recovery and endanger national security.
But the president will also make what the official called “a progressive case for deficit reduction” — warning that if entitlement spending is not brought under control it will crowd out spending on other social programs that progressives hold dear.