State of the Union to focus on jobs, wages and the economy
February 10th, 2013
03:12 PM ET
1 year ago

State of the Union to focus on jobs, wages and the economy

Washington (CNN) – When President Barack Obama delivers the first State of the Union address of his second term Tuesday, he'll return to the topic that's proven to be the most lasting dilemma of his presidency: jobs and the economy.

Administration officials describe the State of the Union as part of a "two-act play," where the "inaugural carries the vision and themes of the second term, and the State of the Union puts meat on the bones" with policy.

Watch CNN's comprehensive coverage of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address starting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on CNN TV and follow online at CNN.com or via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Follow our real-time State of the Union live blog at cnn.com/conversation.


While the president laid out social issues such as immigration, gun control and gay rights as key priorities for his second term during his inauguration address, the issue of the economy - and the millions of Americans still out of work - will remain his focus during the State of the Union, according to multiple administration officials.

Obama will outline new policies to create more jobs, help Americans get better wages and improve the health of the economy, the officials said, while also including proposals for new investment in clean energy, infrastructure, manufacturing and education.

The officials said the speech will lay out a roadmap for "expanding opportunity for the middle class" and ensuring prosperity reaches more Americans.

That largely mirrors what Obama has spoken about during his previous State of the Union addresses, a reflection of the persistent concern many Americans have with the state of the economy. Public opinion polls show jobs and the economy continue to be Americans' No. 1 issue, and last year's presidential election was largely focused on the country's financial health.

Although unemployment is down since Obama first took office in 2009, the current rate of 7.9% is higher than either the White House or Republicans deem acceptable. Many Americans have also stopped looking for work altogether.

When he first addressed Congress in 2009, Obama said "the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others," and he'll note that though the country is not in crisis, the economy is still fragile. He'll warn members of Congress that ongoing battles over debt and spending threaten to derail the country’s economic growth, an admonition that he has voiced previously.

He'll also call for tax reform and push for a "big deal" on reducing the federal debt, meaning a plan that balances cuts and revenue. That echoes what he told House Democrats at their retreat earlier this week, when he said he was "prepared, eager and anxious to do a big deal, a big package that ends this governance by crisis where every two weeks or every two months or every six months we are threatening this hard-won recovery."

The focus on the economy comes as major legislation looms on gun control and comprehensive immigration reform, two topics that Obama discussed in his inauguration address but that didn't play large roles during his first term.

One official who asked not to be named said that during his State of the Union, the president will not be confrontational with Republicans on immigration.

Obama will note that bipartisan cooperation has already begun on immigration, the official said, referring to panels of Republican and Democratic lawmakers that have huddled to develop a framework for reforming the country's immigration system. He'll encourage more of that cooperation, the official said.

And on guns, the president will renew his support for the proposals he's already endorsed - including a ban on military-style assault weapons and bolstering background checks - and will call for quick action on passing those measures through Congress.

Because the president has already laid out the details of his guns proposal and is letting Congress present legislation first on immigration, the official said not to expect Obama to break new ground in these areas during his speech Tuesday.

While administration officials say the president won't spend as much time on foreign policy Tuesday as he does on the economy, that isn't unusual. In his last four addresses to Congress, this president spent an average of seven minutes on foreign policy and an average 22 minutes on the economy, according to analyses from the Washington Post and National Journal.

He will address the ongoing drawdown of the American military presence in Afghanistan, and last week Vice President Joe Biden indicated at a security conference in Munich that Obama could talk about his commitment to reducing the stockpile of nuclear weapons around the world.

"It will reflect our shared interests in the following areas: advancing a comprehensive nuclear agenda to strengthen the nonproliferation regime, reduce global stockpiles and secure nuclear materials," Biden said.

Confirmation hearings for Obama's nominees to become defense secretary and CIA director have also raised issues that appear to demand the president's acknowledgment, including how to keep the country safe with pending budget cuts at the Department of Defense, flashpoints in the Middle East and new war technologies, namely drones.

Aides say he will touch on many of those issues.

Cody Keenan is running the speechwriting process. Keenan, a Massachusetts native who also worked for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, will take over from Jon Favreau as Obama's chief speechwriter at the end of the month. Among the speeches he has worked on in the past are eulogies for Kennedy, the victims of the Arizona shooting that injured former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Republicans are already criticizing the president for asserting he’s pivoting to focus on jobs. On Sunday the conservative super PAC American Crossroads sent reporters a video splicing together administration officials talking about turning to economic recovery and job growth - a video they first released before the president proposed the American Jobs Act in 2011.

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Gurgyl

    While unemployment is so rampant we are bringing a whole lot of foreigners into this nation is so PATHETIC. Tighten immigration system. Unemployment rate is the biggest problem now this nation is encountering. Better fix it and reduce the number of immigrations. God bless!!!

    February 10, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  2. Larry L

    Each time one of the Tea Party members from the from the House of Representatives says something disrespectful to the President I will send an on-line donation to the Democratic Party. The Koch brothers fund those America-hating extremeists but we need mature leaders rather than fearful, conspiracy-based, white trash. No more obstruction!

    February 10, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    President Obama got his priorities right, jobs and economy. Putting people back to work will only strengthen the economy. Businesses will sell more goods and services because people will have more money to spend. It is time for the poor and middle classes to recover from this recession. Republican obsession with deficit reduction will result in the loss of jobs and jeopardize the economic recovery . Budget deficits should be addressed after the recession is ended.

    February 10, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  4. Pete from MN

    Obama and the Democrats have done well creating more jobs. Since most hourly jobs will now be limited to 29 hours a week because of ObamaCare, there will be more part-time hourly jobs. Instead of working one and not having enough money, you'll now have to work 2 of them. Too bad you can't afford the gas to drive to your other job.

    February 10, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. BeverlyNC

    And the usual disrespectful, traitorous Republicans will refuse to attend and still refuse to pass any legislation to help the nation, the People or fufill the promise made of Medicare, Social Security, and care for the best interests of the PEOPLE over corporations, extremist groups, billionaire puppetmasters, and their own greed.
    It's past time to remove these betraying Republicans from office so the work of the People can finally be done, laws can be passed to restore the nation, and the extremists and their destruction of our rights as workers, women, and even as voters can be removed with them. There is NO "re-branding" of the Republican Party. It is a great lie – to speak the same hate with different nicer words yet still cling to the same backwards bigoted views and exclusion of most Americans.

    February 10, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  6. bigtbone

    Here's the rebuttal from the gop: whatever he said, it's wrong.

    Why? Cuz we say so.

    February 10, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  7. DJ

    There is no reason or need for gay rights or so called gay marriage but, there is a need for religious freedom and the preservation of the family in America.

    This county has disenagrated in it's moral charactor and financial stability because of these social evils.

    Those that want to be gay and have gay relationships are free to do so, but marriage has always been and should be reserved between 1 man and 1 woman, for the purpose of creating and preserving families. Anything else is unatural and imoral.

    LGBT do not need any special rights, they are not a race or religon to be discriminated against. They have the same rights of protection as does any other citizen in America.

    Those that are are being discriminated against are the ones that speak out against this imorality of nature, and unatural marriages. It is time for Americans to stand up and be heard about what is right and wrong in this country, and quit allowing a minority of people to dictate to everyone else their distorted view of marriage and political correctness!

    February 10, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  8. dscon

    rebuttal from socialist's...............
    whatever he said, it's wrong.

    February 10, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  9. justfakinit

    probably will focus on how much we all need to open our checkbooks, our sons/daughters checkbooks, their sons/daughters checkbooks.. and so on and so and so on... Another big money grab from the king of money grabs.....
    At least we have the house to shut this fool down

    February 10, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  10. Larry L

    We make the mistake of thinking the Tea Party members CARE if they force us back into another recession. It's important to note many of these same people have signed petitions to secede from the United States. Here in Texas many of them refuse to fly the American flag – flying the Texas flag in it's place. Think they care about America?

    February 10, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  11. Say it ain't so

    It'll focus on how to lie to the american people by making promises for the next four years which will never be kept.

    February 10, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  12. cd

    My goodness for a group that can't fill a room full of Taxes so they have to RIP-off the r!ch to pay for there idea's and "living expense" you seem to be pretty loud for NO more than you PAY.

    February 10, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  13. BlueAlliance

    Why does the media give Lindsay Graham air time on Sunday morning shows? He is a sore loser and wants to destroy Obama at any cost. His bitterness and resentment is transparent. Why coddle him? I am through watchiing sunday morning shows because of his and John McCain's anger. Enough already!

    February 10, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  14. belinda

    This will never happen as long as the tea party continues to lead the GOP down the path of obstructionism. People are sick and tired of the same old rhetoric. Garbage. They don't care about American families, it's still the same and only goal for the (do nothing) Congress and that's to continue to bring the President down any and every way they can . Americans are suffering and Republicans are not listening. They don't care , they're covered (health) Their kids education, they will get the best (degrees) They are laughing at us behind our backs. Vote out the tea party in 2014.

    February 10, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  15. belinda

    The tea party led GOP is destroying our Country.

    February 10, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  16. rs

    I think first and foremost the President of the United States needs to call out anti-American obstructionists- Lindsey Graham in particular who wring their hands with false concern about every American death abroad, but somehow feel leaving the positions of Secretary of Defense, or the Head of the CIA open just for his own posturing. Does Graham think that this activity doesn't hold potential disaster? I am sure that is exactly what he is hoping for.
    Wake up Americans- there is a treasonous party in our midst.

    February 10, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  17. Ancient Texan

    As usual, Obama will spend a lot of verbage insulting the loyal opposition, then say that he's ready to work with them for a "compromise".

    February 10, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  18. marty

    And which "honorable" Republican congressman will grace the airwaves with an insolent outburst during the President's SOTU speech, looking for the Party's farcical award of the year plus fifteen minutes of fame?

    February 10, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  19. 1Joyce

    To Pete from MN: You're so right about what the healthcare bill will do to jobs, You forgot to mention how many will NOT be able to keep their health insurance (as the President promised), since the way they wrote the bill allows employers to pay a FINE (which will be less than the cost of insuring their employers). And don't forget the healthcare premiums going UP (our premiums are over 2 times higher than last year). Yep – this President is truly for the middle class! (sarcasm intended).

    February 10, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  20. Ind.

    He's been talking about jobs for 4 years and added to the debt $6 trillion..

    Demcorats are truly proud if this fact.

    February 10, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  21. Name lynn

    What about the jobs, we need the wages to go up higher. And dont cut the budgets where the poor people cant make it. We have families as well as the white house leaders an boehner does.

    February 10, 2013 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  22. Hiram Davis

    Bigfoot will be consulted before any orders pertaining to food will be considered.

    February 11, 2013 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  23. Getoverit

    Blah blah blah. More campaign rhetoric from the empty suit.

    February 11, 2013 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  24. Washington Is Out Of Touch with reality

    I'm willing to bet that obama wont mention jobs or the economy, but it will be about guns, taxes and give him more power, he wants to be king or dictator

    February 11, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |