Washington: Declaring victory over vicious recession, US President Barack Obama today said the shadow of crisis has passed and the world's largest economy has turned the page on years of costly wars as he pledged economic policies to help the middle class and target the wealthy.
"Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis," Obama said in his prime-time State of the Union Address.
"But tonight, we turn the page," he said.
"With a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production ? we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.
"More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we've been in almost 30 years," he said.
"The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong," he said, adding its now up to Americans to choose what they we want to be over the next fifteen years.
"We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world," he said.
Obama argued that new policy proposals ? which include an ambitious plan to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and financial institutions to pay for progressive priorities ? favour the middle class, and that "middle-class economics works."
"And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don't get in the way," he said and threatened to veto any legislation that would challenge his key decisions.
"We can't slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can?t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unravelling the new rules on Wall Street, or re-fighting past battles on immigration when we?ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto," he warned.
The president called for tax reform that eliminates corporate-friendly loopholes, highlighted his earlier proposal for free community college.
"As Americans, we don't mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight.
"This year, we have an opportunity to change that. Let's close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America. Let's use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home," Obama said.
"We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together," said the US President.
Obama said more than half of manufacturing executives were actively looking at bringing jobs back from China.
"Let's give them one more reason to get it done," he said, adding 21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas.
"Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world's fastest-growing region," he said.
Asserting that 21st century businesses will rely on American science, technology, research and development, Obama said he wants the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine ? one that delivers the right treatment at the right time.
"We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage," he said.
"At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits.? Instead, we've seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years," he added.
Obama said he wants Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs.
"Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space.