Obama to say US turning the page on `vicious recession`

President Barack Obama will draw a line under years of economic hardship during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, directly challenging his Republican foes to help the middle class.

Washington: President Barack Obama will draw a line under years of economic hardship during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, directly challenging his Republican foes to help the middle class.

Facing a hostile Republican-controlled Congress, an emboldened Obama will declare that the United States is ready to "turn the page" on difficult years that have also taken a toll on his political standing.

"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 will say, according to excerpts.

"It has been, and still is, a hard time for many. But tonight, we turn the page."

Obama is to herald a "growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production" that has also helped revive his political fortunes.

"We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It`s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come."

Teeing up coming legislative and election battles, Obama will also make a populist plea for the middle class, daring Republicans to oppose his proposed tax hikes for the rich. 

"Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?" he is to ask.

Obama`s Republican opponents brand such talk as little more than class warfare and will use their majority in both houses of Congress to make sure the plans never become law.

"The American people aren`t demanding talking-point proposals designed to excite the base but not designed to pass," top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

Under Obama`s reforms, extra taxes on capital gains targeting just the wealthiest 0.1 percent of people -- those earning more than $2 million per year -- would generate 80 percent of new revenue. 
This will be Obama`s first State of the Union address since Democrats lost control of the Senate in November mid-term elections.

But Obama has been fortified by faster economic growth, strong polling and a string of political victories.

A recent ABC/Washington Post poll saw Obama`s approval rating increase nine points to 50 percent, while 44 percent thought he was doing a bad job, a 10-point drop in disapproval.

That is largely thanks to the improving economy. 

Unemployment has dropped below six percent, the stock market is back near record levels, growth is at its highest in 11 years and gas prices have plummeted for motorists.

Tuesday`s address foreshadows the battles to come both in Congress and on the campaign trail, as Republican and Democrat hopefuls limber up for the battle to replace Obama in 2016 elections.

In recent months, Obama has used his executive authority -- opponents would argue stretched it to the limit -- to circumvent Republican opposition, imposing and opposing some policies by decree. 

The new Congress has made one of its first priorities to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, an idea Obama has said he will veto out of hand if experts say it will damage the environment.

On the foreign policy front, he has announced moves to normalize relations with Cuba and pushed on with talks with Iran on its disputed nuclear program, in defiance of conservatives.

Polls suggest Americans support the Cuban outreach and Obama will hammer home his advantage by inviting newly freed US citizen Alan Gross, a former prisoner in Cuba, to the speech.

Republicans have countered by inviting Rosa Maria Paya, the daughter of late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, to underscore Cuba`s poor human rights record.

The State of the Union falls the day before US envoys begin new talks in Havana on restoring ties, and Obama will push Congress to end the trade embargo.

Obama was also to call on Congress to authorize the use of force against the Islamic State jihadist group.

"In Iraq and Syria, American leadership - including our military power - is stopping ISIL`s advance."

"This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed." 

Obama will also challenge Congress to pass measures to combat cyber-attacks.

"No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids."