President Barack Obama challenged Congress and the country to make a committment to create an economy that is "built to last" Tuesday night during his annual State of the Union address by taking aim at rising college costs, job outsourcing, risky mortgage lendors, Wall Street and trade violators.
Obama started off his speech by praising the accomplishments of America's armed forces, saying, "In a time when too many of our institutions have let us down they have exceeded all expectations. They work together. Imagine what we could caommplish if we followed their example."
The president focused on the areas the country has already made great strides, including the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq, the creation of more than 3 million jobs in the past two years, and shift to less reliance on foreign oil.
However, in order to move America forward, Obama pushed for legislation that would reward companies that bring more jobs back to America and replace tax deductions with taxes for those who choose to outsource.
Speaking to business owners, he amended President John F. Kennedy's most famous words, saying, "Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country."
He also announced the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit to investigate violations by countries such as China and a Mortgage Fraud Unit to look into risky mortgages.
Assuring every American can afford a college education and getting proper job training to put the unemployed back to work, were also areas Obama focused on.
On the education side, he also warned colleges to keep their tuitions from rising or lose public funding and challenged them to partner with companies to offer courses needed for today's jobs, especially in the areas of science and technology. He urged Congress to prevent the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July, and to renew tax credits for college and double work study opportunities.
He also garnered applause from many members in Congress when he suggested offering incentives and resources to schools to employ the best teachers, ones that do not simply "teach to the test," and remove ineffective ones. And he also proposed making all states require students stay in school until they turn 18 or graduate high school.
Obama also asked Congress to invest in clean energy rather than using public funds to subsidize oil companies, to bring relief to small businesses and to reform immigration law to keep prevent skilled immigrants, many who study at American universities and could contribute to the country's development, from being deported. Funding construction was another goal that Obama pushed for, saying he'll be signing an executive order this week to remove some of the red tape holding up these projects.
He said, "Take the money that we are no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt and the rest to do some naitonal bulding at home."
And lastly, he took on tax reform, saying that all Americans, especially the highest earners, should be paying their "fair share," atleast 30 percent for those making more than $1 million.
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