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Obama declares 'America is back'

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 2/15/2012, 7:15 p.m.
Obama declares 'America is back'

For a little more than an hour Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama delivered a State of the Union speech that began and ended with military metaphors. Between referencing the end of the war in Iraq and the elimination of Osama bin Laden on the one hand and the camaraderie of the Navy SEALS on the other, he touched on all the critical issues while aggressively launching his re-election campaign.

After noting that the "state of our union is getting stronger," Obama went directly to one of the reasons there is some sign of economic recovery. "Today," he said, "General Motors is back on top as the world's number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs."

This would have been a perfect opportunity for the camera to focus on Alicia Boler-Davis, a manager at a General Motors assembly plant in Detroit and the only African-American sitting with the first lady.

Obama stressed that what's happening in Detroit "can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh." Citing these cities was not a random selection-they are located in battleground states critical to his winning the election.

Inextricably connected to manufacturing is a tax code that favors companies that outsource jobs. Obama promised to change this. "First, if you're a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn't get a tax deduction for doing it. That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring jobs home," he explained. "Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax, and every penny should go toward lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here."

Also seated near the first lady was Debbie Bosanek, Warren Buffett's secretary, and when the president mentioned the billionaire, the camera captured her smiling in reaction. "Right now," he said, "Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?"

These comments could have been aimed at Mitt Romney, his presumed opponent in November who recently revealed that he paid about 14 percent in tax on the more than $20 million he earned last year.

And perhaps there was a nod to Newt Gingrich as well when Obama proposed new regulations to curb the influence of lobbyists. Last week, Gingrich admitted he had been paid $1.6 million for advice he gave to Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant.

Among the several proposals planned to enact was the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit charged with the task of investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China. "There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders," he promised. "And this Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing finance or new markets like Russia. Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you, America will always win."