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Obama's State of the Union long on US greatness, short on austerity

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“Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the space race,” the president continued. “And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology, an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

Obama also focused on investment in education and infrastructure as essential for the US not just to remain competitive in the global marketplace, but also to “win” – to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”

The president followed immediately with a call to “take responsibility for our deficit,” and later laid out budget proposals, including a five-year freeze on all nondefense spending outside Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and cuts in defense spending ($78 billion over five years, as laid out separately from the speech).

Obama was seeking to counter a Republican move to drive through deeper budget cuts, and with Republicans now in control of the House and its committees, they have a bigger platform from which promote their point of view.

But deficit hawks were quick to point out that neither Obama nor the Republicans, in their response to his State of the Union, got into specifics over what exactly they would cut. Obama’s proposed cuts barely make a dent in the trillion-plus-dollar deficit. The five-year freeze on discretionary spending would bring just $400 billion in savings over 10 years. The White House itself hinted at its smallness, by calling it a “down payment” toward reducing the deficit.

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