After a look at the need to encourage solid education and investment at home, Obama moved on to a pledge not to back away from clean energy, and he vowed that the United States wouldn’t get left behind on this by countries including China and Germany.
He rightly pointed to the need to upgrade much of the country’s infrastructure, whether it's roads and bridges, or broadband internet to rural America. He said that in the next few weeks he would sign an executive order “clearing the red tape” that is delaying construction projects. He also said the United States should take the money it is saving on war, use half that money to pay down the debt, and some of the rest to invest in upgrading infrastructure.
Another dig at Wall Street came with the warning to banks that “we will never bail you out again.” The issue of fairness came up again when Obama called for the creation of a special unit that will “hold accountable” those that broke the law for example over the selling of risky mortgages and other problems that he said contributed to the mortgage crisis. Continuing on this theme, the president pointed out that financier Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.
We need to change the tax code “so that people like me pay our fair share of taxes,” Obama said. He pointed to the so-called Buffett rule that those earning more than a million dollars each year shouldn’t pay less than a 30 percent tax rate. “Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense,” he argued.
Moving back to foreign policy, Obama said that from Pakistan to Yemen, al-Qaeda ranks are “scrambling, knowing they can’t escape the United States of America.” He went on to say that the United States, although drawing down forces, would work to ensure a strong partnership with Afghanistan.
More broadly, he said the United States would “stand for the dignity of all human beings.” He noted that on Iran, the regime is “more isolated than ever before, and the regime is faced with crippling sanctions.” The United States “will take no options off the table” to prevent a nuclear Iran he said. But he added that Iran could still “rejoin the community of nations” if it was willing to back down.
“We’ve made it clear that America is a Pacific power,” Obama noted. “America is back – anyone that tells you otherwise…doesn’t know what they are talking about.”
That isn’t how people feel from "Tokyo, to Berlin, to Cape Town to Rio….America remains the one nation that is indispensable to international affairs. And as long as I am president I intend to keep it that way.”
To round off the speech, he used the example of the unit that was sent in to kill Osama bin Laden, and the importance of teamwork over politics. Arguing that the United States “is great because we get each other’s back…No challenge is too great and no mission is too hard.”
It was a strong conclusion that now really takes the fight to the Republicans.