Barack Obama's aggressively liberal State of the Union address was Wednesday's top New York Times story: 'Obama Sets Goal Of Economy Built For The Long Run – Characterizes His Vision as an America 'Where Everyone Gets a Fair Shot.''
Reporter Helene Cooper credited Obama for helping to save the auto industry and pointed out the GOP's 'own poll numbers' were 'diving,' but without noting Obama's own lousy numbers. As of Wednesday afternoon, Obama's presidential job approval numbers were underwater in Gallup's daily poll, with 49% of respondents disapproving of his job compared to 43% who approved.
Cooper also took Obama's lead in suggesting his Warren Buffett-bolstered message that the rich are undertaxed was vindicated by the tax returns recently released by Mitt Romney.
President Obama pledged on Tuesday night to use government power to balance the scale between America's rich and the rest of the public, trying to present an election-year choice between continued leadership toward an economy 'built to last' and what he called irresponsible policies of the past that caused an economic collapse.
Declaring that 'we've come too far to turn back now,' the president used his final State of the Union address before he faces the voters to showcase the extent to which he will try to contrast his core economic principles with those of his Republican rivals in a time of deep economic uncertainty. While many Americans remain disappointed with the state of the economy and the president's handling of it, Mr. Obama nonetheless tried to bring into relief the difference between where the country was when he took over and where it is now.
'The state of our union is getting stronger,' he declared in time-honored tradition. 'In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs.' He pointed to renewed hiring by American manufacturers and - borrowing the 'built to last' phrase from the auto industry he helped save - he sketched out, albeit vaguely, what he called a blueprint for economic growth in which the wealthy play by the same rules as ordinary Americans.
Republicans challenged Mr. Obama's assessment of the economy, and asserted that his policies had made the situation worse. But with their own poll numbers diving, Congressional Republicans were subdued in their response to the speech, careful not to boo or seem disrespectful. And the president disputed their claim that he was practicing the politics of division.
Mr. Obama again proposed changes to the tax code so the wealthy pay more, a position he has indicated he will continue to press in this election year against Republican opposition. He called for Congress to put into place his 'Buffett Rule' - named after the Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren E. Buffett - whereby people making more than $1 million a year would pay a minimum effective tax rate of at least 30 percent in income taxes.
To illustrate his point, he provocatively used Mr. Buffett's secretary, Debbie Bosanek, as one of his props, seating Ms. Bosanek - whose effective tax rate is higher than Mr. Buffett's, he has said - in the chamber with the first lady, Michelle Obama.
Mr. Obama's income tax proposal on Tuesday night was particularly charged, coming as it did less than 24 hours after Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, released tax returns showing that he and his wife, Ann, had an effective federal income tax rate in 2010 of 13.9 percent and an income ranking among the top one-10th of 1 percent of all taxpayers in 2010.