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Obama State of the Union 2011: US must 'win the future' through innovation

In the Obama State of the Union 2011 address Tuesday, the president says innovation and education should be at the center of efforts to strengthen the American economy.

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As he looked out at the lawmakers assembled in the House chamber, Obama saw many pairs of Republican and Democratic lawmakers sitting together – a symbol of a new bipartisanship, perhaps, or at least a new respect for the folks on the other side of the aisle.

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“What comes of this moment is up to us,” said Obama. “What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.”

Not all was bipartisan harmony, of course. Republicans rejected Obama’s call for a burst of investment in education, high-tech research, and high-speed rail, and other infrastructure projects as unsustainable spending increases at a time of record deficits.

At odds over the deficit

The Republican chosen to give the official State of the Union response, House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, said that “the days of business as usual must come to an end.... Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.”

Obama did propose a five-year freeze on domestic spending, including the Pentagon, which would save some $400 billion over the next decade. But annual domestic spending only represents about 12 percent of the budget, said Obama. He added that getting federal spending under control means reducing spending on Medicare and Medicaid, which are the biggest contributors to the longterm deficit – and then pivoted to a defense of his health-care reform bill.

Repealing health-care reform – which the House has already voted to do – would “add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit” said Obama, citing a Congressional Budget Office estimate.

Though State of the Union addresses are often split almost evenly between domestic issues and foreign affairs, Obama’s speech Tuesday spent only about 20 percent of its words on overseas issues.

He appeared to end once and for all any speculation that a significant US military presence in Iraq will last beyond the end of this year. He repeated that this July the US will begin to bring troops home from Afghanistan. And he noted that recently the people of South Sudan, with US assistance, were able to vote for independence after years of war.

“We must never forget that the things we’re struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere,” said Obama.

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