Q+A: How does Obama 2010 speech compare to 2009 address?

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union address on Wednesday.

The speech came amid a public backlash against high unemployment, rising government spending and Washington’s role in shoring up ailing sectors like the banking and automotive industries — initiatives that began during Republican George W. Bush’s presidency and were continued by Democrat Obama.

But Democrats, who hold the White House and both chambers of Congress, are being blamed for the weak economy and the bailouts.

Nearly a year ago, Obama gave his first speech to Congress shortly after he took office. Here are some of the similarities and differences between the two events:

* HAVE OBAMA’S PRIORITIES CHANGED?

Not really. Job creation, healthcare reform and tackling energy and environmental problems were all high priorities in early 2009 and they dominated this year’s address.

A year ago, Obama proclaimed that his economic agenda “begins with jobs.” A year later and with about 2.2 million more jobs lost, Obama said: “Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010” as he called for passage of a jobs bill.

Last year, Obama urged Congress to launch healthcare reform, but he acknowledged the difficult path. “I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process,” he said.

That turned out to be an understatement. This time around, Obama finds himself in the middle of a bruising fight with Republicans that threatens passage of any bill. Without reform, Obama said on Wednesday, millions will lose their health insurance this year.

“I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber,” he told lawmakers. But he didn’t offer a recipe for breaking the deadlock.

On the energy front, Obama talked up the need for more renewables, like solar power last year. But he said Congress also must send him legislation placing “a market-based cap on carbon pollution,” the emissions blamed for global warming.

As with healthcare, a climate change bill is languishing in Congress. This year’s speech again called for a “comprehensive energy and climate bill.” But in a shift, he didn’t specifically mention the market-based emissions cap that has become so controversial in Congress. In a nod to Republicans, Obama included new offshore oil drilling as possibly being in the energy mix, as well as more nuclear power.

* ARE THERE NEW WHITE HOUSE INITIATIVES?

Obama said he would create a commission to find ways to reduce the federal government’s huge budget deficits, which hit $1.4 trillion last year. For now, his budget prescription is a three-year freeze on some domestic spending.

On tax policy, Obama said he will try to kill tax cuts for oil companies and fund managers making more than $250,000.

He also asked Congress to send him legislation limiting lobbyists’ political campaign contributions. This is partially in reaction to the recent Supreme Court decision lifting some limits on corporations’ election activities.

The president called for repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning openly gay people from serving in the military, while prohibiting military officials from initiating inquiries on sexual orientation when soldiers are abiding by the rules. Obama ran for president in 2008 saying he would end the policy started by President Bill Clinton.

* IS THE TONE DIFFERENT?

Last year, Obama’s speech was part pep talk to a country in the depths of an economic recession and part primer, explaining how the United States had gotten into such a fiscal and economic mess. But he also called on the country to “pull together” after years of bickering.

This year, with partisanship once again at an all-time high and public anger with Washington at fever pitch, Obama again made a concerted plea for a get-down-to-work effort. “What the American people hope — what they deserve — is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics.”

* WAS THERE A NEW FASHION STATEMENT?

Obama delivered the 70-minute long speech (compared to last year’s 52 minutes) wearing a white shirt and red-striped “power” tie — just like last year.

Stock Analysis

Q+A: How does Obama 2010 speech compare to 2009 address?