Making his sixth State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the US President, Barack Obama, will look straight past the routing of his party at last November’s midterm congressional elections and instead throw down the gauntlet to the Republican majority on raising taxes on the rich to help the middle class.
The speech will highlight a president seemingly unleashed by his lame-duck circumstances. He has nothing to lose electorally; his party is already reduced to minority status in both chambers of Congress.
While little of what the President will propose – $320bn (£210bn) in new taxes over 10 years to fund tax cuts for the middle class and new assistance for college tuition – is ever likely to win support in the current Congress, it may put Republicans on the defensive even in their honeymoon period about the best way to close the vast chasm between the super-rich in America and everyone else.
The White House believes it can win the debate on wage stagnation and the still-mediocre fortunes of most Americans. It also knows it is one that will carry into the next race for the White House. Mr Obama may be laying the groundwork for the campaign of his party’s next nominee, widely expected to be Hillary Clinton.
At the podium, the President may even cut a jaunty figure, emphasising recent progress on economic growth and joblessness. To mark his initiative on thawing relations with Cuba he has invited Alan Gross, the aid worker whose release by Cuba in December made the new bargain on re-establishing diplomatic relations possible.
Also watching alongside the First Lady, Michelle Obama, will be young Hispanics set to benefit directly from measures enacted unilaterally by Mr Obama – to the fury of Republicans – to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation, steps Mr Obama will say he was forced to take because of the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive reform on its own.
Mr Obama’s tax plan will call for a $320bn increase in tax revenue by increasing the capital-gains rate for couples earning $500,000 or over to 28 per cent from the current 23.8 per cent. He would close a so-called “trust-fund loophole” by forcing estates to pay capital gains on securities the moment they are inherited and he also envisages a new fee on large financial institutions.Reuse content