Worthy News Staff
WASHINGTON D.C., USA (Worthy News) — Americans woke up Wednesday, February 25, after United States President Barack Obama urged them not to give up their dreams of a better life in his first speech to a joint session of Congress.
Yet, at Wall Street, U.S. stocks fell as investors stopped dreaming and instead focused on the harsh reality of gloomy home sales data, that weighed on the market.
Long-standing worries about recession and the fate of the banking sector persisted despite Obama’s speech to Congress on Tuesday night, February 24, sending shares of financial services companies, big manufacturers and energy companies lower, Reuters news agency reported.
Obama had tried to tell recession-weary Americans they can expect better days ahead, but admitted the road towards recovery wouldn’t been easy. Investors said his message lacked details and a clear road map.
His message appeared to have been well received by especially Democrats, but several Republicans questioned the price tag of his ambitions.
It was a night of pure political theater on Capitol Hill with lawmakers cramming around the aisles of the House chamber, as President Obama slowly made his way to the podium to address Congress and the nation.
“I’ve come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here,” Obama added.
Without mentioning his predecessor George W. Bush, he stressed “America’s day of reckoning has arrived,” after what he described as bad economic policies. “We have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter and the next election,” he added.
But he the president said the United States would rebound, and stressed the economic crisis, though severe, must not determine the nation’s destiny. “While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: we will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States will emerge stronger than before,” he said.
President Obama added that the stimulus plan he signed last week is a first step. But he said it is not enough – citing the need for further action in the areas of health care, energy and education.
He acknowledged money is tight, and tough decisions lie ahead, but he stressed key priorities can be funded, if ineffective programs are cut. Obama said his administration has already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade – from agriculture to defense.
NO BID CONTRACTS
“We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use,” he explained.
But the president said his new budget will make an increased investment in military manpower – increasing the number of soldiers and Marines. And while the primary thrust of his speech was the economy, he paused briefly to speak about overcoming a deficit of trust abroad.
He reaffirmed his determination to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and said the United States does not torture.
“In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threat to this country alone, but the world cannot meet them without America,” he added.
Although the event had all the trappings of a State of the Nation Address, Obama chose to forgo the detailed status report on policies and programs. Like many new presidents, his first speech before Congress had a more narrow focus and was simply called a speech to the nation.
Not everyone was impressed. Republicans Bobby Jindal, the popular young governor of the state of Louisiana, expressed Republican’s concerns that Obama’s plans would saddle future generations with debt. “Where we agree, Republicans must be the president’s strongest partners,” he said. “And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.”
Jindal is considered a rising star in his party and a potential presidential nominee in 2012. He is the son of immigrants from India, and like the president, he is part of a new generation that is literally changing the face of American politics.
Yet presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said he was struck by “the number of standing ovations” that Obama received involving Democrats and Republicans.
In published remarks, Gibbs said that in previous years the reaction of Republicans and Democrats at such a speech looked like two kids on a seesaw: when one stood up, the other sat down. He noted that at Obama’s speech, members of both parties stood at the same time on virtually every “broad measure” that Obama proposed. (With reporting from Washington. The Voice of America network contributed to this report).