U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to the country Tuesday night in the annual State of the Union address, an assessment of the nation's biggest issues, and a presentation that is usually draped heavily in rhetoric.
Before the speech, many analysts were afraid President Obama would make broad optimistic statements – while offering no concrete plans for improvement.
White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett said Tuesday morning that one of President Obama's main messages would be to highlight the new "bipartisan spirit" in Washington.
"Tonight's speech is all about winning for the future," Jarrett said in an interview with ABC News. "That's a bipartisan message, it's something everyone can get around."
But with a 9.4% unemployment rate, a $1.3 trillion budget deficit, and federal borrowing estimated to hit the debt limit of $14.3 trillion as early as March 31, most Americans wanted to hear how and when the country's economic outlook would improve.
"As he lays out our economic challenges, he needs to connect them with a set of goals that working Americans feel they will have the opportunity to participate in," Sarah Rosen Wartell, a former domestic policy adviser to the Clinton administration, told Yahoo! News.
Those economic challenges Americans wanted answers on include tax reform, job growth and budget issues. And many were concerned President Obama wouldn't adequately address the need to rein in spending.
"He has got to acknowledge that trillion dollar deficits are a concern…and he needs specific proposals that are credible," David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general, told Reuters.
Jarrett said the president would speak on the country's record debt, but hinted that he would not fully abandon spending, but instead ensure it is "strategic."
"The message that's so important is that we do have to tighten our belts," said Jarrett. "But we also don't want to walk away from investments that are going to build and grow our economy. Ultimately, the private sector is the engine. That's what's going to fuel the economy and create the jobs of the future. And so what we don't want to do is anything that's going to have a chilling impact on that."
Speaking before the speech, critics said they wanted to know how President Obama would find a balance between belt-tightening and needed new investment outlays. Republicans have criticized President Obama's expansive use of the word "investment" – especially in cases where it's clearly a euphemism for "increased spending."
"I'm hopeful that the president has listened to the American people," said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio. "I'm hopeful that the word 'investment' really isn't more stimulus spending and a bigger government here in Washington."
This brings us to next week's Money Morning "Question of the Week": How would you rate U.S. President Barack Obama's 2011 State of the Union address? Did he adequately address economic issues? What parts of his speech did you agree or disagree with? Did he change the way you feel about the year to come? Are you more hopeful – or less hopeful – about the country's economic future?
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News and Related Story Links:
- ABC News:
State of the Union 2011
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- Money Morning News Archive:
Question of the Week Feature