From NPR's David Welna:
Obama’s assertion that “for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged” overlooks the phenomenal growth in income for the top one-tenth of one percent of U.S. households. According to Berkeley economists Pickety and Saenz, their income rose 94% over the last decade, with the share of national income rising from 7.3% in 2002 to 12.3% in 2007.
While the president agreed with Republicans who say deficit reduction is necessary, he did not point out that the Treasury actually ran a $3 billion surplus last month, thanks largely to greater Social Security revenues because of the lapse of the 2-year reduced payroll tax holiday. Nor did he note that this fiscal year’s deficit is now projected to be at least $150 billion lower than previously projected.
As for reaching $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade, Obama says $2.5 trillion has already been cut from projected spending (although most of that cutting is to occur in coming years); the rest, he says, can come from closing tax loopholes and decuctions for the well-off. But the Congressional Research Service estimates that, because so many loopholes and deductions are popular and benefit taxpayers at many levels, only $100-150 billion of the $1.1 trillion of annual tax expenditures can be realistically found. That might come close to reaching the $4 trillion overall deficit reduction goal, but it also assumes that strong GOP resistance to any revenue increases can be overcome.
Without mentioning drones or his administration's targeted killing program, which have taken center stage the past week as Obama's secretary of defense nominee, Chuck Hagel, went through hearings, Obama defends his record on this issue.
He said: "That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we're doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world."
Well, that's interesting. I believe he decided to skip mentioning North Korea after all. The prepared text included a reference, but in the speech he delivered President Obama there wasn't one...
From NPR's Michele Kelemen:
On Foreign Policy, President Obama announced he would be traveling to the Middle East next month, where he will “stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.” This would be his first trip to Israel since becoming President.
He didn’t dwell much on that, however, focusing his attention more on ending US military engagements in the Muslim world. He announced that at the end of next year another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. He says Al Qaeda is a “shadow of its former self,” but warns there are Al Qaeda affiliates and other extremist groups emerging from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. “To meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali,” he says. The US has offered training and logistical help to African troops in Mali and has been sharing intelligence with France, which invaded Mali after Islamists in the North started moving toward the capital, Bamako.
In other announcements, President Obama says he will launch free trade talks with the European Union and seek to negotiate with Russia on further reductions in nuclear arsenals. He argued that the US ability to influence others, including Iran and North Korea, “depends on our willingness to lead” in arms control.