Want to reignite growth of middle class: Obama

Washington, Feb 13 (IANS) Four months after his election victory President Barack Obama focused again on his middle class political base saying it's "our generation's task" to reignite the engine of America's growth - a thriving middle class.

"It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth - a rising, thriving middle class," he said Tuesday night setting the agenda as for his second term in his State of the Union speech to the Congress.

"It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country -- the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love," Obama said.

Defending the role of government in making lives better, the president stressed that he does not plan to increase the deficit and that he is not for "bigger government" but "smarter government."

"It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation of ours," Obama said.

Taking up themes from his re-election campaign last year, Obama put an emphasis on economic growth and job creation, adding that "nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime."

"It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth," he said.

Giving his fourth State of the Union address to a joint session of the Congress presided over by Vice President Joes Biden and Speaker John Boehner, Obama also continued his push for Congress to act on politically volatile issues such as immigration reform and gun violence.

In a major foreign policy announcement, Obama said that this time next year, another 34,000 US troops will have returned home from Afghanistan. The move will reduce by more than half the current force level of 66,000 troops in Afghanistan.

By the end of 2014, the planned official end of the combat mission, the White House is considering a range of troop levels for Afghanistan, from as many as 15,000 down to zero.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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