State of the Union Address: Jobs, Afghan War Troop Withdrawal

Washington (AP) -

Still hampered by the vulnerable economy, President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to appeal for new spending to create jobs while also pledging to cut the federal deficit, in part by raising taxes — issues Republicans are likely to oppose.

Speaking before a divided Congress Tuesday night, Obama was slated to announce a major reduction in U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, withdrawing 34,000 troops within a year, half the total deployed there. And he was expected to sharply rebuke North Korea for defying the international community and launching a nuclear test hours before Obama’s remarks.

But it’s the economy at center stage, as it has been each time Obama has stood before lawmakers and a national audience for the annual address. Despite marked improvements since he took office four years ago, the unemployment rate is still hovering around 8 percent and consumer confidence has slipped.

White House officials said Obama would offer the public an outline for job creation, though much of his blueprint will include elements heard before, including spending more money to boost manufacturing and improve infrastructure. Getting that new spending through Congress appears unlikely, as Republicans blocked similar measures during Obama’s first term.

Buoyed by re-election, the president and his top aides are confident that Americans back their vision for the economy.