(Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
White House insiders say President Barack Obama, who spent much of his time since re-election discussing highly charged social issues, will turn his attention back to the issues that most Americans say are the most important to them: jobs and the economy.
Obama's second inaugural address was viewed by many as indicative of a more liberal direction for the president in his second term. Topics included gun control, gay rights, immigration and climate change. He was also criticized for only briefly mentioning jobs and the economy, even though most Americans say those issues are their main concern.
When Pew Research Center asked what the top priority should be for Congress and the president this year, the most common answers were strengthening the economy (86 percent), improving the job situation (79 percent) and reducing the budget deficit (72 percent).
"My concern right now ... is that jobs and growth are not on his agenda," Arianna Huffington, founder of the liberal website The Huffington Post, said Sunday on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS." "It is absolutely stunning. If you go back to the election, he kept campaigning around jobs, ... rebuilding our infrastructure, the American dream, saving it for the middle class – bolder rhetoric and legislative agenda around these issues is nowhere to be found."
Indications are that Huffington will be more pleased with Obama's renewed focus during Tuesday night's State of the Union Address. Anonymous White House officials told The Washington Post that the speech will highlight Obama's ideas about what the country needs to do to help the economy.
In doing so, the speech should also demonstrate a key difference between Republicans and Democrats. While Republicans tend to prefer lower tax rates and a more efficient and less intrusive regulatory system, Obama will likely talk about government spending, or investments, designed to help the economy, such as research, education and infrastructure, according to The Washington Post. Also expect Obama to talk more about economic inequality and the Republican response, to be delivered by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), to be more about economic growth.
Another likely topic will be the sequester. The set of spending cuts, which were delayed from going into effect with the "fiscal cliff" bill until March 1, would cut discretionary spending by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. In his weekly radio address, Obama warned that letting those cuts go into effect would hurt the economy.
Obama would like to replace the sequester with a combination of tax increases (through reforming the tax code) and more judicious (rather than across-the-board) spending cuts. Congressional Republicans have said they will not support any additional tax increases after the fiscal cliff bill; they will only support tax reform that is revenue neutral (by cutting tax rates while eliminating tax preferences).