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Obama's ideas are good, but must be paid for

Spending nearly two-thirds of his speech on the economy, President Barack Obama left no doubt Wednesday night in his State of the Union address that he wants the American people to know jobs is foremost on his mind.

The address prods Congress to begin a second stimulus package, tailoring it to sectors that need the most help -- taking $30 billion from the big bank repayment of federal bailout money and giving it to community banks to provide small business credit, eliminate the capital gains tax on small business investment and provide tax incentive for business to invest in new plants and equipment. And to provide funds for infrastructure improvements, from trains to clean energy products.

The president properly notes that any new steps won't make up for the 7 million lost jobs over two years and that a new foundation must be laid for long-term economic growth. It starts with serious financial reform.

"A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes. But that can only happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy," the president said. He is also calling for innovation, creating more clean energy jobs, opening more export markets and investment in the skills and education of our people.

It was an uplifting speech, honed on alleviating the apprehension that one in 10 American workers suffers as they lost their jobs. But the president's proposal to freeze most federal spending for three years seems inadequate and something nearly unachievable unless Congress totally agrees with him. Given the partisanship on the Hill now, we do find that a problem.

President Obama needs to get a lot tougher on solutions to close the deficit gap, a task that won't easily be done. But it won't ever be done until the Republicans move from being naysayers to offering solutions and finding common ground on the issues we face, not only the budget but also health care, education and the two wars we're fighting.

-- Bemidji Pioneer