■ Major themes. Much of President Obama’s second inaugural address consisted of a declaration of some central Democratic tenets: safety-net programs for the poor; equal rights for gays, women, and minorities; and government spending on health, education, new technology, and highways.
Obama is starting his second term with three immediate legislative priorities: resolving the federal debt crisis, overhauling immigration laws, and reducing gun violence. He also vowed to respond to the threat of climate change, but that will probably be addressed later.
Deficit spending, the president’s biggest conflict with congressional Republicans, got only a passing mention. He never uttered the word ‘‘debt.’’
■ Economic revival. Restoring the economy has been Obama’s biggest challenge. Any relapse into recession could put millions
of Americans out of work and vastly complicate his hopes for second-term achievements.
From the start, two forces have pulled at him on the economy. Liberal economists implored the president to pour federal money into stimulus programs, saying the deficit’s resulting spike could be addressed later. But anti-deficit activists gained ascendancy in the Republican Party, demanding deep spending cuts without detailing who would pay the price. Deficit reduction remains the GOP’s battle cry.
■ Entitlement programs. Obama specifically defended Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Although the president has expressed a willingness to slow the growth of these popular but costly programs, he seemed to caution Republicans to back off from the deeper cuts they propose.
■ Immigration. The president has made it clear he will move quickly to overhaul immigration laws, knowing many Republicans desperately want to improve their standing with Hispanic voters.
■ Gun violence. The issue of gun control was largely sidestepped during the presidential campaign but was thrust upon Obama by last month’s massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut. He briefly mentioned the attack Monday, but cited none of the gun-control ideas he embraced last week.
SOURCE: Associated Press