By Bernie Becker, Peter Schroeder and Vicki Needham - 01/28/14 01:15 PM EST
With the economy slowly, finally improving, President Obama is expected to make it the central focus of his State of the Union address.
Housing is likely to remain in the spotlight, with Obama expected to tout the housing market’s recovery while emphasizing the difficulty some middle-class families could face in getting a mortgage amid tight credit conditions.
On the jobs front, Obama will probably prod lawmakers to consider restoring a federal jobless benefits program to help the long-term unemployed, after an effort to restart the program has stalled.
The president also is expected to highlight his desire to forge trade agreements with the European Union and across the Asia Pacific — and the need to fast-track them.
Linda Dempsey, vice president of international economic affairs for the National Association of Manufacturers, said her businesses wants to hear “the president embrace a robust trade agenda starting with trade promotion authority.”
While major fiscal talks are off the table for now, deficit hawks want Obama to start to “educate” the public on the need for long-term change.
Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the president, at the very least, should not be “over-emphasizing the fiscal progress that has been made by emphasizing on the wrong parts of the budget.”
But Scott Lilly of the liberal Center for American Progress wants Obama to talk about spending more.
“The current caps on discretionary spending are transferring huge infrastructure costs to future generations,” he said.
The banking industry, an occasional Obama punching bag in this address, is hoping to see Obama tackle a range of less polarizing issues.
Richard Hunt, president and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, wants to see Obama tackle the “astronomical” level of student loan debt and borderline “absurd” tuition prices, which he warns are keeping young people from buying homes and cars, or starting a family.
The Financial Services Roundtable is hoping the president will weigh in on improving cybersecurity and patent reform.