President Barack Obama plans to introduce a bevy of new economic programs targeting middle-class families in Wednesday's State of the Union address, the first of his presidency.

Those proposals include a near-doubling of the child tax credit, new caps on students' loan payments and increased worker savings incentives, according to media reports that cited unnamed White House officials.


Consequently, some are reading the Obama administration's new focus on smaller aid programs as a clear break from the president's larger, more ambitious agenda of healthcare reform and cap-and-trade. Those debates became immensely complicated last week, after Democrats lost their 60th vote in the Senate with the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

However, all seem to agree Wednesday's slew of announcements are part of the president's larger, clearly populist push ahead of what is sure to be a tough midterm election year.

The programs that Obama will formally unveil on Wednesday include a significant expansion of the child-tax credit for Americans making under $85,000 a year, White House officials said. While the credit will not be refundable -- Americans will not get the money back -- the boost should still result in hundreds of dollars of savings for some families.

Additionally, the president is expected to debut a plan that would cap college graduates' federal loan payments at about 10 percent above a specified living allowance, The New York Times first reported Monday. The plan could cost about $1 billion, according to early estimates.

A third program would encourage workers to save for retirement, and a fourth could provide additional federal dollars for elderly care, White House officials said.

Whether lawmakers act on the president's suggestions this week is itself an unknown, as pressure has been building on Capitol Hill against programs that could add to the growing federal debt -- now a low-hanging political fruit. But a number of the proposals touch upon issues Democratic lawmakers have discussed in recent months, perhaps to the benefit of the administration