President Barack Obama’s address to Congress, Feb. 24, was both sober and inspiring.

He spelled out the deep economic crisis we are in and blamed decades of trickle-down economics, loss of jobs, bank deregulation, unpayable debt and a culture of “short-term gain over long-term prosperity” in which surpluses “became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy.”

He acknowledged the popular outrage when a $770 billion taxpayer bailout of the banks last fall was used to purchase corporate jets. The people were “infuriated” and “so was I,” he said. “I promise you, I get it.”

“Though we are living through difficult and uncertain times,” the president said, “tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild. We will recover and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”

For the millions of unemployed and people losing their homes, Obama’s message brought not only hope but a reminder that concrete action has already been taken, namely the $787 billion economic recovery package pushed through Congress and his $275 billion package to help people stop the foreclosure hemorrhage.

Yet Obama made clear these are only a down payment on an even more ambitious effort to create good, green jobs and shift the nation to renewable energy sources, reform our health care system and improve our public schools.

Republicans in the chamber, almost all of whom voted against Obama’s recovery package, sat grimly silent as Obama spoke. Democrats gave Obama a standing ovation when he mentioned that SCHIP health care benefits have been extended to 13 million uninsured children. But only a handful of Republicans joined in the applause.

It is a reminder that the Republican right is determined to obstruct efforts to rebuild the economy and achieve desperately needed reforms. Obama himself recognized this reality when he flew to economically stricken Elkhart, Ind., and Fort Myers, Fla., to spur public support for his recovery package. Our task is to build an even mightier grassroots coalition to win the next urgently needed measures, including the Employee Free Choice Act, over the opposition of the corporate ultra-right.

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