President Barack Obama used his election-year State of the Union address to issue a loud call for economic equality based on "responsibility from everybody," a theme prefacing his 2012 campaign message, The Hill reported.
Cranking up the volume on the populist message that the wealthy should pay higher taxes, Obama said the goal of economic equality was a return to American values and "the defining issue of our time."
In the address, dubbed a "Blueprint for an America Built to Last," Obama used the power of the bully pulpit before a sharply divided joint session of Congress to take the offensive and pledge that although he would work with lawmakers, he also intended to "fight obstruction with action."
Repeating that he would not "back down," Obama said, "no challenge is more urgent" than to support the middle class.
The address has been dubbed the president's first major stump speech of the year, and Obama took an indirect swing at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who released his tax returns earlier in the day, by renewing his call for the so-called Buffett Rule, named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
The rule seeks to ensure that middle-class workers do not pay a higher tax rate than their well-to-do bosses. Obama's proposal dictates that those making more than $1 million would pay a minimum effective rate of at least 30 percent, more than double the rate Romney expects to pay this year.
It would also eliminate tax deductions for those making more than $1 million -including deductions for housing, health care, retirement and child care - and would end federal subsidies such as food stamps and unemployment benefits for millionaires.