WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The United States needs the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods and services, and information to attract new businesses, President Obama said.
Such advances must start with repairing a deteriorating infrastructure and building high-speed rail lines, Obama said Tuesday during the State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress.
"Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry," Obama said. "Tonight, I'm proposing that we redouble these efforts."
He said the administration will work to ensure repairing roads and bridges will be fully paid for, attract private investment and "pick projects based on what's best for the economy, not politicians."
"We have to do better" to improve America's infrastructure, he said, in the tradition of a nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, and constructed the interstate highway system.
"Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car," he said.
"For some trips, it will be faster than flying -- without the pat-down," he said to chuckles.
He said he wanted to make it possible within the next five years for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans.
"This isn't just about a faster Internet and fewer dropped calls," he said. "It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age."
To help U.S. companies compete, "we also have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success" by changing the tax code.
"So tonight, I'm asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system," Obama said to bipartisan applause. "Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years -- without adding to our deficit."
To help businesses sell more products abroad, the administration set a goal of doubling exports by 2014 -- "because the more we export, the more jobs we create at home."
He said the United States signed agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs in the United States, and finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs.
"This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor; Democrats and Republicans, and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible," Obama said.
To reduce barriers to growth and investment, Obama said he ordered a review of government regulations.
"When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them," Obama said. "But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people."
He urged Congress not to re-litigate the healthcare law but "fix what needs fixing and move forward."
"So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you," Obama said. "We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses."