The Washington Post says Obama will use the speech to reset his agenda after running into recent setbacks.
Taken together with the proposed budget that will be unveiled next week, Obama’s speech should give you the contours of what the year will look like for consumers. For those of you keeping score at home, here are some topics to watch for:
1) Health care. With the surprise upset in Massachusetts Senate race last week, the Democrats no longer have free reign in Congress.
This has created uncertainty for the health care bill, differing versions of which have passed the House and Senate. So look for how much time Obama spends talking about this issue, which started off 2009 as his top domestic priority, and how forcefully he pushes. Jim Guest, Consumer Union’s president, is attending the speech and writes in our Health blog about the issue.
2) Financial reform. The financial meltdown in 2008-09 spurred many proposals to beef up protections for consumers, including the possible creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Such an agency would take over some consumer protection functions that others apparently had in their portfolios, but didn’t exercise very effectively, like the Federal Reserve Board. Watch for whether Obama goes to bat for this reform, which has bogged down in Congress. Our Money blog has been following the back and forth on this issue for the last several months.
3) Energy efficiency. The administration has touted this effort as both a way to create jobs and put a dent in carbon emissions. Pay attention to any new proposals to promote the economy and conservation at the same time, as the administration did with the Cash for Clunker appliances program.
The New York Times notes that the event has evolved over time from short, simple messages to Congress to longer orations that are used to rally the nation in times of trouble or to explain new initiatives.
Expect the longer sort of speech this year, given the range of issues before the country.
Update: Read the full text of the speech.