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President battles to remodel America

UNITED States President Barack Obama has set his course for a battle with America's powerful interest groups over his ambitious, some say radical, spending blueprint that aims to remodel US society.

Even as he has rammed through emergency economic spending that easily could top US$1 trillion, Obama has asked Congress to adopt a budget that is ripe with programs to improve the lot of lower and middle-income Americans at the expense of the wealthy and the farming and industrial complexes under their control.

With the US economy continuing to crumble under the weight of crises in unemployment, the financial sector and the housing market, Obama appears to believe he will never have a stronger wind at the back of such deeply liberal ambitions.

He could be aided by the Republican Party's disarray after a throttling at the polls and its low popularity among the American people.

Even so, Obama is asking fellow Democrats, who control Congress, to wrestle with contentious issues that reach deep into the pockets of vested interest groups whose campaign donations enable law makers to bear the heavy cost of campaigns to stay in office.

The president likely will run up against a wall of opposition as he tries to cut subsidies for big farms; combat global warming with a pollution tax on industries; raise taxes on the wealthy; and make big changes to the health care system.

"The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long," Obama said on Saturday in his weekly radio and video address. "But I don't. I work for the American people."

The top US military official, meanwhile, said yesterday he is reluctant to talk about "winning and losing" in Iraq but believes the conditions are in place for the Baghdad government to successfully take control over the country.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Obama had listened "extensively" to the American military leadership and US commanders in Iraq before announcing last Friday that the combat mission there would end on August 31, 2010.


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