Obama did make clear that the wellbeing of the middle class is essential to economic progress, and that means we need jobs that provide economic security. He offered a number of proposals that neither right nor left should object to--payroll tax relief, jobs credits for hring long-term unemployed, needed infrastructure spending, needed spending on school renovations--while for the first time in quite a while enunciating the progressive message that we are all in this together, that America has shined best when government works to accomplish that which we cannot do as individuals. See this brief analysis by Elizabeth Jacobs, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Not surprisingly, the GOP reaction was negative. Even though these are mostly programs that they have supported in the past, various Republican commenters to BNA "said short-term tax incentives have not worked in the past to stimulate the economy and will not work in the future because businesses need tax certainty and permanence." BNA Daily RealTime, Sept. 8, 2011. Instead of helping the middle class and the long-term unemployed, Kevin Brady (Rep. Texas on the House Ways and Means Committee) would prefer to do another repatriation tax break for the huge multinationals and give "small businesses" (many of them not really 'small' and most of them not really providing any kind of job creation engine) an automatic 20% deduction. Id. That would essentially lower corporate taxes to very close to zero, all in all, and shift even more of the burden of government on the poor and middle class.
The GOP response fits with the corporatist agenda the party has been pursuing full force since Nixon--tax cuts that hobble the ability of government to take on bold ideas serving its citizens; militarism that spends millions in programs that do little to create jobs or ensure the peace; privatization that moves programs that should be performed in the public interest into the private sector with the potential for significant 'rent' profits and poorer services (as in the mercenary soldiers hired for our foreign wars); and deregulation that sanctifies the status quo and permits large businesses to continue to pass real costs--polluted air land and water, malpractive) onto ordinary people.
Furthermore, the complaint about temporary provisions is a laugh. The GOP is the primary user of tax gimmicks like temporary provisions--from the active financing exception (temporarily passed many times) to the Bush tax cuts (almost all enacted as temporary provisions). There is no such thing as tax permanence or certainty, except in the ideological handbook of the radical right fringe that wants to cut all taxes and abolish most government that isn't in support of the military-industrial complex.
There were two particularly weak elements, though, in Obama's speech. First, Obama again fed progressive programs to the wolves, proclaiming that we had to reform Medicare and Medicaid--in ways that clearly meant reducing benefits, not taking hold of the excessive medical costs due to the 'highway robbery' rate of hospital charges and doctor/nursing charges Second, Obama can't seem to understand the fact that this country is a tax haven for corporations--he repeated the right-wing line about improving US companies' competitiveness and talked about reducing the corporate tax rate. Yes we have a statutory rate of 35%. But in fact no company pays that rate on its actual economic income, and most companies pay no federal income tax at all even when they have billions in economic income. His line about reducing the corporate tax rate was one of the few that brought Republicans to their feet--because that fits the corporatist agenda that has driven everything the GOP has done in Congress recently.
[edited to add link to White House Fact Sheet]