They deserve a vote, and we deserve leadership

13 Feb

President Obama’s State of the Union address will undoubtedly go down in history as the “they deserve a vote” speech.  And the president was on point when it came to the issue of gun violence and used his very best campaign-mode style to rile up those in the audience.  No matter where you may stand in the issue, I thought the president was, well, “presidential” when it came to this issue.

He had a teacher who survived three gunshot wounds and protected her students, a congresswoman who lived through an assassination attempt, and the grieving parents of slain teenagers, including one who only three weeks earlier performed in the Presidential Inaugural Parade.  He laid out his vision and then simply asked Congress to hold the vote.  I think that is exactly what Congress must do on this issue and allow Republicans and Democrats to discuss this issue in the open and vote up or down on each issue.  That is the way the system should work.

While I give the president high marks on the way he orchestrated and took control of the gun violence debate, I was equally disappointed by his lack of suggestions, ideas, proposals or leadership on the economic crisis currently facing the nation.

Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans are nowhere near a plan to avert $1.2 trillion in spending cuts about two weeks before they are set to begin.  Instead of taking the opportunity to lead (like on the gun issue or the immigration issue), the president’s speech had no connection to the real economic problems we face.  He seemed to brush aside the growing national and international concerns over the United States’ growing and crippling debt. During his remarks, the president stated that “most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share. And that’s the approach I offer tonight.” 

Yet, despite these comments, he failed to offer any “balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue…”  Over the last two years, Congress has cut spending and on January 1, 2013, Congress voted to tax the wealthy.  The president only called for increased taxation and increased federal spending.  

Yes, we need a balanced approach to our current deficit issues.  But that means we need to get serious about spending reductions. The president noted that “we can’t just cut our way to prosperity;” and I would add nor should we expect to tax our way to prosperity.

With a potential government shut down and sequestration looming, the president proposed initiatives that appear to be new expansions of government and new spending, including 1) a climate change initiative, something which a Democratic House and Democratic Senate refused to pass in the first term; 2) a new energy fund; 3) universal pre-school; 4) more college loans; 5) redesigned high schools; and 6) manufacturing hubs. So how does one pay for these initiatives, especially when the president stated they would not add a penny to the deficit?  Devoid of spending reductions, the only rational conclusion one could draw is that the president needs more revenues to pay for the programs he would like to implement. 

The president stated that the defining duty of the new Congress and new administration is to “reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.” He continued “that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.”  Job creation is critical and all policy makers should have their sites set on such a vision. 

I submit that United States of America cannot follow a North Star or have a rising or thriving middle class when the economic foundation of our country remains in shambles.  How can small businesses plan or grow when there is uncertainty in the tax code?  How can Americans feel economic security when the government is facing sequestrations, furloughs, potential shut downs, mountains of debt, additional tax increases and a demoralized working class?

The president’s answer was a proposal to raise the minimum wage – an idea his onetime economic adviser Larry Summers rightly labeled as a job killer.  I missed any tangible suggestions on how to create jobs in the US.  So I’d like to offer just one for consideration – why not increase energy exploration and production in the US?

An abundance of untapped energy lies beneath America’s ground and off our coasts. Studies have indicated that allowing access to domestic resources and imports of Canadian oil would generate more than 1 million jobs by 2018 and more than 1.4 million jobs by 2030.  So instead of focusing on climate change initiatives, why not push Congress to require the government to provide a timely permitting process, as well as environmental and judicial review?  Why not stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory over reaching by placing a freeze on new environmental regulations?  Why not talk about an energy-related project that will actually create jobs – the approval of the Keystone pipeline?

Finally, the president stated that “every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?” 

These are the right questions to ask, but I see them as sequential and before we can properly equip our people or make sure that hard work leads to a decent living, we need to pass a balanced budget, provide certainty in our tax code through real tax reform, develop and implement a real debt reduction plan, and create an environment in America that offers small businesses, investors and the private sector a reason to bring more jobs to our shores.



1 Comment

Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Politics


One response to “They deserve a vote, and we deserve leadership

  1. Tim Peterson

    February 14, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Thank you for a well-reasoned "Republican" response to the President's address. As an independent voter, I greatly appreciate honest and thoughtful dialogue from all parties. Besides, I love you man.


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