Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., charged by Republicans with delivering a response to Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, said in prepared remarks the president probably needs first to understand the nation’s problems.

He said Obama actually blames the free enterprise system, which has made America for generations the biggest economy in the world.

“This opportunity – to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life – it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business,” he said.

“And when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs. Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity. But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems.”

Rubio also said the president’s policies have failed to protect the poor and middle class wage-earners.

“Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills,” Rubio said.

“They’re immigrants who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy. The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs. And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security. So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”

Rubio noted that under Obama’s leadership, the American economy “actually shrank during the last three months of 2012.”

That’s the wrong direction, he said, because growth of 4 percent a year is needed to “create millions of middle class jobs.”

A byproduct of growth would be a reduction of the nation’s deficits by some $4 trillion over 10 years, he said.

“Tax increases can’t do this. Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That’s why I hope the president will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy.”

He said Obama simply needs to shut down the government checkbook for awhile.

“The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending $1 trillion more than it takes in every year. That’s why we need a balanced budget amendment. The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programs where spending is already locked in. One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now. I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it,” he said.

Rubio clearly stated his pro-life position, that “every life at every stage is precious.”

He blasted Obama’s philosophy for governing.

“His solution for virtually every problem is for Washington to tax more, spend more.”

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Rubio said Obamacare already is costing Americans their health insurance, their raises and even their jobs.

He proposed an updated immigration plan, a balanced budget and more help for kids to pay for schools.

Talk-radio icon Rush Limbaugh said, too, that Washington needs to get a grip.

“It’s not the State of the Union. It’s the Misstatement of the Union. … It’s an absurd sight, folks, to sit there and watch our government stand and applaud itself as it’s ruining our economy. They’re gonna sit there and applaud themselves all night long, and for what? Ruining the country, bringing the private sector to its knees, exploding the deficit, Obamacare, bye-bye freedom here, bye-bye freedom there,” he said.

CBS interviewed former Vice President Dick Cheney in advance of Obama’s speech. The  former Wyoming congressman said Obama appears to have an agenda aimed at hurting the U.S.

He cited Obama’s nominations of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense and John Brennan  for CIA director.

“Just in the last week, their performance in front of the committees that have to confirm them has been pretty poor,” he said. “And that’s, you know, not my judgment. That’s the judgment, as well, of senators on both sides of the aisle.”

Cheney said Obama’s choices would make for a “second rate” national security team.

“I think the administration’s policies are terribly flawed. I think the president’s performance, by my standards, in the international arena, the Middle East and so forth, is worse than many of my friends and colleagues deem his domestic policies,” he said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., meanwhile, delivered the response from the tea party. He said in prepared remarks Congress is out of control, failing to follow the laws of the land.

“Washington acts in a way that your family never could – they spend money they do not have, they borrow from future generations, and then they blame each other for never fixing the problem,” he said.

“If Congress refuses to obey its own rules (the Democrat-led Senate hasn’t produced a budget in years, in violation of the law), if Congress refuses to pass a budget, if Congress refuses to read the bills, then I say: Sweep the place clean. limit their terms and send them home!”

He said unless the deficit is cut by trillions, America’s credit could be downgraded again.

Paul also called for work on the nation’s existing immigration system, urging enforcement of laws and securing the borders.

“The path we are on is not sustainable, but few in Congress or in this administration seem to recognize that their actions are endangering the prosperity of this great nation,” he said.

He pleaded for common sense, proposing the U.S. end “all foreign aid to countries that are burning our flag.” He said Obama should “stop giving F-16s and Abrams tanks to Islamic radicals in Egypt.”

“Big government debt keeps the poor poor and saps savings of elderly,” Paul said.
“The president offers you free stuff but his policies keep you poor.”

He said he will propose a five-year balanced budget soon. Lower taxes and less government are the keys to a revitalized economy, he said.

Obama called for an amnesty program for illegal aliens and boasted that Obamacare already is cutting health care expenses. He called for a boost in the minimum wage and the creation of more jobs. He said the nation must do more on global warming and asked for expanded preschool offerings to reduce violent crime and strengthen families.

A poll by Bing that tracked audience reaction throughout the speech shows Republicans and independents virtually united in their opposition. But Democrats, though more positive, also had an overall negative reaction.

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