President Obama's State of the Union address last week was a grim reminder that in year five of his presidency, he still really doesn't understand his job. His quote, "If Congress won't act, I will," showed that, quite appallingly, he still doesn't get that it's his job is to persuade Congress to act and to work with lawmakers to help right the economy and serve the interests of the people. It's called leadership.
Great leaders – Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, for example – confront the great challenges of the day – slavery, civil rights, the Cold War – and make their mark on history by being bold, skillful and persuasive. This is how those great leaders got things done and made our nation freer, safer and more prosperous. At this moment in time, when so much in America hangs in the balance – our national security, our economy, our standards of living – the president proposes we tackle climate change, ban guns and put two-year olds in government programs. Shuttering power plants and coal mines, hampering law-abiding citizens' right to protect themselves and expanding ineffective government programs will neither improve the security of our citizens nor increase the shameful lack of new opportunities for struggling, working and middle-income families.
Our biggest challenges – and we have some big ones – are addressing our deepening government debt (now more than $16 trillion, up 50 percent in four years) to forestall fiscal ruin; strengthening families and fatherhood to help children and communities; unleashing America's energy, entrepreneurial and manufacturing potential; creating quality educational options for all Americans; confronting the ongoing threat of radical Islam and the growing threat of the Iranian and North Korean regimes supported by an increasingly aggressive China and Russia. The last one, our fragile national security, is the one area where President Obama wants to cut back. While the president touched on several of these important areas – especially fatherhood – his proposed solutions were modest and his actual policies conflict with his rhetoric. Where he mentioned these big challenges, he has the wrong prescriptions: more taxes and more government and, in the long run, less freedom and security for America's families.
The president also demonstrated that his math skills are not getting any better because nothing he said last week adds up. His litany of new programs apparently "won't cost a dime," (we know better) and his call for tax reform was just a very thinly veiled call for even more tax increases. These ideas won't provide more jobs or put us on the road to fiscal health. The president says "deficit reduction" is not an economic plan – yet other than for government bureaucrats, it is a much better jobs plan than any he has proposed. I don't think he mentioned that the jobless rate has gone up again – and that economists expect it to stay above seven percent for years to come under his policies.
President Obama raises taxes on manufacturers while calling for more manufacturing institutes. He raises taxes and expands regulations on American energy and stops the Keystone pipeline, while calling for more American energy. It doesn't compute. Despite what he says, do his proposed programs lower energy costs for families and create jobs for workers? Our oil and natural gas sectors have taken off – not because of the government, but because of entrepreneurs, improved technology and the fact that most of the explosive growth has been on private land – with limited government involvement. They have taken off in spite of the policies of this administration. Marco Rubio's excellent response provides a much-needed contrast to the president. Our country will thrive when we create the conditions for growth and opportunity again and provide hope and inspiration to the millions who want a better life for themselves and their children.
All this said, I did agree with President Obama when he said, "We must enlist our values in the fight." If those values are work hard, be fair, love your neighbor and protect your children, then I agree. We can find common ground from which to confront the challenges we face. But we do that through vision and bold leadership – not expanded government and more debt. We need common sense for the common good.