Phil Roe: Obama speech short on substance

Feb. 20, 2013 @ 11:44 PM

By PHIL ROE

Guest columnist

In his fifth State of the Union address, President Obama underscored the importance of creating jobs and  promoting economic growth, addressing the upcoming sequester, making investments in education and infrastructure, and passing comprehensive immigration reform.

While most can agree these things are important, unfortunately, the president’s speech focused on what divides us as a nation, not what brings us together.

For example, the president blames House Republicans for sequestration, when all along, it was his idea to add these arbitrary cuts as a way of bypassing a debt limit increase until after his reelection.

I would still prefer spending cuts that more carefully target wasteful government spending, but we can’t afford more tax increases.

The president talks about balance, but raised taxes during fiscal cliff negotiations without addressing spending.  If the president won’t roll up his sleeves, sit down with Congressional leaders and work together on a solution that gets our spending addiction under control, then sequestration will go into effect.

Two weeks ago, the Congressional Budget Office released its budget and economic outlook report for the next decade that predicts that economic growth will stay slow this year. Worse, they predict that unemployment will remain above 7.5 percent.

If this comes to pass, 2014 will mark the sixth consecutive year that unemployment has exceeded 7.5 percent — the longest period of high unemployment in the last 70 years.

We can’t afford another year of record high unemployment. Simply put, America deserves better.

America is, and will always be, the land of opportunity. We’re fortunate to live in a place where our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to attend the best schools in the world, and from there, to go on to college if they so choose.

We’re fortunate to have safe roads and bridges throughout our country, and we’re fortunate to live in a country so free and prosperous that people around the world want to try their hand at the American dream.

Investing in the education of our children and grandchildren is important to the future of this great country, but I believe we can do so by placing resources and decision-making power in the hands of those who know the education system best: teachers and school administrators.

I believe we should invest in roads, bridges and job-creating infrastructure projects. But first, we need to clear the mountain of regulations standing in the way of their construction.

Regarding the president’s immigration comments, America is a country of immigrants, but also a nation of laws. I look forward to a respectful debate about how we can continue to nurture our immigrant spirit without encouraging our laws to be broken.

We have a great set of challenges ahead, but I believe the heart of America is strong. I believe our best days are ahead of us.

The president’s speech should have encouraged Americans to come together, but instead, he used his podium to push an ideological agenda.

I am still hopeful President Obama will negotiate in good faith to put America back on the path to prosperity. Our future depends on it. 

— U.S. Rep. Phil Roe serves Tennessee's 1st Congressional District, which includes all of Sevier County.  Visit www.roe.house.gov.