I’d hoped that President Obama, in his State of the Union address, would offer a real path to greater prosperity to the millions of Americans looking for a better future — a good-paying job, access to affordable education and health care, and greater economic security for their children.
Unfortunately, his Tuesday-night speech was designed more as a political tool than a means of bringing the country together. The president said that he won’t even respect the legislative branch (a coequal branch of government under the Constitution), opting instead to act unilaterally by executive-branch fiat on such controversial policies as economically perilous directives out of the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Labor. This is a grave disappointment.
What we heard from the president was a retread of the same failed economic policies and ideas of the last five years that haven’t brought the economic recovery and job creation that he promised. In fact what the president outlined would make things worse — with higher taxes, more regulations, and more debt-fueled spending that would lead to greater income inequality and less economic opportunity.
Unfortunately, too many Americans are living under the sad reality of the Obama economy. Median household income is down $2,300 since the president took office. We are seeing the lowest labor-force-participation rate since the Carter administration. Wages are down 4.4 percent since 2009 for most workers. Thirteen percent of America’s workforce — more than one out of every eight workers — was unemployed at some point in 2013. This is simply unacceptable.
The fact is the president could take several immediate steps to jump-start the economy, get more Americans back to work, and provide the tools hard-working families need for greater economic opportunity.
Energy is one of the fastest growing industries in our nation, but the president and his administration continue to restrict energy development on public lands in the West and refuse to approve the Keystone Pipeline.
Despite the progress Congress has made to advance bipartisan trade legislation to open up new markets overseas for American-made products, the president is leading from behind, hoping others will fight to get it done.
Our nation’s burdensome tax code is a lead weight around America’s ability to compete in an increasingly competitive world, but that reality doesn’t seem to have reached the White House.
And this is all on top of the president’s health law, which is causing Americans to have their work hours cut or, even worse, their jobs eliminated owing to the higher taxes and fees placed on those fighting to grow the economy.
Despite the president’s glowing assessment, the simple fact is that Obamacare is a disaster. I’ve heard from many Utahns about the troubles they’ve faced with the law — the cancellation letters they received for the health coverage the president said they’d be able to keep, the nightmares they’ve had signing up for new coverage, and the higher costs they must now pay.
There is a better way on health care. After repealing this disaster of a law, we should move forward with real reforms that bring down costs and expand access — all while empowering the American people to make the best decisions for themselves. That’s why Senators Tom Coburn, Richard Burr, and I introduced a plan this week that doesn’t add to the debt, doesn’t raise taxes, lowers health-care costs, and puts patients and states back in charge.
Furthermore, the health of America’s safety net — Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — grows worse by the day. For the sake of today’s and tomorrow’s seniors, we have to get serious about putting these programs and our debt on a more stable path. I hope the president views the upcoming debt-ceiling debate as an opportunity to look at ways to strengthen these programs.
Some states, such as Utah, are having economic success, and they’re doing so with a tried and true formula of lower taxes, fewer and smarter regulations, and more energy development. My home state has a 4.1 percent unemployment rate, and a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour; it is a right-to-work state and has access to significant energy reserves. With tremendous exports overseas, Utah attracts more and more businesses, entrepreneurs, and high-quality workers every day.
This is a record of success that cannot be ignored.
My hope is that over the remaining time of his presidency, President Obama will look toward states like Utah to get our country back on track — rather than continue to look inward at the same failed ideas from Washington. Utah is a model that President Obama should learn from.
— Orrin Hatch is a Republican U.S. senator from Utah.