By Frank Lewis
President Barack Obama called for progress in working with Congress, while at the same time telling a national television audience that if he has to he will go it alone in Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address.
“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together,” the president said. “Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want — for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all — the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.”
As expected, Obama addressed the minimum wage.
“Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by — let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.”
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for Congress to raise the minimum wage to the president’s proposal of $10.10.
“Tonight’s speech provided an important blueprint to grow our economy by growing the middle class,” Brown said, following the address. “The President’s Executive Order to raise the minimum wage for employees of new federal contact will be strengthened by The Fair Minimum Wage Act, which we must pass to give nearly 1.3 million Ohioans a raise. President Obama also called on Congress to pass my bipartisan bill to create a network of manufacturing innovation hubs based on Youngstown’s America Makes.”
U.S. Representative Bill Johnson (R-OH-6) blamed the president for income inequity.
“The President conceded that ‘average wages have barely budged….inequality has deepened…upward mobility has stalled…too many Americans are working more than ever to just get by.’ Yet, he doesn’t attribute this ongoing economic struggle to the result of living under five years of his policies. In fact, he says he’ll just bypass Congress – representatives also elected by the American people — when he chooses,” Johnson said.
Obama said the lack of jobs has struck a blow against America’s families.
“Let’s face it: That belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on,” the president said.
U.S. Representative Brad Wenstrup (R-OH-2) put the blame back on the president.
“Our nation is strong, but Ohioans and Americans are gripped by a feeling of uncertainty. To rebuild an economy that works for everyone, Americans need a President who is willing to work with Congress, not threatening to work around it,” Wenstrup said. “The American people deserve a serious commitment to unleashing the power of the American economy. Yet, President Obama is doubling down on big government, committing to more regulations, restrictions, and constraints on our workers, businesses, and entrepreneurs.”
U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) took a shot at the president’s regulatory policy when asked by CCN what he would like to work with the president on.
“Regulatory reform. Everybody agrees that regulations are choking small business…Tax reform. The President says he wants to reform the tax code. Everybody knows it’s a huge shot in the arm. We are losing people, companies overseas. Let’s do it. We’ve talked about it for enough time. The President needs to engage and provide cover for it. Energy. We’ve got a huge opportunity here in this country to open up more public lands to energy, to actually become energy independent,” Portman said.
All-in-all the president struck a positive note in his address.
“Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise,” the president said.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.