State of Union won't help state of unemployment

Richard Hudson's week in Washington
Feb. 15, 2013 @ 05:40 PM

"The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” –Article II, Sec. 3 of the U.S. Constitution

In what has become known as the State of the Union Address, presidents address Congress “from time to time” to report on the condition of the nation and outline legislative priorities. George Washington began the practice on January 8, 1790 when he delivered the first annual message to Congress, focusing on the concept of the union of states that had recently been created. From that point forward, the State of the Union Address has served as both a conversation between the president and Congress and, thanks recently to the infinite amount of media platforms, an opportunity for the president to promote his future political agenda to the public.

What tends to become important historical information is often announced in the speech. In 1823, James Monroe explained what became known as the Monroe Doctrine, calling on European nations to end their practice of western colonization; in 1862, Abraham Lincoln told the nation he wanted to end slavery; in 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of the "four freedoms"—speech, worship, want, and fear; in 1996, Bill Clinton called for broad bipartisan support across the nation; and in 2002, President George W. Bush shared his plans for a war on terror.

As I sat on the House floor before my first State of the Union as a Member of Congress, I couldn’t help but think of the Ogden Nash line, “I find it very difficult to enthuse over the current news.” Our national debt is a staggering $16.5 trillion, up 60% from the $10 trillion President Obama inherited when he first took office. Over 4.8 million people have been unemployed long-term, almost double the 2.7 million who were unemployed at the beginning of 2009. Gas prices are now averaging $3.60/gallon, up almost $2/gallon from the $1.85 price tag when President Obama first took office. And median home value has decreased nearly $20,000 since President Obama’s first State of the Union.

The combination of all these things contributes to America’s unacceptably high 7.9% jobless rate…and the unemployment in most of our communities is even higher.

Since President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech, commentators from all sides of the political spectrum have weighed in on the President’s rhetoric and vision for America’s future. In many parts of his speech the President struck the right tone, especially regarding the need for bipartisan efforts to get our fiscal house in order and tasking our generation to reignite the middle class. However, we have a jobs crisis in this country and the President failed to offer detailed plans on how we are going to get people back to work. The American people are desperate for pro-growth policies that encourage private-sector expansion, create jobs, and ensure a meaningful livelihood for our hardworking citizens.

What we need now, and what we have failed to see year after year, is real action to back up the “job creation” rhetoric. Words are cheap, while the cost of living for millions of workers is not. Last Congress, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed 40 job creating measures that would increase hiring and get our economy back on track. The Senate has yet to take action on these bills.

You can bet that I will work with Republicans and Democrats in the House to strengthen our economy and grow American jobs so we can rebuild our middle class by creating better opportunities and higher wages for struggling families. I encourage the White House and Senate to act with us to ensure that next year’s State of the Union highlights all the new jobs created by a growing private sector. That’s my vision for the future and you can count on me to work hard every day on your behalf to try to get us there.

— U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson represents the 8th Congressional District. He can be reached at (704) 786-1612.