U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today previewed President Obama’s final State of the Union address while citing many of the burdens placed on the American people by the Obama administration.
Remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, tonight President Obama will come to Congress to deliver his final State of the Union address.
“Which raises the question – what is the state of our union?
“And the truth is, while the strength and spirit of the American people remain a beacon of hope for our future, our country is facing a number of serious challenges:
“Global unrest has grown over the course of the president’s administration, most notably with the rise of ISIS, one of the most brutal terrorist groups in existence.
“On President Obama’s watch, we have experienced the worst economic recovery since the Eisenhower administration, with stagnant wages and millions dropping out of the labor force as the lasting trademark of the Obama economy.
“And American families are seeing their dreams for the future erode, as they struggle under ever-increasing government burdens and a lack of economic opportunity.
“Any serious discussion of the state of our union needs to address these challenges and offer solutions.
“And that is the kind of speech I wish we were going to hear tonight.
“But unfortunately, all indicators suggest that’s not the kind of speech the president plans to give.
“Instead, the president apparently intends to take a victory lap – despite the fact that the American people clearly don’t think there’s much to celebrate.
“A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 68 percent of the American people think our country is on the wrong track, and most Americans believe the next generation will be worse off, not better off.
“In a preview of the president’s speech, the White House notes, and I quote, ‘we have made extraordinary progress on the path to a stronger country and a brighter future.’
“But that’s not how the American people are feeling.
“And it doesn’t reflect the reality of the president’s administration.
“The president plans to talk about his supposed economic successes tonight.
“But while our economy has recovered to a certain extent since the recession, it has never fully rebounded.
“Wage growth continues to lag.
“December marked the 77th straight month in which year-over-year hourly wage growth was at or below 2.5 percent.
“Underemployment also continues to be a problem, with millions of Americans continuing to work part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work.
“Almost five years after the recession ended, the percentage of Americans working full time has still not returned to pre-recession levels.
“While the most commonly mentioned unemployment rate is 5.0 percent, the U-6 unemployment rate, which measures the number of both unemployed workers and underemployed workers, is 9.9 percent.
“Of the unemployed, those who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more — or those considered long-term unemployed — make up 26 percent.
“And labor force participation remains near record lows.
“In short, stagnation has become the new normal for the economy under the Obama administration, and economic opportunities for American families have been few and far between.
“And in addition to the lack of economic opportunity, families have had to shoulder new burdens thanks to the Obama administration.
“Chief among those burdens, of course, is Obamacare, the president’s disastrous health care law, which has failed to reduce the cost of health care, ripped away millions of Americans’ preferred health care plans, forced families onto insurance plans they don’t want and can’t afford, reduced patients’ access to doctors and hospitals, increased taxes, and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.
“Then there are the burdensome regulations the Obama administration has imposed, which have made it more challenging for businesses large and small to grow and create jobs.
“The Obama Environmental Protection Agency in particular has done more than its fair share to make things difficult for Americans.
“During the course of the Obama administration, this agency has implemented one damaging rule after another, from a massive national backdoor energy tax that would hurt poor and working families the most, to a new rule that would subject ponds and puddles in Americans’ backyards to a complex array of expensive and burdensome regulatory requirements.
“Again and again, I’ve heard from South Dakota farm and ranch families, homeowners, and small businesses about the difficulties they’re facing thanks to the Obama EPA’s massive new regulations.
“Mr. President, if the president’s record on the economy and middle-class opportunity is bad, his record on foreign policy is even worse.
“A White House preview of the State of the Union touts the president’s work to, and I quote, ‘redefine American leadership for the 21st century.’
“During the president’s last year in office, the White House says, and I quote, ‘we can show the world what is possible when America truly leads.’
“Republicans couldn’t agree more that America should truly lead – the problem is that the president’s first seven years in office have generally been distinguished by a lack of leadership.
“Back in June, former President – and fellow Democrat – Jimmy Carter described President Obama’s successes on the world stage as ‘minimal.’
“‘On the world stage, just to be objective about it as I can,’ Carter said, ‘I can’t think of many nations in the world where we have a better relationship now than we did when he took over.’
“Neither can I, Mr. President.
“The White House claims the president has ended two wars, yet neglects to mention that since the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, large sections of the country have descended into chaos thanks to ISIS.
“The president’s failure to enforce his red line in Syria when President Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons on his own people and the president’s lack of a strategy to defeat ISIS have contributed to a massive refugee crisis with no easy solution.
“Meanwhile, Assad remains in power and ISIS continues to thrive.
“With the terrorist attacks in Paris in November, ISIS officially expanded its theater of operations beyond the Middle East.
“And as we witnessed in the case of the San Bernardino shooting, as long as ISIS continues to exist, its demented ideology will inspire disturbed individuals to commit acts of terror.
“The United States is in desperate need of a comprehensive strategy to confront the threat posed by ISIS, yet the president has so far made no move to develop one.
“On another foreign policy front, the president has repeatedly touted his nuclear deal with Iran as one of the major foreign policy achievements of his presidency, yet the agreement he signed actually improves Iran’s long-term prospects for developing a bomb.
“And in a clear violation of UN restrictions, Iran recently tested a ballistic missile, demonstrating once again that it has in no way curbed its aggressive behavior.
“Elsewhere, Russian aggression has increased on the president’s watch, and North Korea recently conducted yet another nuclear test.
“Mr. President, the Obama administration has left the American people with a host of problems at home and abroad.
“But once again, it sounds like President Obama’s State of the Union address will fail to offer any substantive solutions.
“More than that, it sounds as if the president will largely ignore the problems.
“And that’s unfortunate.
“The president is missing an opportunity to offer substantive solutions before turning the problems of his administration over to his successors.
“Mr. President, I don’t want to give credence to those Obama administration accusations that Republicans are all ‘doom and gloom.’
“As I said above, I believe that the strength and spirit of the American people mean that the future in America is always bright.
“But realizing that future requires understanding and developing solutions to the problems facing our nation, and that’s something the president is unwilling to do.
“Mr. President, Republicans have worked hard over the past year to make our economy stronger, our government more efficient and accountable, and our nation and our world safer and more secure.
“But there’s a lot more work to be done.
“And we need a partner in the White House who’s willing to meet us halfway.
“We hope the president will use this last year of his presidency to work with us as we seek to address the challenges facing the American people.”