SOTU prebuttal: Time for agreement between action and rhetoric

Rep. Peter Roskam Member of Congress (R-IL)
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With President Obama set to deliver the State of the Union tonight, Americans are eager to see what he and Congressional Democrats will be focused on in 2010. While 2009 was a year of misplaced priorities and fiscal recklessness by Democratic leadership, Republicans continue to stand ready and willing to work with President Obama and Democrats on policies that Americans desperately want and need: serious job creation and a return to fiscal sanity.

It’s time for the rhetoric to start matching action. We heard candidate Obama promise job creation and unprecedented transparency under his administration. We then heard President Obama campaign for a stimulus that would create millions of jobs and ensure unemployment never eclipsed 8 percent. Instead, we got a “stimulus” written behind closed doors in Speaker Pelosi’s office that has plunged us further into debt and left us with double-digit unemployment nationally, and 11.1 percent unemployed in my home state of Illinois.

Americans need a change from wasteful spending, skyrocketing debt and renewed pushes to increase taxes in this recession. Republicans have been focused on job creation from day one, while Congressional Democrats have regrettably spent the last eight months focused on passing a jobs-killing cap-and-trade scheme and a massive health care takeover that will only drive up costs and debt.

Clearly, a focus on jobs should’ve been priority No. 1 for all of 2009, but the mistakes of last year can be corrected in 2010. This year you will see me and the rest of the House Republicans urging President Obama to focus his 2010 agenda on instituting pro-jobs policies that will help our economy recover and get Americans back to work. We’ll be looking to ensure that dollars spent can be spent efficiently and quickly. Congress should be moving to streamline permitting and application processes so that real infrastructure projects can get done. Small businesses create as many as seven out of every 10 new jobs, and Congress should give real tax relief to these job creators—yet last year’s “stimulus” package apportioned more dollars to the National Endowment for the Arts than to small-business tax relief. For immediate stimulus that doesn’t cost anything, Congress could act on the Colombia, Panama or South Korea Free Trade Agreements, all of which would instantly open up vast new markets of consumers for American producers. Each has been held up by the partisan arguments and “worn-out dogmas” that President Obama promised an end to in his inaugural address.

Another principle component of 2010 should be working to restore fiscal sanity in Washington. We heard candidate Obama promise to go through the federal budget line by line. President Obama promised in his inaugural address that government programs would be judged on their effectiveness, and where they come up short, we were told, “programs will end.” Instead, we saw billions of dollars rushed through ineffective programs in the name of “stimulus,” and just in the last month, Congress passed, and the president signed, a spending bill that capped a year with a 12 percent increase in non-defense discretionary spending. It’s time for the rhetoric to match the action.

Tonight, President Obama will call for a three-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending. I applaud the president for refocusing the national conversation on fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, this proposal only holds spending steady at an already unsustainable level.

A three-year spending freeze makes for great “get tough on spending” rhetoric, but in the last three years this Democrat Majority in Congress has increased non-defense discretionary spending by 43 percent. While families were severely tightening their budgets, this Congress was doing exactly the opposite, so that a freeze now isn’t any difficult choice.

Currently, 38 cents of every dollar spent by the federal government is borrowed. There is not a business or a family in America that could take this fiscal course and stay above water. That’s why we need to cut spending, not merely freeze it. It’s estimated that this freeze will save $250 billion over 10 years. To put that in context, the last two monthly budget deficits reported by the Congressional Budget Office totaled $291 billion.

At our current rate of spending, we will burn through those savings in two months. With a $12 trillion national debt and unemployment we haven’t seen so high in 25 years, we as a country, are on the road to financial failure. It’s time for the action of this Congress to match the rhetoric.

The candidate Obama of 2008 possessed the leadership and determination to change Washington’s business-as-usual culture. I earnestly hope to work with him and his party to move past the misplaced priorities of 2009 and take advantage of the opportunity that is 2010.

Rep. Peter Roskam represents Illinois’ 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.