The State of the Union is “grave,” Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said in the official Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening.
“On these evenings, presidents naturally seek to find the sunny side of our national condition. But when President Obama claims that the state of our union is anything but grave, he must know in his heart that this is not true,” Daniels said.
“The president did not cause the economic and fiscal crises that continue in America tonight,” he said. “But he was elected on a promise to fix them, and he cannot claim that the last three years have made things anything but worse.”
“In three short years, an unprecedented explosion of spending, with borrowed money, has added trillions to an already unaffordable national debt,” said Daniels. “And yet, the president has put us on a course to make it radically worse in the years ahead. The federal government now spends one of every four dollars in the entire economy; it borrows one of every three dollars it spends.”
The Indiana governor has been very vocal about the dangers he sees in the rising national debt, calling it the new “red menace,” and suggesting that dealing with it was so important that other issues, like social issues, should be put aside so lawmakers could focus on solving what he views as a national crisis.
In the State of the Union address, Obama painted himself as the champion of the middle class, but Daniels rejected that characterization.
“The president’s grand experiment in trickle-down government has held back rather than sped economic recovery,” Daniels said. “He seems to sincerely believe we can build a middle class out of government jobs paid for with borrowed dollars. In fact, it works the other way: a government as big and bossy as this one is maintained on the backs of the middle class, and those who hope to join it.”
Daniels called for a bipartisan approach to solving the debt problem. “The challenges aren’t matters of ideology, or party preference; the problems are simply mathematical, and the answers are purely practical,” he said.
The only way to dig our way out of this mess, Daniels said, was to both create jobs and deal with the national debt.
“Contrary to the president’s constant disparagement of people in business, it’s one of the noblest of human pursuits,” Daniels said, taking a jab at Obama. “The late Steve Jobs — what a fitting name he had — created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the President borrowed and blew.”
Daniels also went after Obama for refusing to allow the Keystone XL Pipeline, condemning the “extremism that stifles the development of homegrown energy, or cancels a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands, or jacks up consumer utility bills for no improvement in either human health or world temperature, is a pro-poverty policy.”
Daniels also called for real entitlement reform.
“We must unite to save the safety net,” he said. “We can preserve them unchanged and untouched for those now in or near retirement, but we must fashion a new, affordable safety net so future Americans are protected, too.” Daniels suggested means testing for these programs, so that money goes to “those who need them most.”
“No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others,” he said. “As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat.”
After the address, the consensus on Twitter appeared to be that Daniels had delivered a strong speech. The Indiana governor did not, as some had hoped, indicate any intention to enter the Republican presidential field.