- - Tuesday, February 12, 2013


President Obama will deliver his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night. He should spend his entire speech talking about the one big issue Americans care about: jobs. This address needs to be different from the half-dozen or more times the president has claimed he would pivot back to jobs. He needs to follow up his speech with clear and constant leadership on the economy.

Twenty-three million Americans remain unemployed or underemployed. That’s 23 million people who just want to provide for their families and achieve their dreams.

Instead of an hourlong laundry list of special-interest boondoggles and hollow rhetoric, the president should say exactly how he plans to help these fathers, mothers, sons and daughters get back to work again.

Unless a policy is designed to help put people back to work, he should save it for another time. I don’t mean just for another speech. He should have no priority other than creating an environment where the private sector can expand and hire Americans who desperately want the chance to succeed.

If Washington can get that right, there will be plenty of time to address every other issue. If job creation remains stagnant, we will not have the economic strength to deal with anything else properly.

In his inaugural address last month, Mr. Obama never spoke directly to the 23 million Americans waiting for his leadership on jobs.

He didn’t acknowledge the 4 out of 10 people under the age of 30 who haven’t been able to start their careers.

He didn’t acknowledge the almost 14 percent of black Americans who still can’t find work.

He didn’t acknowledge the farmers, construction workers, truck drivers and other hard-working Americans still waiting for their jobs to return.

He never said the word “jobs,” but he claimed, “An economic recovery has begun.”

A few days later, we learned that the economy actually shrank in the last three months of 2012. The unemployment rate rose again in January to 7.9 percent.

Clearly, we are not on the right track.

Mr. Obama should use his speech to the nation to lay out a real plan to help unemployed Americans find work.

First, the president should announce that he will stop blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. That is the simplest thing he can do to create thousands of private-sector jobs. Every governor along the pipeline’s route has asked the president to approve the project. It’s time for him to stop playing politics with these jobs.

Next, the president should cancel regulations that discourage job creation. Two years ago, he signed an executive order calling for agencies to get rid of needless regulation. Since then, his administration has found almost no rules it can live without.

Last year, Washington added another $236 billion in new red tape — and eliminated less than $3 billion of regulations.

Every dollar wasted dealing with needless regulation is a dollar some small business in our communities cannot put toward hiring a recent college graduate. The president should tell his Cabinet secretaries to get serious about cutting unnecessary, burdensome regulations that hold back hiring.

Third, he should lay out a strong plan for tax reform. In the past, the president has used “tax reform” as a synonym for “tax hike.” Now he needs to embrace lower rates to help American workers compete worldwide.

He should call for America to switch to a territorial tax system. This would end Washington’s double taxing of the earnings of companies doing business overseas. It also would let U.S. companies bring back $1.7 trillion they have parked overseas and put people to work here.

The average unemployed person has spent the past eight months looking for work. People can’t wait any longer for Washington to let jobs come back home.

Finally, Mr. Obama should lay out a serious plan to stop wasting taxpayer dollars and shrink our budget deficits. Washington’s debt is hurting people who can’t find work because of the weak economy.

The president still hasn’t submitted a budget for next year, though he’s well past the legal deadline. This would be a great time to break his cycle of wasteful spending.

Republicans have offered solutions to get Americans back to work. In the past two years, the House of Representatives passed 40 jobs bills. They all died waiting for Democrats to take them up in the Senate.

The American people have one concern above all others: jobs. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, unemployment will stay at 7.8 percent until 2015 if the president doesn’t act.

If Mr. Obama is finally ready to embrace solutions that get people working, he will find broad support among Republicans. If he just wants to deliver another speech that ignores unemployed Americans, he will squander another chance to help all Americans create careers and build the lives they want.

Sen. John Barrasso is a Wyoming Republican.

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