The President of the United States tomorrow will inform the Congress on the State of our Union, as he is constitutionally mandated to do. The past 12 months have seen our country head down a dangerous course, and The Heritage Foundation can only hope that the President will use this time of reflection, coming on the heels of a stunning electoral loss, to change direction.
You must recognize, Mr. President, that the State of the Union is not good. You need a new approach and fresh domestic and foreign policies. The caps on spending which reports last night said you were considering are but an exceedingly modest first step, and the devil is in the details. The caps will do virtually nothing to improve the nation’s fiscal health unless you tackle Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Shifting tactics and stoking populism will be both cynical and condescending to the voters, who will see through this strategy. Mr. President, it’s the policies you need to change, not the spin.
In 2008, you promised economic recovery and sound financing. You promised to keep our country safe. You also promised bipartisanship.
Instead, our nation is enduring high unemployment and slow growth, due to surging spending and government borrowing. Bailouts and a pork-ridden “stimulus” bill will not get our country back on track. High unemployment comes primarily from the lack of job creation, rather than job destruction. Our research shows that your Administration’s policies have created uncertainties that have hindered risk-taking by entrepreneurs.
And now, faced with difficulties, instead of changing course you are doubling down and promising increased regulation. The challenges you have faced in one year in office—tea parties, town halls, three tough electoral losses—should have made you rethink your policies. Americans have always preferred limited government over the expansionist kind, lower—not higher—taxes, rational policies, not punitive ones. Your advisors are misreading the public, and economic reality, if they think increased red tape and government control will cure any of our ills.
The Index of Economic Freedom, which The Heritage Foundation publishes annually alongside The Wall Street Journal, tells the story. This year, for the first time since we started publication of the Index, the United States has fallen from the top tier “free” category. Yes, about half of this fall came because of decisions taken by your predecessor, but your policies have dramatically accelerated this descent. And our Index, issued last week on the anniversary of your inauguration, does not even take account of the second half of your year in office.
Your signature health care reform initiative has been a colossal missed opportunity. It is now in free fall, while insurance and health costs continue to climb.
This was a year that should have been spent working on lowering the barriers to jobs creation. But expansionist policies have crowded out investment and are killing the great American job machine.
In foreign policy, your year in office has left the world a more troubled place. A President has to lead in the world as it is, not as he wishes it to be.
Just as creating jobs should get all your attention domestically, battling terrorism should be Job One in foreign policy. The massacre at Fort Hood and the attempted Christmas Day bombing should have been wake-up calls for Washington. Our country is not using all the tools in the tool kit to protect Americans from terrorism. Even worse, your Administration seems ambivalent over the fact that the legal authority for key investigative methods granted under the Patriot Act is about to expire.
Abroad, we simply don’t know when Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon. You seem to have thrown all your chips with an entity that does not exist—the International Community—waiting for it to impose sanctions on Iran and turn the spotlight on its horrific human rights record. This fits with your view that the Berlin Wall fell because “the world came together as one,” but just like that was bad history, your view of the present is also borderline mythical.
So right now the world has the impression that America is distracted, unable, or unwilling to lead or vigorously defend its interests. That was painfully apparent in your Administration’s decision to walk away from our missile defense commitments to Poland and the Czech Republic. The time for missile defense is now, not after a threat emerges.
Mr. President, several policy areas cry out for your attention.