Friday, January 23, 2015

State of the Union

The State of the Union is a great American tradition. The Constitution mandates that the President must periodically update Congress on our nation’s wellbeing. George Washington gave a short 1089 word oral report, Thomas Jefferson delivered a written report, and Woodrow Wilson inaugurated the practice of presenting an annual message to the Congress. In time, the State of the Union became a grand televised event for the world to see. It is a unique expression of the American ideal of openness and transparency in government even in the midst of deep philosophical division—a theatre for the drama of politics and policy debate.

This week was no different. First, here’s what I liked. The President had a strong emphasis on helping one another and on supporting the "family" of our nation—especially his gratitude for our troops—which was appropriate and moving. In a moment of unity, the President’s praise for our veterans attracted enthusiastic applause. I also respected the President’s emphasis on a new politics that lifts up young people and gives them a sense of purpose.

Here’s what I found troubling. The President’s analysis of our economic recovery gave a very incomplete picture. It excluded exorbitant health care costs that are hurting so many families, as well as the excessive regulations harming small businesses, limiting the promise of ownership and opportunity for all. Small business is the key to a healthy economy—not more concentration of power in Washington.

I believe our national conversation first should acknowledge some difficult truths. Too many families face downward mobility, stagnant wages, and an increased cost of living. Many people feel abandoned by the Washington-Wall Street axis. But more government shouldn’t be the automatic solution. Although the current system helps some people, proper healthcare reform requires a responsible replacement that reduces costs, improves outcomes, and protects innocent persons. An improved policy, coupled with a renewed focus on small business, entrepreneurship, and decreasing Washington’s heavy-handedness, is the key to unlocking an opportunity economy for American families.

Americans deserve smart and effective government. Washington should not remain mired in mediocrity, nor should we divide our nation by class and income. But an arthritic economic recovery has dimmed the financial prospects of too many small businesses and families. In our time of social fracture, more and more people are feeling directionless and alone.

Despite our challenges, the start of a new Congress is an exciting time to renew our government and the promise of our nation. My priorities in Congress are promoting a healthy economy, protecting the country, and preserving our families and communities—the true strength of our nation.

About the Author:

JEFF FORTENBERRY has served as the U.S. Representative for Nebraska's 1st congressional district since 2005. He is the Chairperson for the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry. Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and has a seat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a member of the following Caucus groups: Civil War Battlefield Caucus - Congressional Biofuels Caucus - Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus - House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus - International Conservation Caucus - Sportsmen's Caucus.

Congressman Fortenberry has become the most knowledgeable representative on Capitol Hill for nuclear security issues.

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