Time to turn page on current presidency

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, January 20, 2016

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

Last week, President Barack Obama came before Congress to deliver his final State of the Union Address. The President outlined a long list of policy ideas, but many of them were simply recycled from his previous State of the Union speeches.

If you are one of the 25 percent of Americans who like the direction our country is headed, then you probably enjoyed the speech. On the other hand, if you make up the 65% of Americans who think we are headed in the wrong direction then you probably were disappointed. I certainly was.

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The President tried to paint a rosy picture, but the facts simply aren’t on his side. He talked about the how his administration has “delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans,” yet he failed to address the fact that the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has been plagued by scandal and is leaving far too many of our veterans behind.

The President went on and on about how our economy is so strong. If that is the case, then why have so many Americans simply stopped looking for work and left the workforce altogether? Why has it been months, or even years, since hardworking Americans have received a raise? If the economy had truly turned the corner, these issues still wouldn’t be plaguing the American people.

President Obama also used the speech to praise the Iran nuclear deal. What the President didn’t mention in his speech was that Iran was holding ten U.S. sailors as prisoners. While the sailors have now been released, this incident further illustrates that Iran is no friend of the United States and simply can’t be trusted.

A major portion of the President’s speech was focused on praising his foreign policy and justifying cuts to our military. Once again, the facts aren’t on his side. As we cut our military, countries like Russia and China are growing their military capabilities. We cannot continue to cut our military and just expect other countries to act responsibly.

Ultimately, the President’s speech was way out of touch with reality. He spent more time lecturing Congress than he did offering to work with us on areas where we can find common ground.

As he wrapped up the speech, I looked at my colleague sitting beside me and noted that this speech marked the beginning of the post-Obama era. Sure, President Obama will be in the White House until early next year, but the focus will no longer be on him and his policies. Instead, it is time we start putting forward commonsense alternatives to turn our country around.

For example, we should focus on cutting regulations on small businesses. We need to pursue an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy and make it easier for Americans to gain the skills they need to get the high-paying jobs they want. We must also remove regulations from the Dodd-Frank Act, which are hampering our nation’s banks and credit unions.

When it comes to veterans, we need to fundamentally alter the way we care for those who have served our country. Instead of forcing veterans to stay in the VA system, we should give greater choice and allow them to seek care from doctors and hospitals in their local communities.

We must also outline a clear case for a strong national defense that helps keep the American people safe at home and deters threats around the world. Peace through strength must be more than a slogan. It should be the foundation for securing our own freedom and prosperity.

It is time we start looking past this time of big government and toward an America where the government actually works for the people and not the other way around.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.