The Cliff Notes to Tuesday night's State of the Union speech are out: It’s going to be about jobs.
Each of the three quotations provided by the White House to preview the address focus on promoting economic growth, driven by an increase in middle-class jobs.
“Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?” That goal, President Obama plans to say, should be the “the North Star that guides our efforts.”
That theme may sound familiar. It’s been a key part of the president’s agenda for years and one that he has regularly been criticized for failing to achieve. Republicans plan to continue that critique in their response on Tuesday night. At 7.9 percent, the nation's unemployment rate has fallen from a late-2009 peak of 10 percent, but it remains too high, they say. And, in a report that surprised analysts, it was revealed that the economy contracted by 0.5 percent in the final three months of 2012.
“[I]f we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle-class jobs,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., plans to say. Jobs, not tax increases, will reduce the nation’s deficit, he argues. “That’s why I hope the president will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy."
Both previews shine a spotlight on what will be the headline fight in the coming months: how to help the American economy live up to its potential. “Free enterprise” is key, both Obama and Rubio argue. But they differ on how to get there.
“It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation of ours,” Obama will say.
The opportunity to at least join the middle class "isn’t bestowed on us from Washington,” Rubio contends. Obama, he says, “believes [free enterprise is] the cause of our problems."
Both also plan to address the nation's growing deficits. In his speech, President Obama will offer a path toward deficit reduction, one that he says won't "increase our deficit by a single dime." Cutting spending, however, is key to solving the problem, Rubio will argue.