Making the State of Our Union Strong Once More

Dean C. Garfield photo

On Tuesday night, political spectacle meets policy substance as President Barack Obama delivers the annual State of the Union Address and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida offers the Republican response.  The State of the Union represents a moment of opportunity for our nation’s policy leaders to set the priorities for the year ahead.  This year, despite clear differences of opinion between the two major political parties, we hope they focus on areas of possible common ground that can lead to solutions to advance our nation’s best interests.

Typically, presidents have begun their remarks with a temperature check on the national health.  For example, we have often heard presidents proclaim, “Fellow citizens, the state of our union is strong!” 

Can President Obama make such a declaration this time?  The will, determination, and resilience of our people to rebound from a dramatic, sobering recession are certainly unquestioned and unrivaled.  But is our economy strong?  Are enough people working and enough companies hiring?  Can our nation find the talent we need to further drive economic and innovative progress?  Is our education system vibrant and poised to make our economic future stronger than ever before?  Is our energy strategy going to advance national productivity and sustainability?  Unfortunately, the answer to all these questions is no.

So what, then, is state of our union?

The state of our union is recovering. 

The state of our union is not fully innovative and competitive.

The state of our union is in need of policy leadership from both the President and Congress.

The state of our union must be stronger.

Tuesday night is a moment of great opportunity to reset our public discourse not just in Washington, but also across the country.  Yes, ours is a nation that has tremendous philosophical, political, and policy differences, but what makes this nation a union of free people is our capacity and great tradition to seek consensus on our national interests and achieve compromise on the ways we meet them.  To recapture our economic, competitive, and innovative strength, our policymakers need to adopt an “all-in” approach that gives priority to initiatives that expand opportunities, spark innovative industries, and create good-paying, long-lasting jobs.

The tech sector stands ready to help.  Our policy priorities are neither “red” nor “blue,” and would help to address some of our nation’s critical problems.  Our industry’s policy priorities would open doors to greater numbers of the world’s current and future innovators and entrepreneurs; incentivize greater business and capital investment here at home; build stronger trade ties with expanding global markets; and dedicate new resources to develop the next generation of American scientists and engineers.

I hope we hear these and similar kinds of policy ideas from the President and from Senator Rubio Tuesday evening.  I hope that we hear how our policymakers can work together toward lasting solutions to our biggest challenges.  These policy proposals, and a bipartisan commitment to make them a reality, would strengthen the country’s economic foundation and provide an opportunity for the President to once again publicly proclaim ours is a union that is truly strong.  

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