President Barack Obama delivered his third State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress last week. These are always inspiring events with the House and Senate united in welcoming the president, his cabinet, the justices of the Supreme Court and leaders of our nation’s military.
The real test is not what was said that night but what can be accomplished in the days ahead. I appreciate the president outlining his agenda. I was encouraged to hear him endorse educational flexibility and his announced intentions to repeal overly burdensome regulations. Some of the items he laid out already have been passed by the House but have been stalled in the Senate. I hope the president’s words will encourage the Senate to take them up.
I also was encouraged to hear the president endorse an all-of-the-above energy strategy. A good place to start would be reversing his misguided decision to block the Keystone XL pipeline that could increase our access to energy resources from Canada as opposed to more hostile nations like Venezuela and those in the Middle East. He also could encourage the Senate to quit blocking House-passed bills to increase domestic energy production.
In his speech, the president called for us to “turn our unemployment system into a re-employment system that puts people back to work.” I could not agree more, which is why I have voted for several reforms to the unemployment insurance system that bring it back in line with its historic role of being a bridge to re-employment.
That’s also why I introduced the Ensuring Quality in the Unemployment Insurance Program (EQUIP) Act, which would require drug screening as a condition for unemployment benefits. For many jobs, drug use is a disqualification for employment, and I see no reason we should pay someone who renders themselves ineligible for work.
Of concern to me is the number of tax credits proposed in the speech. No matter how well-intentioned, tax credits are the genesis of loopholes. Before you know it, only those with armies of lawyers and accountants can benefit from them while the rest of us foot the bill.
Instead of more loopholes and deductions, I believe we should move in the direction of tax simplification. While I have cosponsored the Fair Tax, I believe any proposal that makes our tax code fairer, flatter and more conducive to growth merits discussion. Reforming our tax code is essential to reigniting the American economy — one Harvard economist estimated it could help us grow by as much as $5 trillion!
Where we can find common ground, I look forward to working with the president to advance policies that will put our country back to work and create a brighter future for generations to come. Where he or others cling to failed policies or the politics of division, I will continue to advance alternatives that will help restore the American dream.
Kingston represents the 1st Congressional District of Georgia, which includes Liberty and Long counties.