Major challenges loom as President delivers last State of the Union Address

Published 7:00 am Thursday, January 14, 2016

President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address on January 12.
The event, which fulfills the Constitution’s instruction to “give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,” comes at a particularly pivotal time for charting our country’s future.
Terrorism Seen as Top Problem
Barely more than a month after the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, the President will address a Congress trying to ensure the safety of Americans and the security of our country.
He may attempt to use his annual address to tout his Administration’s environmental agenda and unworkable health-care law, but Americans want to know that they will be kept safe.
According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans now see terrorism as the country’s top problem. The nation’s commander in chief should address these concerns and reaffirm the strength of U.S. leadership amid emerging and complex threats.
In his first State of the Union message, President George Washington had this to say about common defense: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”
Leading From Behind
Americans recognize that the Administration’s half-measures against the Islamic State have not been sufficient. They want a serious strategy that does not settle for the “containment” of terrorists but engages with our Arab allies to bring about the Islamic State’s full defeat.
Over the course of the Obama Administration, we have seen alarming instability and violence. In 2014, global terrorism was the deadliest it has been in 45 years. Syria has descended into a prolonged civil war, the Islamic State has embarked on a reign of terror, and hard-fought gains in Iraq have been lost with the misguided withdrawal of U.S. troops.
In addition to those troubling developments, a U.S. ambassador was assassinated for the first time in more than three decades, and Russian President Vladimir Putin unilaterally defied international law to invade Ukraine.
The world is not safe, and the Administration has continued to lead from behind.
Working Harder, Earning Less
Here at home, Americans are concerned about providing for their families.
The fact that the labor force participation rate has been below 63 percent for nearly two years reflects persistent discouragement in the economy.
The decline in the participation rate, which measures the number of working-age adults who have a job or are looking for one, suggests that many Americans have given up on finding work altogether. Those who do have a job are likely to be working harder but not necessarily earning more.
Data from the Census Bureau shows that average household incomes, when adjusted for inflation, are 6.5 percent lower than before the 2008 recession. Although the unemployment rate has dropped, record-low workforce participation and stagnant wages paint a much different picture of the economy.
In his last year in office, the President should work with Congress to address these concerns.
We share the same goals of keeping Americans safe and putting the economy back on track.

By Senator Roger Wicker

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