On Tuesday, President Obama will announce his priorities for the coming year. We hear he’ll be promising a “year of action,” and that could be a laudable goal – assuming it’s the right kind of action.
But it’s hard to tell whether he’s really serious about boosting the economy or whether this is just the latest of his endless pivots – of the campaign-style distractions that have come to typify his presidency.
I hope he’s serious.
Because Republicans want him to join with us to make it easier to create jobs and opportunity – and if he’s serious about helping the middle class, he’ll find he’s got a willing partner on this side of the aisle. He always has.
So we’ll be watching closely to see if he’s finally prepared to engage in a serious and bipartisan way.
Here are the things that would indicate he is.
The Obama administration is now entering its sixth year at the helm of the economy, and things just haven’t gotten much better. I know Washington Democrats have tried basically everything their ideology will allow: massive stimulus spending, higher taxes, more debt and regulations. And yet, according to a recent survey, Americans see the president’s policies as doing more to hurt than help the economy, and 74 percent still feel like the country is in a recession, too.
So we hope the president will finally admit that what he’s tried hasn’t worked – that it’s time to try something new.
For a start, he could call on Senate Democrats to stop blocking votes on job-creation bills the Republican-led House of Representatives has already sent over.
He could promote bipartisan, revenue-neutral tax reform that would eliminate loopholes, lower tax rates for everyone, and help American workers succeed in an increasingly competitive world.
If he wants to boost U.S. exports and create American jobs, he could move aggressively to conclude the kind of pro-growth trade agreements that our allies in the developed world – places like Europe and Canada – are already seeking. He could show he’s serious by pushing Democrats to join us in supporting bipartisan trade promotion legislation in Congress.
He could work with us to make government leaner and smarter; he could help us reduce a debt that weighs down our economy and help us remove nonsensical regulations that choke small businesses.
He could work with us to address the public’s massive dissatisfaction with the size and scope of government in the Obama era.
And if he wants to create thousands of American jobs right away, he could agree to finally approve the Keystone Pipeline after years of delay.
We hear the president will also talk about the income inequality that has grown so much worse under his watch – another subject that will test his seriousness. Because if he’s interested in actually helping people – rather than just talking about it – then he could work with Republicans to address the underlying flaws of the Obama economy. He could work with Senator Rand PaulRand PaulTrump: 'No doubt' we'll make a deal on healthcare Overnight Defense: General says US strike probably led to civilian deaths | Tillerson to push NATO on spending | Trump taps F-35 chief Senate backs Montenegro's NATO membership MORE (R-Ky.) and me to enact Economic Freedom Zones in our most disadvantaged communities. He could offer more choices to poor children trapped in failing schools. And he could direct the EPA to drop its War on Coal that has helped create a depression in so many parts of Kentucky.
And there’s one topic that he’ll want to avoid, but can’t: Obamacare.
Last year, I called on the president to prepare Americans for the devastating consequences of this law. He didn’t listen then; I hope he’ll listen now. Because he can’t ignore the pain this law is imposing on the middle class any longer.
It’s time to be honest and admit that this law can’t work – that it’s time to start over with real, bipartisan reform that can actually lower costs and improve quality of care. That’s what Americans really want. And if the president is serious about a year of action – rather than another year of grandstanding – then he’ll work with Republicans and Democrats to do just that.
So Mr. President: let’s drop the endless Obama campaign and all the Senate Democrat show votes and finally get down to work: for jobs, for growth, and for better healthcare.
Americans are counting on it.
McConnell is the Senate Minority Leader and Kentucky's senior senator, serving since 1985.