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Republicans have yet to say ‘Yes, we can do this’

Erixon is a junior rhetoric and politics major and can be contacted at william.erixon@drake.edu

Tonight President Barack Obama will address a joint session of Congress and the American people to present his plans to reverse our nation’s economic fortunes and solve the unemployment crisis facing our workers. By most accounts his plans are likely to include some old ideas that he has been trying to get through for some time, such as infrastructure investments and the passage of trade agreements, as well as some modest new proposals such as a tax credit to companies that hire new workers.

These are ideas of great merit and Obama’s efforts to implement them are commendable, but it is unfortunate that Congress is unlikely to act on any of these proposals. Speaker John Boehner and his intractable majority in the House of Representatives makes it almost impossible for anything of real substance to be done about the jobs crisis, which is kind of a shame.

Boehner can claim that job creation is his highest priority as much as he likes, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Surface Transportation bill is set to expire at the end of the month unless his caucus decides to act responsibly. The expiration of this bill would immediately put 4,000 workers out of pay and would put one million jobs on the line over the following year. That’s a lot of jobs, Mr. Speaker.

Not only is it a lot of jobs, it would severely undercut our already lackluster efforts to update and modernize our national infrastructure. At a time when our roads and bridges are crumbling we need to be investing more in transportation, not less. In an op-ed last week, Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa called for a major investment in infrastructure to help revitalize the construction industry left stagnant by the burst of the housing bubble.

I couldn’t agree with Harkin more. It is time that America got serious about investing in the future. From repairing America’s aging bridges to building a new light rail to connect our cities, there is so much work to be done and for all the talk of American exceptionalism, I have yet to hear a Republican leader say, “Yes, we can do this.” There are far more people who are content to stand in the way of American progress, and they have proudly stood up and said “no” to programs and policies that would restore the American workforce and would rebuild the backbone of our nation.

It is my hope that this is what the Republicans in Congress consider tonight as they listen to Obama’s call to action. Do they truly wish to stand in front of the American people and say, “no, you can’t”? These times call for big solutions, both in policy and in temperament, and I think America is up to the task.


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