Reaction to President Obama's State of the Union Speech

Feb 13, 2013

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Here is what U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue had to say following President Obama's State of the Union speech:

The president’s return to a focus on jobs and growth is overdue and we welcome his call for immigration reform and trade expansion. The question is whether the totality of his agenda is designed to grow our economy or simply to grow the government. More spending, higher taxes, and massive federal rule-making will not put Americans back to work or stop the slide of middle-class incomes. To revive our economy, restore confidence, and put millions of unemployed Americans back to work, jobs and growth cannot be an occasional priority, it must be the top priority at all times.

The American business community can help deliver more middle class jobs and bigger paychecks if the government reduces deficits and regulations, reforms taxes and entitlements, and works aggressively with our companies to expand domestic energy and global trade.

Creating jobs and growing our economy have been and remain top priorities for American business. Early this year, the Chamber put forth its American Jobs and Growth Agenda, a plan to generate stronger, more robust economic growth, create jobs, and expand opportunity for all Americans. Economic growth alone can’t solve all our problems, but without growth, we won’t be able to solve any of them.

We look forward to working with those who share this desire to restore economic growth and vitality to our great nation.

The Chamber was particularly encouraged by the president's remarks on Transaltantic trade. Chamber Senior Vice President for International Affairs Myron Brilliant commented:

The Chamber applauds the President’s announcement in tonight’s address that the administration intends to enter into negotiations with the EU on a transatlantic trade agreement. We have long called for such a pact to eliminate tariffs, ensure compatible regulatory regimes, and address investment, services, and procurement.  We urge both U.S. and European officials to move swiftly in negotiating a high-standard agreement that will foster economic growth and job creation for all our citizens.

We asked a couple of influential bloggers and reporters for their reaction to the president's economic agenda.

Mark Green, EnergyTomorrow Blog:

The president is on the right track in seeing the tremendous opportunity in domestic oil and natural gas development to create new jobs, stimulate broad economic growth and supply additional revenue to the government – all while providing the lion’s share of the energy that runs America. As API President and CEO Jack Gerard said, the president recognized the oil and natural gas industry as a “robust economic engine.”  

The question is follow-through. By himself the president could approve the Keystone XL pipeline, creating 20,000 jobs immediately. He could lift existing restrictions on responsible development – on the outer continental shelf and federal lands, for example – and he could halt efforts within the administration to create unnecessary regulation that likely would chill energy investment and economic growth. The president’s attention to energy in the State of the Union was encouraging. Now he needs to take action.

Betsi Fores, Reporter, Daily Caller News Foundation:

The president's notion that raising the minimum wage would decrease poverty is completely living in a fantasy land. Study after study show that raising the minimum wage makes it harder for employers to hire employees, hurting their ability to create jobs, and does nothing to address the poverty level.

The administration talks a big game on making things easier for small businesses, but its policies like raising minimum wage, or Obamacare, that hurt small businesses' ability to grow and keep the economy stagnate.

In a statement, International Franchise Association President & CEO Steve Caldeira welcomed the president’s call for action in Congress to address challenges with the immigration system and the complexities in the tax code. Meanwhile, IFA asked its members what impact President Obama’s proposed minimum wage hike would have on their businesses: 

“Small businesses provide much-needed jobs to the economy and many small businesses, especially franchise businesses, rely on entry level positions. Raising minimum wage would drive up my entire payroll and equate to a 20–30 percent increase in labor costs. This will certainly not help our economy or our country’s leading problem: lack of jobs.”  
Jim Salerno, Vice President, Carvel Ice Cream
The vast majority of employees in my business who make the minimum wage are not full time employees. Requiring me to pay a high schooler, who I am training to be a worker in our society, a minimum wage of $9.00 will crush my business.  In addition, the part time workers I have at minimum wage are usually transient workers.  They will leave me in two months because they find another job that gives them another two hours per week or five cents more per hour.  Paying them a higher minimum wage will not make them stay longer.  
If my employees have a great work ethic, then I immediately pay them more.  This is a simple ‘market’ decision. If they are a poor performer, then paying them $7.25 or $9.00 per hour will make no difference in their performance, but it will erode our ability as small business owners to make a profit and therefore open new locations.
Sean Falk a multi-unit franchise owner of  Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina, Great American Cookies, Mrs. Field’s Famous Brands and Pretzelmaker
”Raising the minimum wage will not deliver customers with more money in their pockets. It will continue to discourage small businesses from hiring or even keeping minimum wage personnel.  Increasing the minimum wages does not help stimulate business.” 
Earl Wertheim, Franchise Developer, The UPS Store

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