Op-Eds

America's towering debt, in the words of the president's own fiscal commission co-chairs, presents the nation with "the most predictable economic crisis in its history." The president's State of the Union Tuesday night, and his budget submission to follow, could be his last chance to rally the country behind needed reform.

For the past three years, President Obama's almost exclusive focus has been on government spending and government-funded jobs— resulting in greater government debt. We are facing a fourth straight deficit in excess of a trillion dollars and a national debt that is larger than our entire economy. But this surge in spending did not yield the promised results: 1.5 million more Americans are out of work since the president took the oath of office, and more Americans suffer from long-term unemployment than at any point since the Great Depression.

Yet the president has consistently opposed those measures that would lead to sustained job growth. Most recently, he blocked construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would have provided true relief to middle-class Americans through high-paying jobs in the private sector.

If the president wants, as he says, to be a "warrior for the middle class," then he must finally draw up the courage to deliver a long-term budget plan that tackles our debt, restores confidence and unburdens the private sector. Otherwise, the government will continue to grow and the middle class will continue to shrink.

1,000 days, no budget

So far, the president has chosen the opposite course — demagoguing the Republican House for offering a budget with serious reforms while his own budget would have doubled the nation's debt in just 10 years. Meanwhile, the president ignores the scandal plaguing the Democrat Senate. His State of the Union actually marks a milestone: 1,000 days since we last saw a budget plan from the Senate's Democrat majority.

In the absence of difficult, necessary, long-term reform, we have instead seen a non-stop cycle of short-term stimulus that drives up the debt. But will these policies leave us stronger, or weaker, five and 10 years down the road? Has all this spending benefited the middle class, or has it benefited those in the political class with the best connections and most clout?

For American households, median income fell to $49,445 in 2010. Adjusted for inflation, this is a level not seen since 1996. Middle-class income has declined 7% over the past 10 years, while total federal spending has nearly doubled.

While the president has "invested" billions in politically favored energy corporations such as Solyndra, blue-collar workers have suffered from the president's blockade of domestic energy exploration. Restoring offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to the levels we had before the president's temporary moratorium would create an estimated 190,000 jobs in just two years.

Fifty thousand overtaxed U.S. factories shut their doors over the past decade. But instead of making our workforce more competitive by streamlining the tax code, the president has called for tax hikes that will only produce slower growth and more wasteful Washington spending. He has also failed to stand up to China for violating trade rules and has scaled back worksite immigration enforcement that would help protect American workers.

Hidden bureaucracy is also taking its toll. Before regulations are finalized, the federal agency that proposes it must estimate how much that new rule will cost the economy. From 2001-06, the average number of regulations costing more than $100 million was about 70 per year. Under the Obama administration, the average is 140. When the cost of doing business in America goes up, jobs are lost to competitors overseas.

'Job-killers, not job-creators'

President Obama's health law only adds to the pain. It will grow the debt by $700 billion over 10 years and, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, result in the loss of 800,000 jobs. And the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that by the end of this year, health expenditures for the average family of four will be $2,440 higher than when the law was passed. This is a hammer blow to working Americans.

Higher energy costs, more regulations and regulators, more taxes and more debt — these are job-killers, not job-creators. It's just that simple.

The president says it's a "make-or-break moment for the middle class." That is surely correct. The question is, will the president now set aside the policies that have damaged the middle class while expanding the government? Will he aggressively pursue policies that will actually reduce debt and create good jobs in the private sector? Because it is the private sector on which depends both the solvency of our government and the prosperity of our people.

This op-ed originally appeared in USA Today.