The Tennessean: TN delegates want Obama to focus on jobs

Posted on January 27, 2010

Judging by the suggestions of members of the Middle Tennessee delegation, President Barack Obama will give a winning State of the Union speech Wednesday night if he focuses on just one topic: jobs.

"Although Middle Tennessee is better off than many parts of the country, we need more jobs, contracts and confidence that our economy is getting stronger," said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville. "Let's get America back on track. The president is a powerful speaker, but he needs everyone's help to grow our economy."

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said creating jobs should be Obama's first subject. He advised Obama to narrow his focus on just a few issues in his second year. "He took too many big bites of too many apples and tried to swallow them all at once," Alexander said of Obama's first year.

The push for job creation, spurred by last week's announcement that unemployment in Tennessee had hit 10.9 percent, may be bipartisan, but the proposed solutions fall along party lines.

Alexander called for a jobs strategy that includes tax cuts, less regulation and free trade.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, sounded similar themes, calling for the use of incentives for private business and individuals. Among her suggestions are giving people a three-month break from federal withholding taxes, eliminating the capital gains tax, and extending tax breaks approved during the administration of President George W. Bush.

Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Pall Mall, said: "Without question, the focus on the State of the Union address needs to be on jobs, jobs, and jobs again." He called for a focus on policies that would help small businesses.

Deficit also a priority

Besides jobs, addressing the federal budget deficit is the other major theme that members of the Tennessee delegation want Obama to address.

"As our national debt continues to rise and unemployment remains at 10 percent, now is the time for Congress and the administration to work together in a bipartisan way to put our financial house in order," said Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Murfreesboro.

Rep. John Tanner, D-Union City, recommended that Obama use ideas offered by the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative House Democrats to address the deficit. The coalition offered a 15-point plan Tuesday that includes requiring Congress to find ways to offset the cost of any new spending through additional revenue or cuts.

"Aside from maintaining a strong national defense, balancing our federal budget is the most important thing we can do to strengthen our country and secure our children's future," Tanner said.

Obama is expected to focus on the themes of job creation and cutting the deficit. He will propose a three-year freeze on federal spending for agencies that don't deal with national security.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker said he hopes Obama takes a lesson from the victory by Republican Scott Brown in last week's Massachusetts U.S. Senate race and moves toward the middle politically.