Helping the middle class grow will also require an education system that gives people the skills today's jobs entail and the knowledge that tomorrow’s world will require.
We need to incentivize local school districts to offer more advanced placement courses and more vocational and career training.
We need to give all parents, especially the parents of children with special needs, the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice.
And because tuition costs have grown so fast, we need to change the way we pay for higher education.
I believe in federal financial aid. I couldn’t have gone to college without it. But it’s not just about spending more money on these programs; it’s also about strengthening and modernizing them.
A 21st century workforce should not be forced to accept 20th century education solutions. Today’s students aren’t only 18 year olds. They’re returning veterans. They’re single parents who decide to get the education they need to earn a decent wage. And they’re workers who have lost jobs that are never coming back and need to be retrained.
We need student aid that does not discriminate against programs that non-traditional students rely on – like online courses, or degree programs that give you credit for work experience.
When I finished school, I owed over 100,000 dollars in student loans, a debt I paid off just a few months ago. Today, many graduates face massive student debt. We must give students more information on the costs and benefits of the student loans they’re taking out.
All these measures are key to helping the economy grow. But we won’t be able to sustain a vibrant middle class unless we solve our debt problem.
Every dollar our government borrows is money that isn’t being invested to create jobs. And the uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren’t hiring.
The President loves to blame the debt on President Bush. But President Obama created more debt in four years than his predecessor did in eight.
The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending 1 trillion dollars more than it takes in every year. That’s why we need a balanced budget amendment.
The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programs where spending is already locked in. One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now.
I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it.
Republicans have offered a detailed and credible plan that helps save Medicare without hurting today’s retirees. Instead of playing politics with Medicare, when is the President going to offer his plan to save it? Tonight would have been a good time for him to do it.
Of course, we face other challenges as well. We were all heart broken by the recent tragedy in Connecticut. We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country. But unconstitutionally undermining the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it.
On foreign policy, America continues to be indispensable to the goal of global liberty, prosperity and safeguarding human rights. The world is a better place when America is the strongest nation on earth. But we can’t remain powerful if we don’t have an economy that can afford it.
In the short time I’ve been here in Washington, nothing has frustrated me more than false choices like the ones the President laid out tonight.
The choice isn’t just between big government or big business. What we need is an accountable, efficient and effective government that allows small and new businesses to create middle class jobs.