The "state of our union is stronger" was President Barack Obama's assessment in his annual address last week.
That word "stronger" is much less definitive than terms used by presidents past such as Clinton, Bush, Carter and Reagan who declared our nation "strong," "sound," and in Harry Truman's words, "good."
The realities, rather than the rhetoric, prove a fellow Tennessean's view of our country's standing. President Andrew Johnson declared: "Candor compels me to declare that at this time there is no union as our fathers understood the term, and as they meant it to be understood by us."
The soaring promises delivered last week by the president were all rooted in expanding government through more spending and programs, not economic growth.
We still have a high level of unemployment and Americans need to be at their best, creating and pursuing personal opportunity. The prospects for the former are high, and the path to the latter were not found in the State of the Union address.
Here's the canvass on which the current scenario is being painted:
In January, real unemployment as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was reported at 14.4 percent. This figure includes those actively looking for employment and those who have settled for part-time work. The reported unemployment rate of 7.9 percent removes the "under-employed" but still includes the staggering rate of 23.9 percent for 16- to 19-year-olds looking for work, 13.8 percent for the black citizens actively seeking a job, and the 9.7 percent of Hispanics who are out of work but seeking jobs.
While citizens seek jobs, the formula offered guarantees fewer of them.
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obama-care, proceeds. Businesses are confronted with a decision. If a company's workforce is expanded, health care is a mandatory offering enforced by the IRS with a non-tax-deductible fine. If a company has fewer than 50 employees or has employees that work fewer than 30 hours weekly, this mandate does not apply.
Common sense prevails. Employers will not increase full-time employees in number or hours due to the excessive entanglement of regulation and government requirements.
President Obama called for the minimum wage to rise from the current $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour in his address. This adjustment is justified by "inflation," loss of purchasing power within our current economy.
A few more brushstrokes on our canvass show that those who are likely employed at the minimum wage are students, those entering the job market for the first-time at entry level, and transient or uneducated workers. Remember those unemployment figures just above. Which of those groups do you believe will be negatively impacted by an over-night requirement for a business to pay workers $1.75 more?
And the obvious question has to be asked, what's causing the inflation? Yep, it's the incessant government spending, requiring constant borrowing and printing of money by the Federal Reserve that reduces the value of the dollar. Wow. Economics really is a science with replicating results.
President Andrew Johnson's remarks were aimed at the dysfunction of a nation following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the scars of the Civil War. The union as our fathers, or founders, understood it and wanted us to understand it, is to be one of freedom, self-responsibility, the whirl of commerce and possibilities of prosperity.
What we're seeing is a government-controlled economy, with a group of those in the governing class who dole out goodies in a system of mediocrity for all.
Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies public relations firm.