(Photo: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
The nation's problems cannot be solved by more government spending, Republicans complained in response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) delivered the Republican response and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delivered the Tea Party response Tuesday night.
Both Paul and Rubio argued that it is liberty that makes the United States an exceptional nation and warned that the current direction of government policy threatens that exceptionalism.
America was founded upon a belief that people are not trapped in the socioeconomic class they are born into, Rubio explained. "America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them."
"America is exceptional because we were founded upon the notion that everyone should be free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness," Paul said.
Rubio spoke about growing up the son of working class immigrants. What gave him the opportunity to become successful, even from his humble beginnings, was the free enterprise system, he said.
A free enterprise economy is the source of middle class prosperity, Rubio insisted, but Obama believes "it's the cause of our problems."
"What the president fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous," Paul concurred.
When Paul spoke about the "sequester," a set of automatic spending cuts, or, in some cases, reductions in the rate of growth in government programs, set to go into effect next month, he demonstrated where he has differences with some in his own party. Half of the cuts will be in the Department of Defense budget. Many Republicans would prefer to prevent those cuts from going into effect. Paul, though, believes they do not go far enough in reducing government spending.
"Few people understand that the sequester doesn't even cut any spending. It just slows the rate of growth," Paul complained. "Even with the sequester, government will grow over $7 trillion over the next decade. Only in Washington could an increase of $7 trillion in spending over a decade be called a cut."
There is plenty of bipartisanship in Washington, Paul added, because "both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses."
Both Paul and Rubio also advocated school choice programs in their speeches and highlighted how they can help the poor and disadvantaged.
"A great education needs to be available for everyone, whether you live on country club lane or in government housing," Paul said. "This will only happen when we allow school choice for everyone, rich or poor, white, brown, or black."
"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," Rubio remarked.
Immigration reform will be one of the main issues tackled by the new Congress. Rubio is one of those leading that effort in the Senate. Both responses spoke about the need for an immigration system that strengthens the economy.
Rubio said the country can "help our economy grow" with "a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world's best and brightest."
He also mentioned the need for a "responsible, permanent solution" for current unauthorized immigrants, and the need for border security.
Republicans must be the party that "embraces the immigrant," Paul said, because it is the party that "embraces hard work and ingenuity."