But the president has yet to deliver for middle-income folks, especially the 70 percent of the adult population without college degrees. Nor will his repackaged promises last week change anything. The Congressional Budget Office foresees continued slow growth, with an average unemployment rate of 7.9 percent this year and 7.8 percent for 2014. Moreover, of the few jobs created under Obama, most are retail or service-sector positions that are inadequate to support a family. Indeed, Ruy Teixeira, who wrote The Emerging Democratic Majority 10 years ago, warns in the New Republic that these realities could dismantle the Obama coalition.
Despite all the good talk, why does Obama continue to shortchange Middle America?
According to Walter Russell Mead, editor-at-large of the American Interest, the "blue technocrats" and "establishment liberals" who advise the president can't fathom a return to America's middle-class glory days. Instead, they see globalization, automation, and bailouts creating a two-tier economy that enriches Wall Street, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley, but sidelines most of the population into dead-end jobs - an "economic surplus" that can't survive without Medicaid and food stamps.
This anemic scenario reveals, as Jim Tankersley of the Washington Post reports, why Obama is enamored with the notion that everybody should finish college - which misses the point that what Americans need, more than diplomas, are jobs. It also explains the administration's full-court press defending abortion-on-demand and free birth control, tactics that, in Ebenezer Scrooge fashion, cap the "surplus population."
As last week's speech confirmed, Obama remains animated mostly by concerns that gladden his base: more tax increases, more Solyndra-type green-energy boondoggles, "easier" voting procedures, and making Head Start-like programs universal under the euphemism of "early learning." With these fashionable issues on the table, who has time to create bourgeois middle-income jobs?
That is not to say that the president's proposals to advance manufacturing, infrastructure, science, technology, and a higher minimum wage are without merit. If pursued with the same pro-growth, pro-industry vigor that built the country between the Great Depression and the 1970s, they could jumpstart a real recovery.
That's why Republicans should one-up his job-creation ideas while pruning away his counterproductive social agenda. As the Republicans once promised a chicken in every pot, today they should promise a high-paying "family-wage" job with medical insurance and retirement benefits for every family.
Such a pledge would require "powering up" U.S. industry, a goal Obama says he supports while simultaneously seeking to "power down" energy use and layer new regulations and restrictions on the private sector. The GOP should point out this contradiction while fighting for more energy, more manufacturing, and more jobs than Obama could ever imagine.
Here's how: End the out-sourcing of whole production-supply chains to China by increasing the domestic-content requirement of all Pentagon-procurement contracts to 100 percent. This would ensure a secure and fully made-in-the-USA military. Meanwhile, build Obama's smart-infrastructure initiative, but favor new highway and bridge construction, using U.S. materials and workers, while dropping high-speed rail - the environmentalists' new bridge to nowhere.
To power this renaissance, the GOP could call for an Apollo moon shot: the building of a new generation of safe nuclear power plants providing free electricity to all factories and start-ups in the heartland. Moreover, the party should demand that Obama's Environmental Protection Agency get out of the way of the production of a century's worth of cheap and cleaner natural gas. And insist on the construction of the Keystone pipeline, another job driver that Obama has opposed.
By rallying all pro-growth forces behind a literal rebuilding of the nation, Republicans could deliver what Obama has failed to provide: good jobs at good wages for all.
Robert W. Patterson served as a welfare adviser in the Corbett administration. E-mail him at email@example.com.