‘The State of the Union is…’ According to Rep. Ellison, George Saunders, David Walker

Feb 11, 2013 8:53am

Each day leading up to President Obama’s State of the Union address, ABCNews.com will bring you newsmakers thoughts on what “The State of the Union is …”

With one day left before President Obama’s State of the Union address, three newsmakers weighed in on the current state of the union.  Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said the state of the union “needs a real jolt” to ensure working class Americans experience success in our economy.

“The state of the union is a snapshot of where the country is at a particular moment, and right now where our country is is in a difficult state for working class families.  Income inequality is growing, and it’s a serious problem and it’s actually undermining economic growth. We need more working and middle class people with more money to spend so that when they spend that money at the stores and the shops, that the stores and shops can hire more people and we can really boost up the economy, pay down the deficit and really help people achieve their dreams and hopes and aspirations for their family in terms of education, retirement and so many other things,” Ellison said.

“The state of the union, I think, needs a real jolt when it comes to making sure that working folks have a real shot in a fair economy, and we’re not there yet,” Ellison added. “I’m looking forward to the president to speak directly to that issue and directly to how the sequester represents a threat to that as we dismantle the ladder of opportunity for so many people across this country. Right now we’ve got a big storm in the northeast, are we going to have enough FEMA help? Are we going to have enough home and heating oil for people. All critical questions for the state of the union.”

George Saunders, author of “Tenth of December,” characterized the current state of the union as “mixed.”

“The state of the union is in my view divided and divided along of kind of media constructed lines – left, right that don’t really reflect the reality of most Americans hearts and characters,” Saunders said. ”I think one of the challenges we face is to try to go back to a set of essential American virtues that we all share and kind of resist the tendency of the left and the right to reinforce this divide which is largely fictive.”

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David Walker, former U.S. comptroller general and founder and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative, categorized the state of the union as “mixed.”

“The state of the union is mixed. The United States is the world’s largest economy, the temporary sole super power, the leading democracy on earth, but we face a number of serious sustainability challenges that threaten our future position in the world, our future standard of living at home, our future national security and our future domestic tranquility,” Walker told ABC News. “Our political system is broken.  We face a number of known and growing problems and yet the political system has not been able to effectively address them until they reach crisis proportions.  We’ve got to put our finances in order. We need to deal with our critical infrastructure.  We need to generate more opportunity. We need to modify our immigration laws, our energy and environmental policies, we have to control healthcare costs. We have to deal with all of these issues if we want our future to be better than our past.”

“The truth is our financial condition as a country is poor and deteriorating. There’s only one country in Europe that has a total higher government debt to GDP than us and that’s Greece and we don’t want to follow their example. The president is the commander in chief, the chief executive officer, he is the only person elected by all the people. He needs to lead the country to help create a better future,” Walker said. “We need to focus on pro growth and opportunity. We need to focus on individual equity.  We need to focus on fiscal responsibility and these are key pillars to help create a better future.  More growth and opportunity today, more fiscal responsibility for tomorrow. Do them both at the same time and do them in 2013.”

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