Congressman Richard Hanna has a lot to say in response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address delivered last night.

Hanna, who brought as his guest, veteran Sgt. Ernest "EJ " Weeks, spoke with WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning, about both the President's optimism and about his own concerns for the future.

You can hear the full audio here:

Acknowledging that the speech was about the middle class, Hanna said, "I think, in a very big way, it laid out the 2016 campaign, and where the Democratic party would like to take the conversation...A lot about it was a little disquieting for me."

Hanna mentioned the Keystone XL Pipeline.  And, while he said that he believes in global warming, he also believes that things need to be done to address oil needs and job creation.

State of the Union Address 20 January 2015   Photo Credit: Photo by Mark Wilson, Getty Images

He spoke about the two-year universal college component of the President's initatives, saying, "I personally think people do better when they pay for something themselves... I put myself through college, and certainly I'd love to have that, but who's going to pay for it?  You know I run into people in our district...a family of four that is barely getting by...The middle class really is in trouble in our country and (this is) one more way to take money from them and...frankly, they're not necessarily willing to pay to go to college."

He says that one of the biggest problems in society in the disenfranchisement of young people, and that is partly to blame for the rise in extremism.

He says that while the unemployment rate is down, and eleven million people have been put to work in the past nine or so years, the labor participation has never been lower. There are people who are out there not looking for work, and more people looking to the government to do things that they once did on their own.

I think a lot of happy talk doesn't make people feel better.

During last night's State of the Union Hanna says he agrees that the President sugarcoated several issues.  "Does anyone really believe we're winning the war against terror when you look around the world and you see ISIL's footprint growing?  I mean, certainly we're trying and hopefully we will...There's a lot on people's minds.  I think a lot of happy talk doesn't make people feel better.  Frankly that goes all the way around.  The Republican party has an obligation to put things out there that will actually become law that are actually helpful, not just begin the process of talking about immigration, but real tax reform.  We've had bills out there.  [Former Congressman] Dave Camp, Ways and Means**, had a complete package; we never talked about it.  So, there's a lot of blame to go around."

Part of the problem is "...a lack of upward mobility for the middle class and for the poor....Te jobs that we need to focus on, those high tech, value-added jobs that allow us to build things the rest of the world wants, intellectual capital, we're not doing it...Although we are the best place in the world to do business...how is it that we have a tax code that has the highest corporate taxes in the world, that has the most complicated code, and yet we old ourselves up as the free enterprise capital of the world?  We are that, but we're losing that."

On the subject of the minimum wage and wage parity Hanna says, "There is no doubt in my mind that men and women who do the same work should make the same money."  However, as far as the minimum wage is concerned Hanna responds to the President's assertion that the minimum wage should be immediately and significantly increased by saying, "The minimum wage is really intended to go to people who are 'starting up' in life, who need to be educated in a skill, want to start, don't have a lot to offer, and therefore can't demand a lot...Unfortunately what's happened is there are a lot of people that are working for minimum wage who are in their twenties, who are in their thirties, and beyond, and that...isn't what it was intended to do."

Of the fact that the GOP is touting new energy being breathed into Congress with the latest class of freshman, Hanna says that although his energy is consistently up, Congress "...is a discouraging place in a lot of ways because there are people here who are sever idealogues, who are close-minded to the other side to a degree that is quite surprising when you know that nothing ever gets done here without some degree of compromise."

Of the nanotechnology project in Utica, one of the ways in which Hanna is working to get things done locally he says, it is frustrating.  "...Fifteen years to get a d--- permit, I mean, give me a break...over a very minor issue."  Nonetheless the permit from the Army Corps of Engineers was - eventually - granted.  "Frankly I'm sick of living year in and year out on political promises.  If it's gonna happen, let it happen, and let me see it, and let me go over there and watch it be built."

Hanna says his office is staying busy while he continues to serve his district.  "We're here for two more years...and we're looking for things to do.

[**EDITOR's NOTE: Former Congressman David Lee "Dave" Camp (R-MI) was Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee from January 3, 2011 to January 3, 2015.**]


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