01/28/2014 08:46 am ET Updated Mar 30, 2014

Mr. President: Americans Want More Than a Pen and Phone -- They Want Jobs

Here we are in the sixth year of President Obama's tenure, and as he prepares to deliver yet another State of the Union address, people are paying attention to the White House's recent messaging shifts.

In the lead-up to the State of the Union speech, the Obama White House and its liberal allies have pushed the issue of "income inequality," only to be cowed by a slew of poll data showing that Americans aren't interested in their divisive rhetoric.

Now, an Associated Press report reveals that the president is once again attempting to shift his message -- this time away from "inequality" and toward a more optimistic tone of "opportunity" and "mobility ladders." These are themes he is borrowing from conservatives, who understand that growth and opportunity are what make for middle-class prosperity.

But this upbeat theme does not fit the president's dismal economic record. His failed, liberal policies have left millions of American families worse off. And even though President Obama may be changing his words, his policies are still cut from the same old cloth.

Americans know better than to fall for the White House's cynical rebranding effort. And as we prepare to hear what the president has to say for himself, it's important to distinguish between his liberal agenda and the true economic priorities of the American people.

In last year's State of the Union, President Obama correctly noted that "prosperity - broad, shared, built on a thriving middle class," has been the source of our economic progress.

The president is right that the middle class must be the focus of economic policy. However, poll after poll shows that most Americans don't believe Obama's "pen and phone" gimmicks are going to be helpful in their daily lives.

In fact, just "37 percent say they have either a good amount or a great deal of confidence in the president to make the right decisions for the country's future," according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. It's definitely not a good sign for the president's agenda when two out of three people tuning in tonight don't have confidence that he can make the right decisions.

Helping people out of poverty and into the middle class is as important as any policy struggle we face today, but the president's credibility on this issue is compromised by the fact that seven million more people are in poverty today than in 2008.

For these and millions of other Americans, President Obama's economic decisions aren't working. Senator Tim Scott is correct when he says that the results of the Obama Administration's policy decisions, rather than their motives, "are worthy of challenge."

Tonight, President Obama's divisive overtures on his failed economic priorities likely will not change the public's mind on the economy, because the middle class isn't built with rhetorical sleights of hand or by patchwork policy borrowed from a shortsighted liberal platform.

On the contrary, what people are really looking for is sustained economic growth that will help all Americans. A new YG Network survey reveals that by more than a two-to-one margin (64 percent to 33 percent), respondents "say that expanding economic growth for everyone is more important than narrowing gap between rich and poor." No doubt that's part of the reason the president is switching his rhetoric.

But he should also move away from his liberal agenda. When asked to choose between specific policies for the economy, 55 percent of YG Network poll participants said it was more important to grow the economy through policies like lowering energy costs, lowering taxes on small businesses, and reducing the burden of regulations than to focus on policies that address income inequality. Only 39 percent took the opposite view.

When addressing the minimum wage question directly, 42 percent of respondents say that increasing the minimum wage would cause more low-wage workers to lose their jobs, while only 33 percent believe more jobs will be created.

Knee-jerk policy decisions stemming from Washington won't jump-start this economy. Conservatives must continue to make the case that broad-based economic growth is the most effective way to get people working again. (And at higher wages than they're seeing in this current economy.) The American people understand that this route will work, because it has in the past, and it can work again if crafted thoughtfully.