Rebuttal - 2022 State of the Union
The economy grew at a rate of 5.7 last year — the strongest growth rate in 40 years and the first step in bringing fundamental change to our economy that hasn’t worked for working people in this nation for too long.For the past 40 years, we were told that tax breaks for those at the top and benefits would trickle down and everyone would — would benefit.But that trickle-down theory led to a weaker economic growth, lower wages, bigger deficits, and a widening gap between the top and everyone else in the — in nearly a century.While you tout last year’s economy, this is evidence that the previous administration’s tax cuts worked. As a matter of fact, every time that tax cuts have been implemented, the economy has responded favorably. Taxes traditionally, and provenly, stifle economic growth. Further, you seem to contradict yourself by touting the economy that overflowed from the previous administration as your administration’s and party’s policies would not have taken effect until the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1, then turning around and identifying the current situation of “weaker economic growth, lower wages, bigger deficits, and a widening gap between the top and everyone else in the – in nearly a century.” With the restrictions of the lockdowns and other mandates, people had less opportunity to participate in the economy; companies had less reason to pay people to stay home (even if they were working from home); freebies provided by the government in the form of extended unemployment benefits, virus protection and detection supplies and programs, and so-called infrastructure programs that have little to do with infrastructure have led to spending that further exceeds tax revenue; and all of this has led to the widening of that gap.Look, Vice President Harris and I ran for office — and I realize we have fundamental disagreements on this — but ran for office with a new economic vision for America: invest in America; educate Americans; grow the workforce; build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not from the top down. Because we know when the middle class grows — when the middle class grows, the poor go way up and the wealthy do very well.While all of this sounds good, it reminds one of the old rhetorical question: When was the last time that you were hired by a poor person?America used to have the best roads, bridges, and airports on Earth. And now our infrastructure is ranked 13th in the world. We won’t be able to compete for the jobs of the 21st century if we don’t fix it.That’s why it was so important to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. And I thank my Republican friends who joined to invest and rebuild America — the single biggest investment in history.You’re absolutely correct, Mr. President, that infrastructure is vital to economic growth. However, passing a bill that spends only nine percent of its total on true infrastructure projects seems like it meets the “form over substance” test and doesn’t do a whole lot to further this agenda despite the bill’s name.BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE LAWIt was a bipartisan effort, and I want to thank the members of both parties who worked to make it happen. We’re done talking about infrastructure weeks. We’re now talking about an infrastructure decade.And look, it’s going to — it’s going to transform America to put us on a path to win the economic competition of the 21st century that we face with the rest of the world, particularly China.Speaking of China and the race for economic supremacy in the 21st Century, one will notice that the U.S. government rarely, if ever, mentions their Bridge and Road Initiative, commonly known as BRI. Through BRI, or the New Silk Road Initiative, China has its hand in 145 of the 195 countries of the world. This means that China has agreements with 75 percent of the world that could see them manipulate these countries to their whims. This was recently exhibited in the Middle East where nations traditionally friendly to the U.S. have been pressured to allow China to install military resources there as part of the BRI. In other countries, China was found to be surreptitiously installing military resources in conjunction with BRI programs. Yet, somehow, you believe that passing a so-called infrastructure bill where less than 10 percent is actually spent on infrastructure will counter this.I’ve told Xi Jinping: It’s never been a good bet to bet against the American people.We’ll create good jobs for millions of Americans — modernizing roads, airports, ports, waterways — all across America. And we’ll do it to withstand the devastating effects of climate crisis and promote environmental justice.We’ll build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations; begin to replace the poisonous lead pipes, so every child, every American has clean water to drink at home and at school.Building the electric charging stations is a great gesture to the around two percent of vehicles in the U.S. that are electric-powered. Even as the demand for electric vehicles grows, this does little to provide the “clean water to drink at home at school” for the children, as your remarks tie the electric vehicles with the lead pipes. In today’s electricity-generation world where the majority of U.S. power plants use fossil fuels such as coal, oil, or natural gas charging an electric vehicle indirectly produces as many so-called harmful gases as those emitted by gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles.We’re going to provide — provide affordable high-speed Internet for every American — rural, suburban, urban, and Tribal communities. Four thousand projects have already been announced. Many of you have announced them in your districts.And tonight, I’m announcing that, this year, we will start fixing over 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges in disrepair.Why are we just now starting this? The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into Law by your hand almost three-and-a-half months ago. Estimating the average length of the bridges you mention at one mile each, the bill’s $550 billion total provides for $8.27 million per mile of repairs that you suggest. While it is recognized that not all of the spending in the bill does not go to these repairs, this also displays how convoluted our government has become in that bills rarely match their titles.HIGHWAYS
And, folks, when we use taxpayers’ dollars to rebuild America, we’re going to do it by buying American. Buy American products. Support American jobs.Supporting American jobs is an honorable sentiment! This is not done, though, by canceling programs that lead to potentially thousands of high-paying jobs associated with the Keystone XL pipeline. It also is not done by providing incentives for people to not work, nor by creating situations where people are restricted from going out-and-about to make purchases or use services. Similarly, by imposing further government restrictions and regulations, and by raising taxes on producers and employers in this nation, you and your party prohibit American manufacturers from providing products at a price level that is affordable for most Americans.The federal government spends about $600 billion a year to keep this country safe and secure. There’s been a law on the books for almost a century to make sure taxpayers’ dollars support American jobs and businesses. Every administration — Democrat and Republican — says they’ll do it, but we’re actually doing it.Whether you realize it or not, Mr. President, you have just accused every president before you for almost 100 years of violating Federal Law by implication. You imply that you are the first president to abide by this law, meaning that you are the first president to have not violated it. Yet, the very COVID-19 tests that your administration sourced for the free testing program offered via the United States Postal Service are manufactured in China. This, despite the fact that American-manufactured tests with similar or superior FDA status are available.We’ll buy America to make sure every — everything from the deck of an aircraft carrier to the steel on highway guardrails is made in America from beginning to end. All of it. All of it.But, folks, to compete for the jobs of the future, we also need to level the playing field with China and other competitors. That’s why it’s so important to pass the bipartisan Innovation Act sitting in Congress that will make record investments in emerging technologies and American manufacturing. Mr. President, with all due respect, there will be no “level playing field” so long as our international trade agreements and the union influence in this country continue as they are. While China is allowed to impose prohibitive tariffs on American-made products, and as unions are allowed to unnecessarily drive up wages and benefits at the cost of the consumer, the price to the consumer for American-made goods will not be beneficial to Americans. It is because of these factors that American lumber companies chop trees here, send them to China for processing, then have them shipped back to sell to the retail consumer. While American lumberjacks are able to barely make a living in this example, American mills and lumberyards are left out, and the American consumer is left purchasing a product processed in the very country you seek to demonize with this statement.BIPARTISAN INNOVATION ACTWe used to invest almost 2 percent of our GDP in research and development. We don’t now. Can’t — China is.Let me give you one example why it’s so important to pass.If you travel 20 miles east of Columbus, Ohio, you’ll find a thousand empty acres of land. It won’t look like much. But if you stop and look closely, you’ll see a “field of dreams” — the ground on which America’s future will be built.That’s where Intel, the American company that helped build Silicon Valley, is going to build a $20 billion semiconductor “mega site.” Up to eight state-of-the-art factories in one place. Ten thousand new jobs. And in those factories, the average job — about $135 — $135,000 a year.Some of the most sophisticated manufacturing in the world to make computer chips the size of a fingertip that power the world and everyday lives, from smartphones, technology that — the Internet — technology that’s yet to be invented.But that’s just the beginning.Intel’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, who is here tonight — and I don’t know where Pat is. Pat? There you go, Pat. Stand up. Pat came to see me, and he told me they’re ready to increase their investment from $20 billion to $100 billion.That would be the biggest investment in manufacturing in American history. And all they’re waiting for is for you to pass this bill.What they’re waiting for, Mr. President, is the “free” money that this bill would provide them to do this. It was once that American ingenuity was found solely in the private sector and that innovation was fueled by a private enterprise’s desire to better itself in the marketplace without government interference of any sort. This line of statements shows another thing that has gone wrong with America – companies still innovate on their own, but handouts from governments at all levels have made it such that they will extort the government for funding or benefits in exchange for providing those services and products, including the jobs that would accompany those. While it may seem tough at first, Government needs to remove itself from the operations of private enterprises and force them to succeed on their own. By combining this with leveling the playing field for American workers and consumers, America can return to the days of Henry Ford.So, let’s not wait any longer. Send it to my desk, I’ll sign it, and we will really take off in a big way.And, folks, Intel is not alone. There’s something happening in America. Just look around, and you’ll see an amazing story — the rebirth of pride that comes from stamping products “Made in America,” the revitalization of American manufacturing.Companies are choosing to build new factories here when just a few years ago, they would have gone overseas. That’s what is happening.While you seem to take credit for it, this actually was a major “push” of your predecessor’s which has resulted in the return of manufacturing jobs to the U.S. Nothing that your administration has done has furthered this, and anticipated efforts of yours will only drive these companies back offshore.Ford is investing $11 billion in electric vehicles, creating 11,000 jobs across the country.GM is making the largest investment in its history — $7 billion to build electric vehicles, creating 4,000 jobs in Michigan.The invocation of electric vehicle manufacturing is ironic with your having demonized China and its manufacturing systems, considering the move you made in August of last year. By abandoning Afghanistan in the way that you did, you allowed China to move in and take advantage of some of the richest fields of rare earth minerals and lithium, both elements essential to the manufacture of electric vehicles. So, you’re touting the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States, which is the result of your predecessor’s actions, while making sure that components of the products being manufactured are still having to be sourced from China.All told, 369,000 new manufacturing jobs were created in America last year alone.Folks, powered by people I’ve met — like JoJo Burgess from generations of union steelworkers in Pittsburgh, who’s here with us tonight. Where are you, JoJo? There you go. Thanks, buddy.As Ohio — as Ohio Sherrod Brown says, “It’s time to bury the label ‘Rust Belt.'” It’s time to see the — the — what used to be called the Rust Belt become the — the home of a significant resurgence of manufacturing.And with all the bright spots in our economy — record job growth, higher wages — too many families are struggling to keep up with their bills.Inflation is robbing them of gains they thought otherwise they would be able to feel.I get it. That’s why my top priority is getting prices under control.Despite your claim to make inflation your top priority, you continue to take steps and actions that are proven to only increase prices and inflation.INFLATIONI get it. That’s why my top priority is getting prices under control.Look, our economy roared back faster than almost anyone predicted, but the pandemic meant that businesses had a hard time hiring enough people because of the pandemic to keep up production in their factories. So, you didn’t have people making those beams that went into buildings because they were out — the factory was closed.Why, Mr. President, has it become so difficult to hire people to keep up? Could that be due to the policies like extended unemployment benefits and relaxed rules regarding eligibility? This, combined with continued “stimulus” payments, reduces the incentive for someone to take a job, if they even apply.The pandemic also disrupted the global supply chain. Factories close. When that happens, it takes longer to make goods and get them to the warehouses, to the stores, and go — prices go up.Look at cars last year. One third of all the inflation was because of automobile sales. There weren’t enough semiconductors to make all the cars that people wanted to buy.And guess what? Prices of automobiles went way up, especially used vehicles as well.And so, we have a choice.One way to fight inflation is to drive down wages and make Americans poorer.I think I have a better idea to fight inflation: Lower your costs, not your wages.Great idea, Mr. President! Would this, though, include reducing benefits for union workers to lower the costs of manufacturing? It was once said that the most expensive part of any American-made vehicle was the Viagra pill that the unions have negotiated to be paid for by the manufacturer. It is because of forced and frivolous spending like this as a result of union contracts that the American Worker has priced himself out of the market.And, folks, that means make more cars and semiconductors in America, more infrastructure and innovation in America, more goods moving faster and cheaper in America, more jobs where you can earn a good living in America.Instead of relying on foreign supply chains, let’s make it in America.Look, economists call this increasing the productive capacity of our economy.I call it building a better America.BUILDING A BETTER AMERICAMy plan to fight inflation will lower your costs and lower the deficit. Seventeen Nobel laureates in economics said my plan will ease long-term inflationary pressures. Top business leaders and, I believe, most Americans support the plan.And here’s the plan.First, cut the cost of prescription drugs. We pay more for the same drug produced by the same company in America than any other country in the world.Just look at insulin. One in ten Americans has diabetes. In Virginia, I met a 13-year-old boy — the handsome young man standing up there, Joshua Davis. He and his dad both have Type 1 diabetes, which means they need insulin every single day.Insulin costs about $10 a vial to make. That’s what it costs the — the pharmaceutical company. But drug companies charge families like Joshua and his dad up to 30 times that amount.In continued fashion, Mr. President, this appears to be government-controlled price-fixing. While it is agreed that prescription drug prices are too high, is it truly up to the government to mandate price controls? What would be next? Government-mandated pricing only serves to increase unemployment as material, ingredients, and research and development costs will not change. So, manufacturers and suppliers at all levels will have no choice but to reduce their workforce to keep these other items available for the future.I spoke with Joshua’s mom. Imagine what it’s like to look at your child who needs insulin to stay healthy and have no idea how in God’s name you’re going to be able to pay for it — what it does to your family, but what it does to your dignity, your ability to look your child in the eye, to be the parent you expect yourself to be. I really mean it. Think about that. That’s what I think about.You know, yesterday — Joshua is here tonight, but yesterday was his birthday. Happy birthday, buddy, by the way.For Joshua and 200,000 other young people with Type 1 diabetes, let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month so everyone can afford it. And drug companies will do very, very well — their profit margin.COST OF INSULINAnd while we’re at it — I know we have great disagreements on this floor with this — let’s let Medicare negotiate the price of prescription drugs. They already set the price for VA drugs.Negotiation of drug prices is a step in the right direction. This indicates coming to a mutual agreement on the pricing. Prior to this sentence, though, you indicated government mandates, a popular trend under your administration, to “cap” prices.Look, the American Rescue Plan is helping millions of families on Affordable Care Act plans to save them $2,400 a year on their health premiums. Let’s close the coverage gap and make those savings permanent.As those who save are doing so, millions more will face increased premium costs or out-of-pocket expenses. Healthcare is expensive for more reasons than just prescription drug prices. Hospitals and doctors’ offices are able to charge exorbitant prices for everything that they provide, all because it is expected that the insurance company will cover the cost from the premiums collected.In June of last year my wife – where is she? Oh, there she is – she’s sitting in the other room. Stand up, Sweetie! I'm sorry, Dear. I know your ankle still hurts, particularly when you stand. My wife stepped wrong coming to bed early one morning. She ended up breaking and dislocating her ankle such that she needed surgery. She spent three nights in the hospital and had a plate and 11 pins installed in her ankle. For this, and even without the ambulance bill, the cost was over $44,000. Luckily, we had and have health insurance. Our share of the cost, our out-of-pocket expense, ended up being about month’s wages, about $2,500. Added to that are the costs of the various household accessories that we had to purchase to make her somewhat comfortable, her medications, and the follow-up doctor visits. This doesn’t include the fact that she has been out of work ever since as she is still not able to stand for more than a few minutes at a time.This is not to ask for sympathy, but to exhibit the costs that the insurance companies and families experience millions of times a year.And second, let’s cut energy costs for families an average of $500 a year by combatting climate change.Let’s provide an investment and tax credit to weatherize your home and your business to be energy efficient and get a tax credit for it; double America’s clean energy production in solar, wind, and so much more; lower the price of electric vehicles, saving another $80 a month that you’ve not going to have to pay at the pump.Investments in energy-saving endeavors are applaudable. Coming from a high-level government official, though, this generally means more government spending. As was described earlier, though, this does little to combat climate change as, for electric vehicles, the same amount of emissions are produced in charging the vehicle as in driving a fossil fuel vehicle and, for the manufacturing of the energy-efficient weatherization products more emissions will be produced by the plants providing the electricity to make these.On top of all of this, the minerals and ingredients required to produce the batteries for the electric vehicles and the panels for the solar energy are primarily controlled by the dreaded Chinese government and companies that you earlier demonized.Finally, the efforts to this point to implement solar and wind energy sources have been shown to actually cause more harm to the ecosystems where they are set up than they solve. The wind turbines slice birds, sometimes endangered species, in half, leading to the eventual extinction of the species. Similarly, solar farms as they are known baked birds in the air, again sometimes endangered species.ENERGY EFFICIENCYFolks — third — the third thing we can do to change the standard of living for hardworking folks is cut the cost of childcare. Cut the cost of childcare.Again, the specter of government-controlled pricing is raised. Child care is expensive, there is no doubt. Many childcare providers are barely surviving financially as it is. Unlike hospitals, childcare providers do not charge exorbitantly for the services they provide. Childcare providers are expected to provide certified caretakers for their clients, entertainment including televisions and playgrounds, secure facilities, and even transportation for probably half of their clients to and from schools. By calling for reduced pricing, you are putting our nation’s children who attend these daycares in harm’s way.Folks, if you live in a major city in America, you can pay up to $14,000 a year for childcare per child.I was a single dad for five years, raising two kids. I had a lot of help, though. I had a mom, a dad, a brother, and sister that really helped.But middle-class and working folks shouldn’t have to pay more than 7 percent of their income to care for their young children.Middle-class and working families shouldn’t have the entire parental unit – whether that consists of a single parent or a couple – working so much just to provide for their family. Yet, because your policies are leading to inflation increasing at over double that of wages, this is an impossible equation for those parents.This also leads to the situation you describe earlier and that has been discussed regarding the workforce and the lack of workers.If Government is providing enough to run a household, and if inflation makes it less expensive to stay out of work than to incur additional expenses such as childcare, then the situation will continue.My plan would cut the cost of childcare in half for most families and help parents, including millions of women who left the workforce during the pandemic because they couldn’t afford childcare to be able to get back to work, generating economic growth.COST OF CHILD CAREBut my plan doesn’t stop there. It also includes home and long-term care, more affordable housing, pre-K for three- and four-year-olds. All of these will lower costs to families.And under my plan, nobody — let me say this again — nobody earning less than $400,000 a year will pay an additional penny in new taxes. Not a single penny.Often touted, it is interesting that this level seems to be the standard for tax cuts. This amount of income reported on W-2s and separate from capital gains is equal to the annual salary of the president and well above that of all members of Congress. Despite the fact that many members of Congress have developed themselves into millionaires through their service there, and despite your personal total income from other sources, it seems that you believe all of you deserve to be exempt from tax increases.I may be wrong, but my guess is, if we took a secret ballot in this floor, that we’d all agree that the present tax system ain’t fair. We have to fix it.This is another area on which we agree, Mr. President! We apparently have different opinions on what is needed to overhaul the current tax system. While you and your party continually push for breaks for your friends and family and use these to further complicate the tax system, there are solutions such as the Fair Tax and others that would resolve the situation while maintaining sufficient tax revenue for the U.S. Government to survive.I’m not looking to punish anybody, but let’s make corporations and wealthy Americans start paying their fair share.This statement further exemplifies your lack of understanding of economics. Corporations do not pay taxes, no matter how high you set them. Instead, they merely collect taxes by incorporating these into the cost of doing business. Further increasing taxes on corporations only leads to increased pricing of their products and services, further hampering the individual household’s ability to make ends meet.Look, last year — like Chris Coons and Tom Carper and my distinguished congresswoman — we come from the land of corporate America. There are more corporations incorporated in Delaware than every other state in America combined. And I still won 36 years in a row. The point is: Even they understand they should pay just a fair share.Last year, 55 of the Fortune 500 companies earned $40 billion in profit and paid zero in federal taxes.No, look, it’s not fair. That’s why I proposed a 15 percent minimum tax rate for corporations.We’ve got — and that’s why in the G7 and other meetings overseas we were able to put together — I was able to be somewhat helpful — 130 countries to agree on a global minimum tax rate — so companies can’t get out of paying their taxes at home by shipping jobs and factories overseas. It’ll raise billions of dollars.As has been proven time after time, Mr. President, most notably during the Reagan years, tax increases actually decrease revenues. Increased taxes are passed on to the consumer, allowing them to purchase less, and leading to lower productivity and increased inflation. All of this means that there are lower profits being made by the companies, leading further to layoffs and other detrimental workforce results, continuing the downward spiral of tax revenue availabilities.And that’s why I’ve proposed closing loopholes for the very wealthy who don’t pay — who pay a lower tax rate than a teacher and a firefighter.So that’s my plan. But we have — we’ll go into more detail later.I’m going to grow — we will grow the economy, lower the costs to families.So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get this done. We all know we’ve got to make changes.Folks, and while you’re at it, confirm my nominees for the Federal Reserve which plays a critical role in fighting inflation.My plan will not only lower costs and give families a fair shot, it will lower the deficit.This plan will figuratively shoot families instead of giving them a shot. Further, the reduction in tax revenues collected by the U.S. government, while spending continues to increase, will only further the deficit instead of lowering it. This will continue to add to the Federal Debt, which is already at an insurmountable level.The previous administration not only ballooned the deficit with those tax cuts for the very wealthy and corporations, it undermined the watchdogs — the job of those to keep pandemic relief funds from being wasted. Remember we had those debates about whether or not those watchdogs should be able to see, every day, how much money was being spent, where it — was it going to the right place?In my administration, the watchdogs are back. And we’re going after the criminals who stole billions of relief money meant for small business and millions of Americans.PANDEMIC FRAUDAnd tonight, I’m announcing that the Justice Department will soon name a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud.And, look I think we all agree — thank you — by the end of this year, the deficit will be down to less than half what it was before I took office — the only President ever to cut the deficit by more than $1 trillion in a single year.Lowering your costs also meant demanding more competition. I’m a capitalist, but capitalism without competition is not capitalism. Capitalism without competition is exploitation. It drives up prices.When corporations have to compete, their profits go up and your prices go up — when they don’t have to compete.Small businesses and family farmers and ranchers — I need not tell some of my Republican friends from those states — guess what? You got four basic meatpacking facilities. That’s it. You play with them or you don’t get to play at all. And you pay a hell of a lot more — a hell of a lot more because there’s only four.See what’s happening with ocean carriers moving goods in and out of America. During the pandemic, about half a dozen or less foreign-owned companies raised prices by as much as 1,000 percent and made record profits.Tonight, I’m announcing a crackdown on those companies overcharging American businesses and consumers.Again, the specter of government-controlled pricing. You mention competition, yet government controls, mandates, and regulations make it virtually impossible for new companies to start and grow into competition with those which already exist. The companies you reference grew during an age of less regulation that allowed them to build to where they are now. They, through their size, are able to abide by the regulations that exist today. Someone wishing to start a company from the ground up, though, has to deal not only with the competition of their selected industry but also with the costly efforts to remain in compliance with governmental rules and regulations. Even though someone may be able to offer a better product or service, the process of remaining in compliance with government rules and regulations makes their marketing and selling of that cost-prohibitive. Just for labor, Forbes reports that the cost of compliance with governmental rules and regulations is $10,000 per employee, above and beyond the salary and benefit costs. When dealing with product manufacturing, one also has to consider the costs of making sure that materials and methods also meet the requirements.Folks and as Wall Street firms take over more nursing homes, quality in those homes has gone down and costs have gone up. That ends on my watch.Medicare is going to set higher standards for nursing homes and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve and that they expect, and they will look at that closely.As is proven every day, increasing quality comes with a cost increase, not a decrease. As someone who has had to experience family members receiving care from nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, often lumped into the same category, I can agree that the quality of the services – from staff, to accommodations, to food – is sometimes abysmal. Those who rely solely on Medicare suffer the most. Medicare payment rates are such that these centers have no choice but to hire all but the least-qualified individuals to provide the care needed. Because of Medicare payment rates, these homes and centers can only afford to provide the very basic of care. So, by demanding that the quality of care increases, the cost of this care will also increase. This will further put Medicare behind the proverbial eight ball, having to increase spending which will then require higher Medicare tax revenue of the citizens to pay for that.We’re also going to cut costs to keep the economy going strong and giving workers a fair shot; provide more training and apprenticeships; hire them based on skills, not just their degrees.Let’s pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and paid leave raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; and extend the Child Tax Credit so no one has to raise a family in poverty.PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACTLet’s increase Pell Grants; increase our historic support for HBCUs; and invest in what Jill, our First Lady, who teaches full-time, calls America’s best-kept secret: community colleges.Again with the increased government spending to better individuals.Look, let’s pass the PRO Act. When a majority of workers want to form a union, they shouldn’t be able to be stopped.Unions at their inception were a great thing for this nation and its workforce! Through unions, rules have been developed that have led to the 40-hour workweek, now down to 32-hours in some places; mandatory rest and meal breaks; paid sick time; paid vacation time; and even the healthcare coverage that you exalted earlier. Current labor laws, though, have left the unions fighting for frivolous benefits for workers, increasing the costs to employers and ultimately to the consumer. I mentioned earlier the employer coverage of Viagra pills for auto workers. There was also a move – Teachers, starring Nick Nolte, released in 1984 – that had Judd Hirsch of Taxi fame as the union representative for a group of teachers. Hirsch’s character, Roger Rubell, is trying to get the teachers to care about a proposal to extend their break period by three minutes. “C’mon, people, this is YOUR three minutes we’re talking about” is a quote that has stuck with me through the years. Teachers are to be honored and admired for their efforts to educate our children. They have many, many challenges that they face daily to do that. At that time, almost 40 years ago, though, things were different. The focus of the union at that time was three whole additional minutes of “free time” for teachers for which they would be paid. It is frivolous benefits like this that unions survive to fight for on behalf of the employees. Much like taxpayers would be paying for three more minutes of free time for the teachers in the movie, consumers are expected to pay for the benefits that unions garner for their members now – things like Viagra pills which have nothing to do with the manufacture of a vehicle.When we invest in our workers and we build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, together we can do something we haven’t done in a long time: build a better America.For more than two years, COVID has impacted every decision in our lives and the life of this nation. And I know you’re tired, frustrated, and exhausted. That doesn’t even count the close to a million people who sit at a dining room table or a kitchen table and look at an empty chair because they lost somebody.But I also know this: Because of the progress we’ve made, because of your resilience and the tools that we have been provided by this Congress, tonight I can say we’re moving forward safely, back to a norm- — more normal routines.We’ve reached a new moment in the fight against COVID-19 where severe cases are down to a level not seen since July of last year.Just a few days ago, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new mask guidelines. Under the new guidelines, most Americans in most of the country can now go mask free.While we are returning to normal, this appears to be against your wishes. Despite contradicting scientific evidence, and despite the CDC’s own statements, you have maintained that their recommendations should be accepted as Law. Even government sources – namely the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci – have differed in their recommendations simultaneously. Yet, your administration has stuck with whichever was the strictest and provided for the most government control of the situation. As was discussed earlier, you continue to fight for vaccine mandates despite CDC admission that the vaccinations do little, actually nothing, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and merely suppress the serious effects of the virus in many. The effectiveness of masks has also flip-flopped on many occasions – going from that any type of face-covering was effective, to the need for the most-restrictive masks known as KN95. Depending on when the recommendation was made, as little as a cotton cloth over the mouth and nose would suffice. This has also brought controversy with the interpretations of how masks work. At times, it has been said that masks should be worn to prevent acquiring the virus. Other times, the reason for a mask was to prevent transmitting the virus to others if one is asymptomatic. Rarely have the reasons been conjoined to provide an explanation of full-protection both ways.And based on projections — and based on projections, more of the country will reach a point across — that point across the next couple of weeks.And thanks to the progress we’ve made in the past year, COVID-19 no longer need control our lives. I know some are talking about “living with COVID-19.” But tonight, I say that we never will just accept living with COVID-19; we’ll continue to combat the virus as we do other diseases.And because this virus mutates and spreads, we have to stay on guard. And here are four common sense steps as we move forward safely, in my view:COVID-19First, stay protected with vaccines and treatments. We know how incredibly effective vaccines are. If you’re vaccinated and boosted, you have the highest degree of protection, and we’ll never give up on vaccinating more Americans.There it is, as predicted in my “True State of the Union” video: your call for continued vaccinations despite the CDC’s admission that those offered are not true vaccines and that they do not prevent the spread. By your use of the words “we’ll never give up…” you indicate that you will continue to push mandates that have been declared to be unconstitutional and illegal by the very courts you oversee.Now, I know parents with kids under five are eager to see their vaccines authorized for their children. Scientists are working hard to get that done, and we’ll be ready with plenty of vaccines if and when they do.We’re already — we are also ready with anti-viral treatments. If you get COVID-19, the Pfizer pill reduces your chances of ending up in the hospital by 90 percent.I’ve ordered more pills than anyone in the world has. Pfizer is working overtime to get us a million pills this month and more than double that next month.As you admit above, and as we have seen over the past two years, this virus is continually evolving. Much justified concern came about when the vaccines were developed that they would not be as effective against future strains. This has proven true. With that, one could surmise that the same would be true of the effectiveness of the pills that you have already ordered and spent our money on.Even as it was described as not being the flu when first discovered, COVID-19 is following a similar pattern. While you are likely right that we will have to live with this virus forever, or at least for the foreseeable future, it seems that it is very similar to influenza. Each year the CDC makes a recommendation for the strain to be combatted by that year’s flu vaccine. A similar pattern will likely be followed with COVID-19. With that, the pill that you have invested our money in may or may not be effective next year, or even later this year, based on what strain is dominant.The difference is that, while directing which strain vaccine is produced in a given year, the federal government does not generally purchase the flu vaccine for that year. Instead, it is left to the insurance carriers or individuals to purchase the vaccine.And now we’re launching the “Test to Treat” initiative so people can get tested at a pharmacy and, if they prove positive, receive the antiviral pills on the spot at no cost.There is always a cost. It’s just a matter of whose wallet is used to pay for the pill.And folks if you’re immunocompromised or have some other vulnerability, we have treatments and free high-quality masks.See above.We’re leaving no one behind or ignoring anyone’s needs as we move forward.On testing, we’ve made hundreds of millions of tests available, and you can order them for free to your doorstep.As a reminder, nothing is free. With that, the tests that you are delivering have been manufactured in China while there are suitable tests available that have been manufactured domestically. While proposing a “Buy American” platform during this Address, you continue to provide those people you purport to prop up, the Middle-Class and working people, with products manufactured elsewhere, by the same people you attempt to demonize.And we’ve already ordered free tests. If you already ordered free tests, tonight I’m announcing you can order another group of tests. COVID — go to COVIDTests.gov, starting next week, and you can get more tests.COVID TESTSSecond, we must prepare for new variants.Over the past — we’ve gotten much better at detecting new variants. If necessary, we’ll be able to deploy new vaccines within 100 days instead of maybe months or years. And if Congress provides the funds we need, we’ll have new stockpiles of tests, masks, pills ready if needed.I can’t promise a new variant won’t come, but I ca- — I can promise you we’ll do everything within our power to be ready if it does.Third, we can end the shutdown of schools and businesses. We have the tools we need.It’s time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people. People working from home can feel safe and begin to return to their offices.We’re doing that here in the federal government. The vast majority of federal workers will once again work in person.Our schools are open. Let’s keep it that way. Our kids need to be in school.With 75 percent of adult Americans fully vaccinated and hospitalizations down by 77 percent, most Americans can remove their masks and stay in the classroom and move forward safely.We achieved this because we provided free vaccines, treatments, tests, and masks. Of course, continuing this costs money, so it will not surprise you I’ll be back to see you all. And re- — I’m going to soon send a request to Congress.Just to clarify, Mr. President. Will that request be solely geared toward these measures, or will there be a lot of “fluff” that has little to do with COVID detection and prevention as there was with the Infrastructure Bill?The vast majority of Americans have used these tools and may want to again — we may need them again. So I expect Congress — and I hope you’ll pass that quickly.Fourth, we’ll continue vaccinating the world. We’ve sent 475 million vaccine doses to 112 countries — more than any nation on Earth. We won’t stop, because you can’t build a wall high enough to keep out a —A vaccine — the vaccine can stop the spread of these diseases.Which vaccine is this of which you speak, Sir? Even the CDC and Dr. Fauci admit that the current vaccines do not prevent the spread and only reduce the severity of the effects. In that vein, the vaccine can actually be more dangerous as it can render some asymptomatic victims who go on about their lives spreading the virus by not knowing they even have it.You know, we’ve lost so much in COVID-19. Time with one another. The worst of all, the much loss of life.Let’s use this moment to reset. So, stop looking at COVID as a partisan dividing line. See it for what it is: a God-awful disease.Let’s stop sending — seeing each other as enemies and start seeing each other for who we are: fellow Americans.The virus has never been the issue. Relatively speaking, only a handful disputed the effects of the virus or its aftermath. Instead, the issue has been over the reaction to the virus and the overwhelming dictatorial methods taken in the name of prevention.It hasn’t helped, though, that your administration, including Dr. Fauci and the CDC, has been less-than-transparent. Anecdotes from all over the nation have led to concern that the government has embellished the results of the virus in an effort to maintain those efforts. Reports such as that of a Florida motorcycle rider who died as the result of a horrific crash but had his cause of death listed as COVID-19. The suspicions that are raised by a number of these anecdotes piled on top of each other, combined with statistics provided that are proven to be, at best, misleading have led to a lack of trust in the overall handling of the situation.COVID-19 RESETLook we can’t change how divided we’ve been. That was a long time in coming. But we can change how to move forward on COVID-19 and other issues that we must face together.I recently visited New York City Police Department days after the funerals of Officer Wilbert Mora and his partner, Officer Jason Rivera.Trying to avoid making the deaths of these fine officers a political topic, your party’s actions, even your own Vice President’s direct actions (yes, the lady behind you over your right shoulder), are at least partially to blame. In response to the riots following the George Floyd incident, your party encouraged rebelling against Government, and particularly police forces, to the extent that a portion of Portland was turned into an anarchist no-go zone for police. Vice President Harris herself even provided funding to bail out those accused of committing violent acts against police, many times with video evidence supporting the charges, furthering the impression that this type of activity is acceptable. Your party, Mr. President has fostered an anti-police environment throughout the nation. During your campaign for your current office, Sir, you even seemed to embrace the de-fund the police movement, and have even publicly jumped to chastising police in various incidents where it was later proven that the police acted appropriately. The loss of these officers is horrendous, but you and your party cannot have integrity without admitting that your actions and statements contributed to situations where this would be considered acceptable by some. They were responding to a 911 call when a man shot and killed them with a stolen gun.Officer Mora was 27 years old. Officer Rivera was 22 years old. Both Dominican Americans who grew up in the same streets that they later chose to patrol as police officers.I spoke with their families, and I told them that we are forever in debt for their sacrifices and we’ll carry on their mission to restore the trust and safety in every community it deserves.Like some of you that have been around for a while — I’ve worked with you on these issues for a long time. I know what works: Investing in crime prevention and community policing — cops who walk the beat, who know the neighborhood, and who can restore trust and safety.
CRIME PREVENTIONLet’s not abandon our streets or choose between safety and equal justice. Let’s come together and protect our communities, restore trust, and hold law enforcement accountable.You are absolutely correct, Mr. President, that we need to come together and protect our communities. There have been those who have gone to extremes on both sides of the equation, and those are the voices that have been heard the loudest. This has led to police officers being egged on by one side to sometimes use jackboot tactics to prevent crime. On the other side, it has also allowed others to call for anarchy and lawlessness among the populace under so-called self-policing that holds not true value to most. Instead, we need to come together and make acting illegally a societal taboo once again while also rooting out officers who go beyond the scope of their duties and authority. Reviews of alleged police misconduct need to be conducted by outside parties and need to be conducted, to an extent, to take into account the optics that the actions under review have in the public eye. This is not to say that anything that the public would consider a serious violation should be found to be so just from that opinion, but police officers are employed by and should be held accountable to the public at large.That’s why the Justice Department has required body cameras, banned chokeholds, and restricted no-knock warrants for its officers.That’s why the American Rescue Plan that you all provided $350 billion that cities, states, and counties can use to hire more police, invest in more proven strategies like community violence interruption, trusted messengers breaking the cycle of violence and trauma and giving young people some hope.We should all agree the answer is not to defund the police.It’s to fund the police. Fund them. Fund them. Fund them with the resources and training — resources and training they need to protect our communities.As has been proven by the public education system, funding alone is not the answer, regardless of how it is touted. Training is the key, particularly de-escalation training. Included in this is the training of our troops returning from battle who are leaving the military. This group is highly recruited by police departments around the country for their military discipline, ability and willingness to follow orders, ability to exert authority, and marksmanship. These are wonderful traits when needed. Most events involving law enforcement, though, do not require the same level of these attributes as do the military conflicts through which these men and women have prevailed. Because of a lack of proper training and, if you will, rehabilitation to civilian life, though, many of these new police officers bring with them the same “everyone is the enemy until proven otherwise” mentality that served them so well in their overseas deployments. Particularly when dealing with civilians who are merely exercising their constitutional rights that these officers took an oath to protect and defend, former members of the military now in law enforcement capacities fail to recognize the rights of the citizenry and instead use the mentioned mentality attempting to exert their perceived authority and gain control of the situation instead of recognizing that the persons they are trying to control are the very ones they have been hired to serve. This is increasingly resulting in complaints against officers, litigation against departments and municipalities, and federal lawsuits requiring that the courts uphold the citizens’ rights when proper training and rehabilitation could have avoided all of this.I ask Democrats and Republicans alike to pass my budget and keep our neighborhoods safe.Implying that your budget is about keeping neighborhoods safe, Mr. President, is akin to the State of Texas and proponents of the Texas Lottery stating that the proceeds of the Texas Lottery would help education. There was a whole lot not said about the proceeds of the Lottery in that the proceeds actually were set from the beginning to be delivered to the General Fund and not earmarked for education as had been implied. In this case, while I’m sure there is funding for making neighborhoods safe included in your budget proposal, there is undoubtedly an enormous amount of funding earmarked for private interests and not directed to public safety, which, by the way, is the primary purpose of the Federal Government.And we’ll do everything in my power to crack down on gun trafficking of ghost guns that you can buy online, assemble at home — no serial numbers, can’t be traced.As with many gun control proposals, Mr. President, this proposal is an attempt at legalized prior restraint which actually makes Americans less safe. States such as Florida and Texas, as well as those who have since embraced various forms of “authorized carry” – whether that be concealed or open carry with a license, or what is known as Constitutional Carry where a person can carry a handgun or other weapon without a license – crime rates actually drop when more people are allowed by law to exercise their Constitutional Right to bear arms. Cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C., your home city at this time, prove this, as well. Both of these cities, as well as others, have attempted to criminalize the exercise of the Second Amendment by placing such restrictions on this exercise that it is difficult if not virtually impossible for most to meet them. This has resulted in these cities gaining reputations as criminal strongholds where people are concerned about visiting or even venturing out at night. By restricting the rights of the many because a few may use that right for criminal purposes is engaging in prior restraint by prohibiting an otherwise legal and constitutional activity “just in case.”I ask Congress to pass proven measures to reduce gun violence. Pass universal background checks. Why should anyone on the terrorist list be able to purchase a weapon. Why? Why?And, folks, ban assault weapons with high-capacity magazines that hold up to 100 rounds. You think the deer are wearing Kevlar vests? Mr. President, you definitely are proving that you were not a History major in college tonight. First, you have failed to learn or recall the lessons of World War II through your inaction against President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Now, you evidence the fact that you have never read, understood, or accepted the Federalist Papers which explain the U.S. Constitution and its intention. The Second Amendment has only been diverted to hunting as that is the primary purpose behind shotguns and rifles in this day on the civilian level. This, also, is a theory – that they are only needed for hunting – that has been developed and propagated by your side of the aisle. Those “in the know” recognize that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was required because of the actions by the British prior to U.S. Revolution, to prevent the confiscation of weapons by a government wishing to exert undue and unnecessary control over its citizens. In short, it was developed and passed to allow the citizens the opportunity to protect themselves and this country against the very tyranny that you and your administration are introducing and furthering in this country.Look, repeal the liability shield that makes gun manufacturers the only industry in America that can’t be sued — the only one. Imagine had we done that with the tobacco manufactures.These laws don’t infringe on the Second Amendment; they save lives.See both of my responses above.GUN VIOLENCEThe most fundamental right in America is the right to vote and have it counted. And look, it’s under assault.In state after state, new laws have been passed not only to suppress the vote — we’ve been there before — but to subvert the entire election. We can’t let this happen.These laws, Mr. President, are being passed to ensure that the right of the American Voter is upheld and that their votes truly count. By calling for methods that do not require the authority to vote, particularly photo identification or other identity verification, you are disenfranchising those who wish to ensure that their vote is not offset by one that is not legitimately submitted. Government-issued photo identification is required for a number of activities, including visiting your own home, the White House, and the location of your Address this evening, the People’s House. So, someone is required to identify themselves and their authority to visit your home and their Capitol but should not be required to do so to elect you to occupy that White House?Tonight, I call on the Senate to pass — pass the Freedom to Vote Act. Pass the John Lewis Act — Voting Rights Act. And while you’re at it, pass the DISCLOSE Act so Americans know who is funding our elections.Look, tonight, I’d — I’d like to honor someone who has dedicated his life to serve this country: Justice Breyer — an Army veteran, Constitutional scholar, retiring Justice of the United States Supreme Court.Justice Breyer, thank you for your service. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I mean it. Get up. Stand — let me see you. Thank you.And we all know — no matter what your ideology, we all know one of the most serious constitutional responsibilities a President has is nominating someone to serve on the United States Supreme Court.As I did four days ago, I’ve nominated a Circuit Court of Appeals — Ketanji Brown Jackson. One of our nation’s top legal minds who will continue in just Brey- — Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence. A former top litigator in private practice, a former federal public defender from a family of public-school educators and police officers — she’s a consensus builder.Since she’s been nominated, she’s received a broad range of support, including the Fraternal Order of Police and former judges appointed by Democrats and Republicans.JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSONSince she’s been nominated, she’s received a broad range of support, including the Fraternal Order of Police and former judges appointed by Democrats and Republicans.Folks, if we are to advance liberty and justice, we need to secure our border and fix the immigration system.As this section is dedicated to Judge Brown-Jackson, I will refrain from my comments on Immigration. Oops – should have read the next sentence before making that statement.And as you might guess, I think we can do both. At our border, we’ve installed new technology, like cutting-edge scanners, to better detect drug smuggling.We’ve set up joint patrols with Mexico and Guatemala to catch more human traffickers.We’re putting in place dedicated immigration judges in significant larger number so families fleeing persecution and violence can have their cases — cases heard faster — and those who aren’t legitimately here can be sent back.We’re screening — we’re securing commitments and supporting partners in South and Central America to host more refugees and secure their own borders.You almost mentioned screening, Mr. President, but failed to complete that thought. I’m assuming that you meant that you’re screening for COVID-19 and other diseases or viruses that might impact the public health of the United States. Or maybe you were saying that you’re screening for those coming from countries where these are prevalent and would be subject to immediate removal under Title 42 of the United States Code. It seems, though, that by “screening” you mean that you are attempting to throw a smokescreen up to hide those who are entering the country illegally. That would better explain the late-night flights that arrive at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning at obscure airports where operations have ceased until after dawn. In any event, your screening is not working – those with COVID-19 are being allowed to freely enter and roam the country, those from countries covered under Title 42 included. Your efforts to conceal the transport of these individuals also have not been hidden.We can do all this while keeping lit the torch of liberty that has led the generation of immigrants to this land — my forebearers and many of yours.Provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers — those with temporary status, farmworkers, essential workers. To revise our laws so businesses have workers they need and families don’t wait decades to reunite.The so-called Dreamers, in many cases, are not to blame for their plight. Even so, they have already been given preference over American kids, and continue to demand more. Many have chosen to attend college or other institutions of higher learning and have, through the D.R.E.A.M. Act and other legislation been given preferential treatment in admissions and tuition. Even though technically in the country illegally and legally a resident of another country, they are provided with in-state tuition rates only otherwise available to those legally residing within that state. Many institutions of higher learning are granted a certain number of student slots for international students, yet this is not limited by the Dreamers. Instead, it is the American student who is pushed aside when a Dreamer, in the country illegally by technical standards, is awarded an opportunity to attend.It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s economically smart thing to do. That’s why the immigration reform is supported by everyone from labor unions to religious leaders to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Let’s get it done once and for all.By providing economic incentives such as government assistance, commonly known as welfare; so-called Section 8 Housing; the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program – SNAP – more commonly called Food Stamps; and in-state tuition, our country provides these Dreamers a “leg up” on their competition from legal citizens and residents.Folks, advancing liberty and justice also requires protecting the rights of women. The constitutional right affirmed by Roe v. Wade, standing precedent for half a century, is under attack as never before.If you want to go forward not backwards, we must protect access to healthcare; preserve a woman’s right to choose — and continue to advance maternal healthcare for all Americans.Why, Mr. President, are women able to opt-in or out of a medical procedure in this arena, yet your choice would be to not provide that option when it comes to vaccines? Similarly, what about the choice of the future Americans whose lives are extinguished by what is in most cases a selfish choice by the woman having an abortion, whose life is not in danger but is having the procedure performed solely so that she will not have to deal with a pregnancy or a child? In 2019, there were almost 630,000 abortions performed in the U.S, according to the CDC. That was 189 abortions for every 1,000 live births. This doesn’t even consider the fact that, according to science, life begins when cells begin to split. It seems that this scientific fact, with you telling us to “trust the science,” is ignored in this aspect but used to prevent expansion or growth, for instance, when gestating animals are located in an area set for building.ROE V. WADEAnd folks, for our LGBTQ+ Americans, let’s finally get the bipartisan Equality Act to my desk. The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families — it’s simply wrong.Again, it seems that science is thrown out of the window when this topic is raised. Despite biological and undisputed facts, society is now expected to act upon the way a person wants to be viewed instead of what science says. So, while telling us to trust the science for COVID, you are pushing for a law that would require that we do the opposite. Members of the LGBTQ+ community needed to be treated equally based on their status as a person, not as a result of how they view or conduct themselves in their private lives or how they want to be viewed. As evidenced by Affirmative Action and the arguments that policy has brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, efforts to develop equality turn into efforts at supremacy. Under the premise of providing equality, persons in “protected” groups often are leapfrogged over other candidates, in many cases more-qualified candidates, to prevent the appearance of violating the rights of the protected class.As I said last year, especially to our younger transgender Americans, I’ll always have your back as your President so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential.BIPARTISAN EQUALITY ACTFolks as I’ve just demonstrated, while it often appears we do not agree and that — we — we do agree on a lot more things than we acknowledge.I signed 80 bipartisan bills into law last year, from preventing government shutdowns, to protecting Asian Americans from still-too-common hate crimes, to reforming military justice. And we’ll soon be strengthening the Violence Against Women Act that I first wrote three decades ago.And it’s important — it’s important for us to show — to show the nation that we can come together and do big things.Coming together in a bipartisan fashion is wonderful, and there is little concern about those bills you have signed into Law that have been bipartisan. The concern, Mr. President, comes as a result of the wholly partisan bills that are presented to you and that have been pushed through Congress with little opportunity for debate, or even for members to read to know what they were voting on. This coming week, your budget proposal is expected to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives. At an estimated $1.5Trillion, it is anticipated to be the same size as one-twentieth of our National Debt. With other bills that will come down the pike for immediate funding in the billions and trillions of dollars, the fact that this budget bill is roughly half the amount of tax revenue that the nation is expected to receive, we will most certainly end up with another major deficit, leading to an even more substantial increase in our debt that in previous years. Over the past year-plus, these bills have been surreptitiously passed through Congress, and it is expected that this will go through the same process. It would not be surprising for this bill to be passed through Committee in the middle of the night and set for a vote the next morning, thus denying members an opportunity to read through the 2,000-plus pages on which they will be voting. The House of Representatives has consistently adopted a “72-hour Rule” which requires that members have 72 hours from the adoption of a committee report to review a bill before a vote is held on it. Yet, your party, particularly when it comes to these partisan bills, has found ways to avoid this rule and allow the vote prior to the 72 hours, sometimes within as little as six hours after the bill has been passed out of committee. This is hardly operating in a bipartisan manner.So tonight, I’m offering a “Unity Agenda for the Nation”: four big things we can do together, in my view.UNITY AGENDA
First, beat the opioid epidemic. There’s so much we can do: increase funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery; get rid of outdated rules and stop doctors and — that stop doctors from prescribing treatments; stop the flow of illicit drugs by working with state and local law enforcement to go after the traffickers.Oh! I was so hoping you would bring this one up! The opioid epidemic is awful and is taking lives each and every hour in the U.S. While prescription opioids have been the focus of governments at all levels, the true danger and source of this epidemic are coming across the southern border each and every day. Mexican drug cartels are manufacturing fentanyl with components delivered to them from China, and then are transporting them northward into our country. It has been estimated that enough fentanyl reaches the U.S. through this pattern to kill literally billions of people. Even with five percent of this being detected and seized by Customs and Border Protection, there is still a major concern that this is having a larger effect on the epidemic than the misuse of prescriptions. Even so, governments at all levels are attempting to go after the manufacturers somehow making the case that they are responsible for how people are misusing or abusing their products. Instead, it seems that efforts to shore up the southern border and stop the flow of these illicit drugs into the country would provide a better service to the battle against this epidemic. As a side benefit, since you have seemingly considered COVID-19 as the greatest threat to the nation at this time, shoring up the border would also help stem the flow of this deadly virus and other diseases and viruses into the country.And if you’re suffering from addiction, you know — you should know you’re not alone. I believe in recovery, and I celebrate the 23 million — 23 million Americans in recovery. Along with shoring up the border to stem the tide of these drugs entering the country, investing in recovery efforts – with complete transparency as the use of the investment funding – would be applaudable. Yet, you only mention recovery but not any indication that you are investing in this.Second, let’s take on mental health — especially among our children, whose lives and education have been turned upside down.The American Rescue Plan gave schools money to hire teachers and help students make up for lost learning. I urge every parent to make sure your school — your school does just that. They have the money. Providing money for schools and students to recover from the mental toll this pandemic has taken on them is laudable. As with the addiction recovery efforts above, though, complete transparency needs to be provided to ensure that the resources are being used effectively. As has happened so often and consistently over time, throwing money into education without making sure it is being used effectively is actually detrimental to the process.We can all play a part. Sign up to be a tutor or a mentor. As a reminder, while you’re pushing these government programs and spending, volunteerism as you suggest with this sentence is a great asset. As a matter of fact, it is largely what made this country so great! Neighbors helping neighbors has been one of the strengths of this country. Yet, Government has taken such a role in everyday lives that it is all but impossible for someone to effectively volunteer.Children were also struggling before the pandemic: bullying, violence, trauma, and the harms of social media.As Frances Haugen, who is here tonight with us, has shown, we must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit. Folks — thank you. Thank you for the courage you showed. As with the opioid epidemic, it seems that we are working to find the wrong scapegoats for our societal ills. You are putting the social media outlets, private companies, in a tight spot. You are wanting them to be accountable for opinions and statements voiced by their users, while their users are arguing that they are public forums and should be open to free speech. Often those who spout outrageous opinions or statements fall by the wayside solely on their own. To not allow them to do so takes away the public debate and societal controls of what is acceptable and what is not. Worse, this, in many cases, avoids the root cause of the issue and allows the continuance and escalation of bullying behaviors. It’s time to strengthen privacy protections; ban targeted advertising to children; demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children.SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
And let’s get all Americans the mental health services they need — more people can turn for help and full parity between physical and mental healthcare if we treat it that way in our insurance.This is a great goal, Mr. President! Can we please, please, start with our veterans, though! Particularly those who come home from battle have demons only they and their counterparts can fathom. This leads to drug use, broken homes, and homelessness among those who have faithfully followed the orders of your office, whether under you or predecessors, and who have fought to retain our freedoms. By not providing them the help they need upon their return, we are dishonoring those who deserve our highest honors and respect. Let’s get them the mental health help they need and help them become respectable once again!Look, the third piece of that agenda is support our veterans. Veterans are the backbone and the spine of this country. They’re the best of us.This is third on your list, and I’m glad to see that it’s included. IT NEEDS TO BE ONE OF OUR FIRST PRIORITIES, THOUGH! Our veterans, given the proper support, medical care, and mental health care can be one of our most-productive groups in the citizenry. To place their concerns third in your list, though, disrespects them as much as not providing the proper care that they need.I’ve always believed that we have a sacred obligation to equip those we send to war and care for those and their family when they come home.My administration is providing assistance and job training and housing, and now helping lower-income veterans get VA care debt free.Job training and housing, even when combined with medical and mental health care, are only a part of the puzzle. We also need to provide more and more-effective programs to help the veterans transition back to civilian life. Many come home having had to view those around them as the enemy until proven otherwise. They have a heightened sense of alert that has them suspicious of others and fearful of situations where there truly is no danger. For years they have not been allowed to make themselves emotionally vulnerable, and so they continue on in civilian life with that hardened veneer that oftentimes creates troubles for them and those around them.And our troops in Iraq have faced — and Afghanistan — have faced many dangers. One being stationed at bases, breathing in toxic smoke from burn pits. Many of you have been there. I’ve been in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan over 40 times. These burn pits that incinerate waste — the wastes of war, medical and hazardous material, jet fuel, and so much more.And they come home — many of the world’s fittest and best trained warriors in the world — never the same: headaches, numbness, dizziness, a cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin. I know.One of those — one of those soldiers was my son, Major Beau Biden. I don’t know for sure if the burn pit that he lived near — that his hooch was near in Iraq and, earlier than that, in Kosovo is the cause of his brain cancer and the disease of so many other troops. But I’m committed to find out everything we can.Committed to military families like Danielle Robinson from Ohio, the widow of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson. He was born a soldier. Army National Guard. Combat medic in Kosovo and Iraq. Stationed near Baghdad, just yards from burn pits the size of football fields.Danielle is here with us tonight. They loved going to Ohio State football games. And he loved building Legos with their daughter. But cancer from prolonged exposure to burn pits ravaged Heath’s lungs and body.Danielle says Heath was a fighter to the very end. He didn’t know how to stop fighting, and neither did she.Together with you and Ms. Robinson, we mourn both of these men and respect and appreciate their service in our defense.Through her pain, she found purpose to demand that we do better. Tonight, Danielle, we are going to do better.The VA — the VA is pioneering new ways of linking toxic exposures to disease, already helping more veterans get benefits. And tonight, I’m announcing we’re expanding eligibility to veterans suffering from nine respiratory cancers.Assisting the veterans in getting benefits is admirable. This is only part of the mission of the VA, though, and much beyond that seems to be done in a frazzled manner. While you describe the members of the military as “many of the world’s fittest and best-trained warriors in the world,” those who don’t come home in flag-draped coffins come home to, at best, mediocre healthcare. The doctors and nurses of the VA are often ill-equipped and ill-trained to diagnose and treat the conditions they see. They are often handcuffed by the bureaucracy of the VA, provided with inadequate training and supplies, and given little incentive to provide more than the most basic treatment. This needs to change immediately, and the VA needs to become a place of healing instead of a testbed and learning laboratory.VETERANSI’m also calling on Congress to pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and the comprehensive healthcare they deserve.And fourth and last, let’s end cancer as we know it. This is personal. This is personal to me and to Jill and to Kamala and so many of you. So many of you have lost someone you love — husband, wife, son, daughter, mom, dad.Cancer is the number-two cause of death in America, second only to heart disease.At the risk of again sounding petty, where does COVID show up on this list? If it is not Number One or Number Two, why has there been such a focus on it as opposed to those that are apparently so much worse? Also, if heart disease outweighs cancer as the leading cause of death in America, why are we focusing on cancer instead?Last month, I announced the plan to supercharge the Cancer Moonshot that President Obama asked me to lead six years ago.CANCER MOONSHOTOur goal is to cut cancer death rates by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years. And I think we can do better than that: turn cancers from death sentences into treatable diseases, more support for patients and families.To get there, I call on Congress to fund what I called ARPA-H: Advanced — Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health. Patterned after DARPA in the Defense Department, projects that led — in DARPA — to the Internet, GPS, and so much more that make our forces more safer and be able to wage war more — with more clarity.ARPA-H will have a singular purpose to drive breakthroughs in cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, and more. Mr. President, DARPA has truly been instrumental in bringing technology to our world. They have done so, though, under so-called Black Budgets that prevent the citizenry, and even most of the upper levels of Government, from knowing about their projects. For years, and even decades, they operated in obscurity, much like Area 51, denied to the public despite the common knowledge of its existence. As a result, much as Area 51 has been tied to extraterrestrial beings, spacecraft, and technology, DARPA has been tied to gruesome experiments and tests that would horrify most people. So, to suggest that we should entrust our healthcare technologies and advances to a similar government agency brings chills to the spines of many. Similarly, one can envision this new agency – ARPA-H – being used to funnel billions, if not trillions, of dollars to private corporations that are able to keep the spending hidden by privacy laws. This, in all honesty, seems like a way to provide handouts to pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies without having to put the payments in the official budget, particularly considering that many of these are already performing some of the best research in the world in these fields.A Unity Agenda for the nation. We can do these things. It’s within our power. And I don’t see a partisan edge to any one of those four things.While these items are within our power, are they within our budget? We already borrow trillions of dollars each year from foreign entities, all the while exceeding Constitutional mandates regarding the purpose of Government, yet, we are not curtailing this and have already spent ourselves into technical bankruptcy. While spending on these matters is important, we need to make sure that they are not breaking the bank in expanding what we need to do. To put this into a common analogy, our house may need a new paint job, a new roof, new appliances, or even new windows; if we’re already overextended on our household budget, we may very well lose our home by spending on these necessary items because of our spending on entertainment and other unnecessary items.My fellow Americans — tonight we’ve gathered in a sacred space: the citadel of democracy. In this Capitol, generation after generation of Americans have debated great questions amid great strife and have done great things. Mr. President, there is a correction needed to this statement. A privileged group of people has gathered in that sacred space. The rest of us have been barred from even getting close to that citadel of democracy by fencing and armed military. As a result, we are not able to pose some of those great questions for them to be debated.We have fought for freedom, expanded liberty, defeated totalitarianism and terror. We built the strongest, freest, and most prosperous nation the world has ever known.Another correction, Mr. President – we are currently ranked 17th on the list of free countries. Similarly, our mounting debt keeps us from being prosperous. Our military might has dwindled to THIRD in the world.Now is the hour: our moment of responsibility, our test of resolve and conscience of history itself. It is in this moment that our character of this generation is formed, our purpose is found, our future is forged.Well, I know this nation. We’ll meet the test, protect freedom and liberty, expand fairness and opportunity. And we will save democracy.As hard as those times have been, I’m more optimistic about America today than I’ve been my whole life because I see the future that’s within our grasp, because I know there is simply nothing beyond our camas- — our capacity.In all honesty, Mr. President, you are one of the few who is this optimistic. It’s not that we doubt the resolve of the American People. It is instead that, with your continued policies and tightening of governmental controls, the People may not be in a position to rise up and persevere as you indicate.We’re the only nation on Earth that has always turned every crisis we’ve faced into an opportunity, the only nation that can be defined by a single word: possibilities.This seems to echo the words attributed to Rahm Emmanuel in President Obama’s first months in office – Never let a good crisis go to waste. You and your party have continually, and continue to, use crises to enact restrictions on law-abiding citizens to the point that our rights are being deteriorated in the name of public health and safety, something the country’s founders never intended.So, on this night, on our 245th year as a nation, I’ve come to report on the state of the nation — the state of the union. And my report is this: The State of the Union is strong because you, the American people, are strong.While the American People may be strong, you and your party are weakening us each and every day, the same way that you have the country as a whole. You are taking away our rights to protect ourselves, placing us at the mercy of police forces who are also being made weaker as compared to their increased duties and responsibilities. You are removing our purchasing power by continuing to pass legislation and implement policies that only serve to increase inflation. You have caused our power structure to be weaker by restricting our ability to recover the fuels needed for energy production. You have weakened our workforce through policies that have stopped entire industries in some areas and by others that, although since withdrawn, have caused large numbers of employers to implement policies that have led to millions being released from their jobs. Domestically, we are a mess. Militarily, we are almost as bad off. Even having the third-largest and arguably the most-technologically-advanced military in the world, we are so spread out that we are actually weak. On top of that, you have removed our military from areas that were instrumental to maintaining world peace. While there is an argument to be made that we should not be the world’s police force through our military, the state of the world and the state of technology requires that we protect certain areas and their resources against being taken hold by those who would wish us harm and use the resources there to bring that to us. To add insult to injury, so to speak, in removing our troops from these areas, we provided those who would be our enemies with literally billions of dollars worth of weapons. We have also become beholden to those who would be our enemies by developing such trade deficits that, without those trade partners, we would not have what we have come to accept as the basics of life. The list could go on, Mr. President, but the ultimate message is that we are truly weak at this point in time and are becoming weaker each and every day under your policies.We are stronger today — we are stronger today than we were a year ago. And we’ll be stronger a year from now than we are today.THE STATE OF THE UNIONThis is our moment to meet and overcome the challenges of our time. And we will, as one people, one America — the United States of America.God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you. Go get ’em.This is the first time I can recall – granted I did not pay as much attention to the State of the Union Addresses given by President Obama – that a president has not ended with “And may God bless these United States of America.” I’m guessing that, as a whole, we are not worthy of such a request in your eyes.