On Tuesday night the President gave the State of the Union address before the Congress and the American people. Like all Presidents since Ronald Reagan, the President invited guests and used them as props in his speech. President Trumps guests ranged from a young boy who was bullied for having the last name Trump to World War II veterans to a recently released prisoner. They all dutifully stood when recognized and the Congress applauded them. There was one member of Congress who from my viewpoint on television did not rise to applaud one single time. Sen. Patsy Hirono (D-Hawaii) sat riveted to her seat and on a couple of occasions politely clapped. It made her look petty and small.
In every State of the Union, the party of the President rises to applaud his points and the party in opposition sits on their hands. Republican did it during Obama’s speeches and Democrats did it when Trump spoke. That is one thing that will never change. But one thing that seemed to catch everyone’s eye was the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi constantly holding a sheaf of paper that she was reading. Obviously, it was a copy of the speech, but it looked odd for her to be reading it over and over, shuffling through the pages, and trying to find her place. I have been watching State of the Union speeches for over 40 years and that is the first time I have seen someone sitting behind the President holding a copy of the speech and constantly referring to it.
I think the President used the forum to deliver one of the better speeches of his Presidency. He has some points he wanted to make, and he delivered on them. He emphasized the economy and pointed out that we are creating more jobs and wages are rising in all sectors of the economy, particularly the manufacturing sector. He hammered out his philosophy on trade where the emphasis should be on agreements that benefit the United States and American workers. He clearly stated that his goal is to bring jobs back to the United States and he made these comments:
“We have created 5.3 million new jobs, and importantly, added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs, something which almost everyone said was impossible to do, but the fact is, we are just getting started.”
“Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades, and growing for blue-collar workers, who I promise to fight for. They are growing faster than anyone else. Nearly 5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps. The U.S. Economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office, and we are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world. Not even close. unemployment has reached the lowest rate in over half a century. African-American, Hispanic American, and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded.”
There is no doubt that right now the economy is growing. He cited the jobs report from last week that said 304,000 new jobs were created and pointed out that 58% of those jobs went to women in the workplace. That got the Democrats to get on their feet and applaud and before they could sit down, he referenced that today we have more women in Congress than any time in history. This led the women dressed in white (Democrats) to jump for glee and start to point at each other. It was the only highlight for them during the night.
The President addressed the cost of health care and specifically the high cost of prescription drugs. According to the President, 2018 drug prices saw the largest decline in 46 years. He then went to the real issue when he said:
“It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong, unfair, and together we can stop it. And we will stop it fast.”
“I am asking the Congress to pass legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients. Finally. “
“We should also require drug companies, insurance companies, and hospitals to disclose real prices to foster competition and bring costs down. No force in history has done more to advance the human condition than American freedom.”
American do pay higher prices for pharmaceutical products because nations like Canada and European nations put price controls on the drugs. This forces companies to charge higher prices in the United States to recover their R&D costs. Companies have threatened to remove their products from those markets and the governments in those nations have said they will remove the patent protection if they take any action to limit supplies. What should be done is those nations should allow the marketplace to set the price and we would see prices drop in the U.S.
The President also discussed the hottest topic of the day: Illegal immigration. He clearly stated that he wants people to immigrate to the United States, but they have to come legally. He even went off script to say that he wanted immigrants to come in the largest numbers ever, but again, they have to come legally. I have a hard time understanding how any elected official in the Congress can say with a straight face that they think illegal immigration is something they are okay with.
The President made it plain he is willing to compromise on this issue. He is willing to offer the DACA people freedom and security, he is willing to hire more border agents, he is willing to get more immigration judges and he is willing to adopt more new technologies to assist in border security. But he also made it plain that he strongly believes that a barrier in key parts of the border is part of that plan for border security.
It is now up to the conference committee to come up with a compromise agreement and we see some movement on that front. We have barriers already in existence in some areas and if they work in those places they will probably work in other places. The committee should bring in the experts on border security, the Border Patrol Agents, and ask what they think should be done. If they recommend barriers, then we should respect their opinion and make that part of the compromise. Even Speaker Pelosi has now said that she told Senator Shelby (R-AL) who is a member of the committee that she would support whatever compromise they bring forward.
I think the President made a mistake by bringing up the topic of investigations. It gives his opponents something to focus on and ignore the substance of the speech. The Mueller investigation will come to a conclusion at some point, hopefully, sooner rather than later, and then we can address their findings.
Now we can look forward to the Budget being sent to Congress and then the games begin. Hopefully, Congress can start working on problems instead of bickering with each other. I am hopeful this will occur but fear I will be disappointed.