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  • Nicole Soulas

The 2020 State of the Union: A Break Down

The president in office delivers the State of the Union address once a year, typically between January and February. Although there is no required time frame, Article II, Section 3 states the executive branch must, “give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient,” and includes budget proposals, among other observations regarding the national economy, and a variety of legislative proposals. The State of the Union address is not only a platform used to provide required information to Congress and U.S. citizens, but the address has been used as an opportunity for the president to endorse themself and their positions.

The 2020 State of the Union address took place on February 4th in the chamber of the House of Representatives to the 116th U.S. Congress. It was President Trump’s third State of the Union address since taking office in 2017. This year, it was Trump’s first address since the charges of impeachment in December of 2019. There was visible tension between Trump and the representatives that continue to support his removal, but repeated his campaign’s catch phrase “choosing greatness” in spite of this.

Trump emphasized the U.S. economy’s increasing success and provided supporting figures, such as the 70% increase in the stock market since beginning his presidency. He also noted a record low employment for people of color, and went on to stress that “illegal aliens” will not reap the benefits of our flourishing economy. More specifically, Trump argues that he wants to protect American taxpayers. Trump struck down free medicare and continued to compare the democratic push as a form of socialism.

He went on to highlight the advancements made in low-income areas which resulted from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Trump stated the investments in these “opportunity zones” are finally creating jobs, however, these investments have been criticized for encouraging gentrification because the zones were already attracting real estate investment beforehand.

Trump pointed out several other points of economic improvement, yet the nation continues to face an increasing amount of debt. During his past State of the Union addresses, Trump’s budget proposals sought to balance economic growth and debt by slashing health and disability programs, as well as domestic spending. This year, Trump did not mention the annual deficits, but rather made national growth his objective.

The democratic side remained seated for much of the duration, however there were several matters both parties agreed upon. This included criminal justice reform, lowering prescription drug prices, rebuilding infrastructure and the opioid epidemic. Although there was agreement, some infuriated members exited the room. Of all of the members present, California democratic representative Nancy Pelosi had a very memorable response. Pelosi heavily advocates for Trump’s impeachment, and there has been heated exchanges between the two prior to the 2020 address. The night started by Trump declining to shake Pelosi’s hand, and ended with Pelosi tearing Trump’s speech about four times.

During the address, Trump also awarded radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian award in the United States. The medal awards those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors” and past recipients include Tiger Woods, Miriam Adelson, Babe Ruth, and more. The surprise deliverance of the award at the address sent shockwaves because of Limbaugh’s poor reputation. Limbaugh has made numerous sexist attacks against women, he is openly xenophobic, and he has made many racist remarks.

The 2020 State of the Union address has received a great deal of media attention because of these controversial actions, and also because of the speculative budget proposal. Trump spoke highly about the growth of the U.S. economy and the creation of jobs that resulted from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but failed to mention the country’s growing debt. The recent boost is predicted to be short-term and unsustainable by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The committee also predicts the current legislation will add roughly 1.9 trillion dollars in debt between now and if President Trump is reelected for office. As for the aftermath of the address, Representative Nancy Pelosi stands by her decision to tear up the speech. She calls it “a manifesto of mistruths,” and that “it was necessary to get the attention of the American people to say, 'This is not true. And this is how it affects you,'” Other than Pelosi’s controversial actions, Trump has been heavily criticized for awarding Rush Limbaugh since the address. Although Limbaugh has often used his platform for philanthropic causes, such as raising millions as a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, people argue his outrageous remarks deem him undeserving.

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