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  • Justin Dynia & Arlo Hatcher

President Biden Delivers State of Union with Optimistic Outlook, Unity Agenda

“I’m more optimistic about America than I have been in my whole life,” said President Biden on Tuesday night. Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

Set amidst the backdrop of a subsiding global pandemic, record inflation, and the rebalancing of global international affairs, President Joe Biden delivered the annual State of the Union to a joint session of Congress on March 1. Attendees were maskless unlike last year’s speech in lieu of updated CDC guidelines on mask recommendations. Below you can find a full recap of direct quotes and key analysis highlighting Biden’s main talking points in his hour and two minute long speech:

Notable Remarks:

  • “I am a capitalist, but capitalism without competition is not capitalism. Capitalism without competition is exploitation, it drives up profits — without competition is exploitation. It drives up profits, when corporations don't have to compete, their profits go up.”

Analysis: Critics have decried President Biden and the Democratic Party for pushing a socialist agenda with far reaching government programs and high spending. Biden directly addressed these retorts by elaborating on his mission to level the playing ground for American businesses by promoting fair competition with domestic and foreign companies. The deliberate attention to the word “capitalism” in this section of his speech shows semantics matter.

  • “The answer is not to defund the police. It’s to fund them. To fund them.To fund them with resources and training. Resources and training they need for — they need to protect our communities.”

Analysis: This massive pivot in the Democratic agenda garnered a standing ovation from nearly all attendees. Defunding the police became a major part of the Democratic response on the local and state level to the nationwide protests demanding racial justice and police reform following the murder of George Floyd in June 2020. The American Rescue Plan provided $350 billion that cities, states and counties can use to hire more police and invest in more proven strategies, a clear sign that law enforcement has received renewed bipartisan federal support.

  • “If we are going to… we need to secure our border and fix the immigration system.”

Analysis: These remarks received even more bipartisan applause, appealing to Republicans concerned with record high migrant apprehensions at the nation’s southern border and Democrats seeking to create more pathways for migrants and refugees to legally enter the country while protecting DREAMERs.

On Bipartisanship:

  • Folks, as I have demonstrated, while it often appears that we never agree, we agree on more things than many of us 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 will soon be strengthening the Violence Against Women Act that I first wrote three decades ago.

  • It is important for us to show the nation that we can come together and do big things. So tonight I'm offering a unity agenda for the nation.

Analysis: Unity may have been the word of the night for President Biden who doggedly sought support from both sides of the aisle with his measured talking points designed to promote consensus and avoid controversy.

On Ukraine:

  • “We, the United States of America, stand with Ukrainian people. Throughout our history, we have learned this lesson. When dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They keep moving. The cost to America and the world keeps rising.”

  • “The United States department of justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs. We are joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets. We are coming for you.”

  • “I can announce the United States has worked with 30 other countries to release 16 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world. America will lead that effort. Releasing 30 million barrels and we stand ready to do more if necessary.”

Analysis: President Biden continues to forge alliances with European and NATO allies to use strict and wide ranging economic sanctions to cripple Russia’s economic might.

On the Economy, Jobs, Taxes, and Fiscal Health:

  • “[The American Rescue Plan] created jobs, lots of jobs. Our economy created over 6.5 million new jobs just last year. More jobs in one year than ever before in the history of the United States of America. The economy grew at a rate of 5.7, the strongest growth rate in 40 years.”

  • “By the end of this year, the deficit will be down to less than half what it was before I took office. I’m the only president ever to cut the deficit by more than one trillion dollars in a single year.”

  • “We’re done talking about infrastructure weeks. We’re now talking about an infrastructure decade…​​That is why it was so important to [pass the Build Back Better Act].

  • “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 the gains they thought otherwise they would be able to feel. I get it.”

  • “Instead of relying on foreign supply chains, let's make it in America.”

  • “Last year, 55 of the fortune 500 companies earned $40 billion in profit and paid zero in federal taxes. Now look, it is not fair. That is why I proposed a 15 percent minimum tax rate for corporations.”

  • “Let's pass the PRO Act. When a majority of workers want to form a union, they should not be stopped.”

Analysis: Despite many promising metrics showing an economic boom, inflation and supply-chain issues have led to plunging consumer sentiment on America’s economic health, so Biden sought to reframe the narrative and back his economic agenda with grand plans and hard data.

On COVID-19:

  • “We have reached a new movement in the fight against Covid-19. Severe cases are down to a level not seen since July of last year. A few days ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new mask guideline….most Americans in most of the country can now go mask free.”

  • “Covid-19 no longer needs to control our lives.”

  • “We are going to go after the criminals who stole billions of relief money meant for small businesses and millions of Americans…I am announcing the Justice Department will name a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud.”

  • “Stop looking at Covid as a partisan dividing line. See it for what it is, a god-awful disease. Let's stop seeing each other as enemies and start seeing each other for who we are. Fellow Americans.”

Analysis: Biden announced a four-part plan to deal with COVID-19: encourage vaccination, launch a new “Test to Treat Initiative” where pharmacists use rapid tests on-site and offer antiviral pills to patients who test positive, re-open schools to in-person learning with no mask requirements for all students, and increase the amount of vaccine doses sent to countries around the globe which has already reached 475 million vaccine doses to 112 countries.”

On Healthcare and Childcare:

  • “Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month so every family can afford it.”

  • “If you live in a major city in America, you pay up to $14,000 a year for child care per child.”

  • “My plan will 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, be able to get back to work.”

  • “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.

  • It includes home and long-term care. More affordable housing. Pre-K for three and four-year-olds. All of these will lower costs for families to do under my plan, nobody earning less than $400,000 a year will pay an additional penny in new taxes. Not a single penny.”

  • “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 is simply wrong.”

Analysis: Rather than jumping into the highly contentious debate to expand Medicare, Biden chose to center his talking points on popular initiatives to fight the opioid epidemic and further create a historic reduction in childhood poverty.

Miscellaneous Remarks:

  • “Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines with 100 rounds. You think the deer are wearing kevlar vests?”

  • “Tonight I call on the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. Pass the John Lewis Act. While you are at it, pass the DISCLOSE Act so Americans know who is funding our elections.”

  • “Tonight, I would like to honor someone who has dedicated his life to serve his country. Justice Breyer. An army veteran, constitutional scholar, retiring justice of the United States Supreme Court. Justice Breyer, thank you for your service.”

  • “The VA is pioneering new ways of linking toxic exposures to diseases, already helping more veterans get benefits. And tonight, I'm announcing we're expanding eligibility to veterans suffering from nine respiratory cancers. I am also calling on Congress to pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they deserve.”

  • “Our goal is to cut the cancer death rate by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years…to get there, I call on Congress to fund what I call ARPA-H, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.”

Closing Line:

“The state of the union is strong because you, the American people, are strong. We are stronger today than we were a year ago. And we will be stronger in one more year after that…go get him.”

Adam Shamsi contributed to this reporting.


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