Political Pulse is a weekly column with the goal of giving objective, to-the-point information to readers on current political events.
This space will attempt to analyze President Donald Trump’s 90-minute State of the Union in broad strokes, not touch on every detail or attempt to analyze intent.
Trump for the most part avoided his usual divisive rhetoric, calling for bipartisanship, interlacing anecdotes of individuals who appeared as his guests while laying out a plan that was sparse on specific policy but cemented the goals of his administration.
Trump acknowledges survivors of disasters
Trump used the opening minutes of his speech to acknowledge those recovering from disasters such as the fires in California and the storms that devastated Puerto Rico and Texas.
“To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and everywhere else — we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together,” he said.
Trump’s administration has been criticized for its response to the disaster in Puerto Rico. FEMA will leave Puerto Rico one day after the speech.
Tax cuts, jobs and the economy
Trump spent a lot of time talking about the state of the economy and the job market following his administration’s landmark achievement of passing legislation that he dubbed the biggest tax cut and reform in history.
It’s hard to measure if it is the biggest (and anyone involved in the Reagan administration would probably like to have a word about claiming that title), but it is undeniable that the administration signed into law a lot of long-held conservative goals on tax reform.
Throughout his speech, Trump cited job, unemployment and tax statistics, and said,
“There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”
As Trump touted his economic record, attributing the success of the economy to the recently passed tax legislation, critics have pointed out that the successes he cited are impossible to measure based on passed legislation, and many of the cited statistics are continuations of long-term trends.
Future of American life
After outlining the economic success of the last year, Trump touched on the future of America. This portion of the speech ranged from saying that Americans should stand for the national anthem — a swipe at NFL players who have kneeled for the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice — to talking up the recent rollback of regulations and increase of American energy exports.
“Faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of American life,” he said.
A lot of ire was focused on the national anthem comment, an issue Trump has been vocal about for months, for it was the closest thing to an open attack during the address. As far as energy exports, the United States is exporting at a level not seen in decades due to regulations being cut, but experts have said America will not be a net exporter until the 2020s.
Trump, as he has done since he entered the primaries in 2015, railed against “unfair” trade deals and promised better ones moving forward.
“America has finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity,” he said.“We expect trade to be fair and reciprocal.”
The fairness of trade deals is subjective to one’s views of international relations, but this continues his rhetoric against agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and North American Free Trade Agreement — deals that have been attacked on both sides of the aisle.
Trump called for solutions to infrastructure problems throughout his presidential campaign and made a concrete request to Congress on Tuesday asking for more money to be appropriated for this purpose.
“America is a nation of builders,” he said. “I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve. Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need.”
Failing infrastructure has long been identified by politicians from both parties as a serious issue, but Congress has never been able to get a piece of legislation across the finish line.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly referred to as DACA, was not specifically mentioned, which was somewhat of a surprise, because it has been a heavily contested issue in politics recently, but Trump did lay out a four-pillar plan for immigration reform.
“The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age — that covers almost three times more people than the previous administration.”
“The second pillar fully secures the border.”
“The third pillar ends the visa lottery — a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people.”
“The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration.”
The likelihood of immigration reform is uncertain. Critics have pointed out that the visa lottery is not random, but does have requirements, even if they are not as stringent as the merit-based system conservatives have advocated for.
Trump lent his support to those struggling through opioid addiction, but did not lay out a specific policy proposal, other than mentioning lowering prescription drug prices.
“My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need. The struggle will be long and difficult — but, as Americans always do, we will prevail.”
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been working to fight this issue for years now and how and if it can be solved will be a problem that continues to persist for the foreseeable future.