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The 96th State of the Union Address

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Washington D.C. – Last week, the President delivered his second State of the Union Address. While the address was delayed by a week, President Trump seemed optimistic as always about the state of the U.S.  

“Members of Congress, the state of our union is strong,.” said Trump.  

The President opened his address with a call for bipartisan politics and cooperation between Congress and the White House. “The decision is ours to make. We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction.”   

Moving on, the President reminded us of some important events this year, including the 75th anniversary of D-day and 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Both of these events were commemorated briefly by the recognition of World War II veterans and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, respectively. Currently, US astronauts travelling to the International Space Station borrow a ride from Russian Roscosmos. Later this year, the President reminded us, Boeing and SpaceX are intended to have manned flights to the ISS; ending US dependence on Roscosmos. 

Summing up his current term, the President cited the creation of 5.3 million new jobs, rising wages, nearly 5 million less participants in the food stamps program, rapid economic growth, low unemployment rates, various tax cuts, the Right to Try bill (allowing terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs, per NPR), and numerous regulations cut as examples of his administration’s success.  

The US has also surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia in oil production and continues to increase its natural gas production.   

“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.” 

In an otherwise strongly bi-partisan address, President Trump took a brief moment to discuss the various investigations into himself and various members of his cabinet. NPR’s Domenico Montanaro says, “The president is essentially firing off a warning shot to Democrats, saying if they want him to compromise or work with them, they should drop the investigations.” 

The President continued on to summarize the First Step Act, passed last summer. The law reactivated a ,“...2010 law that sought to reduce sentencing disparities for drug crimes involving crack and cocaine.” (NPR) The First Step Act also changed the formula for time off for good behavior and changed the federal three-strikes rule. This bill only applies to federal prisons, but the President was optimistic that this would lead to nationwide criminal justice reform.  

“Now states across the country are following our lead. America is a nation that believes in redemption.” 

Of course, the address would not have been complete without a section on the issue that caused the longest government shutdown in U.S. history: President Trump’s infamous wall bill. 

“As we speak, large organized caravans are on the march to the United States. We have just heard that Mexican cities, in order to remove the illegal immigrants from their communities, are getting trucks and buses to bring them up to our country in areas where there is little border protection. I have ordered another 3,750 troops to our southern border to prepare for this tremendous onslaught. This is a moral issue. The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well-being of all America.”  

The President went on to list the reasons that he believes the “wall;” now a steel slat barrier (see the design here). Amongst these, he cited illegal drug traffic, human trafficking, “reduced jobs, lower wages, over-burdened schools, hospitals that are so crowded you can’t get in, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net.” Included in the speech were examples of successful border walls in San Diego, CA and El Paso, TX.   

Included in the wall bill are “...humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier...” 

Another big topic, the USA’s foreign trade policy, was among the president’s final topics. The President discussed a new trade deal with China, the replacement of NAFTA – the USMCA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement), a proposed “Reciprocal Trade Act” which would allow the U.S. to place a counter tariff on countries that place an “...unfair tariff on an American product.” 

The President also endorsed a plan to lower medication cost and backed a targeted anti-HIV bill. 

Following suit with his predecessor – former President Barrack Obama – President Trump announced that the U.S. is officially withdrawing from the Cold-War era INF Treaty, stating that Russia has repeatedly violated the terms of the agreement, and saying “We really have no choice. Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t, in which case we will out-spend and out-innovate all others by far.” 

Finally, the President spoke of the ongoing peace talks in Afghanistan.  “In Afghanistan, my administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban.”  NPR’s Greg Myre said this in explanation, “The U.S. and the Taliban are holding the most serious peace talks since the U.S. entered the Afghan war in 2001. However, major obstacles remain. The Taliban wants all U.S. troops — numbering some 14,000 — to leave. Also, the Taliban has refused to meet with the Afghan government. Even with a deal, the hard part would be ensuring all parties abide by it.” 

For more information about the 96th State of the Union Address, see NPR’s annotated transcript here, and CBS News recording of the full address on YouTube here

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