Biden: “This Is the Real Test” of Democracy

Photo by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

During his first State of the Union address, President Biden began by noting that “freedom will always triumph over tyranny.” He proceeded to once again condemn Vladimir Putin for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and praised the “wall of strength” shown by the Ukrainian people in the face of the Russian onslaught.

“Throughout our history, we’ve learned this lesson — when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They keep moving. And, the costs and threats to America and the world keep rising,” Biden said. “That’s why the NATO Alliance was created to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War II.”

“Putin’s latest attack on Ukraine was premeditated and unprovoked. He rejected efforts at diplomacy. He thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond. And, he thought he could divide us here at home, in this chamber and in this nation…” Biden said. “But he was wrong. We are united, and we stay united.”

Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle united to call on President Biden to impose severe sanctions on Russia after the country invaded the sovereign nation. Biden responded by leveling unprecedented sanctions targeting the Russian economy, sending the ruble into a nosedive and Russian markets tumbling.

“Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs …. No More. The United States Dept. of Justice is assembling a task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs.”

Biden announced an agreement from the US and its allies to release 60 million barrels from their strategic reserves in order to ease gas prices, including 30 million from US reserves. Biden had previously urged US oil companies not to take advantage of the international situation in order to raise gas prices on Americans.

After addressing international events, President Biden took the time to recognize the economic strain many families across the country face after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also acknowledged the passage American Rescue Plan, but couldn’t resist taking a dig at the tax cuts passed by the Trump administration – earning boos from Republicans and cheers from Democrats.

He then touted the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law thanking congressional Republicans and Democrats for working together to pass the measure, earning a standing ovation from both. “We’re done talking about infrastructure weeks. We’re now talking about infrastructure decades,” Biden said.

“this year we will start fixing over 65000 miles of highway and over 1500 bridges in need of repair. When we use taxpayer dollars to repair America, we will do it by buying American.”

However, after touting the recent rise in American manufacturing, Biden had to address the pain rising inflation is causing for many American families.  “One way to fight inflation is to drive down wages and make Americans poorer. I think have a better plan to fight inflation: lower your costs, not your wages. Make more cars and semiconductors in America. More infrastructure and innovation in America. More goods moving faster and cheaper in America. More jobs where you can earn a good living in America. And, instead of relying on foreign supply chains — let’s make it in America,” Biden said, accompanied by chants of “USA, USA, from the galley.”

“Economists call it ‘increasing the productive capacity of our economy.’ I call it building a better America. My plan to fight inflation will lower your costs and lower the deficit.”

Biden’s four-point plan includes measures to lower prescription drug costs, healthcare premiums, utility bills, and the cost of child and eldercare.

The President also urged Congress to begin working together on the strategy for the next phase of the pandemic, saying,

“We have lost so much to COVID-19. Time with one another. And worst of all much loss of life. Let’s use this moment to reset, stop looking at COVID-19 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.”

After urging Congress to work to pass his stalled legislative agenda, President Biden attempted to end on a note of unity, outlining several legislative items he believed both sides of Congress would agree to work on, including passing measures to end the opioid epidemic and increase veteran access to benefits and healthcare such as cancer treatments.

During one somber moment, as Biden spoke of veterans who were diagnosed with cancer after being stationed near toxic burn pits while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, one female member of the audience could be heard saying “I thought you were going to cure cancer,” followed by a resounding chorus of boos.

“One of those soldiers, was my son, Maj. Beau Biden,” the President continued.

Biden announced that the VA will expand benefits offered to veterans suffering from nine different respiratory cancers, and called on members of Congress to pass a law to ensure veterans exposed to toxic fumes in Iraq and Afghanistan would get healthcare coverage. Biden followed this by once again reiterating his wish for American doctors and scientists to find a cure for cancer.

“This is personal,” President Biden said. “Last month, I announced the plan to supercharge the ‘cancer moon shot’ that President Obama asked me to lead six years ago. Our goal is to cut cancer death rates by at least 50% over the next 25 years.”

To accomplish this goal, Biden called on Congress to pass a measure Biden called “ARPA-H” – Advance Research Projects Agency for Health. The agency would be patterned after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. “ARPA will have a singular purpose: to drive breakthroughs in cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.”

“A unity agenda for the nation; we can do these things,” Biden urged. “It’s within our power, and I don’t see a partisan edge to any one of those four things.”

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