You don't have to read this.
I'm an American, middle-class, suburban, Catholic housewife and SAHM who heard her president speak about the State Of The Union and decided to write out some thoughts.
You don't have to read this.
You don't have to read this.
Without further warning or ado:
1. Honoring American Heroes
I loved how President Trump highlighted, throughout his address, the lives of everyday Americans in their successes, sorrows, and heroism -- a Coast Guard first responder during Hurricane Harvey, a forest firefighter in California, a little boy who created a national movement to honor veterans' graves, a police officer who adopted a baby in need, parents of victimized children, veterans. It felt very Americana and helped to personify the issues he addressed.
2. Quoting the African American unemployment rate does not negate the legitimate reality of minority race issues in our country.
Yes, it's great that black people have jobs (albeit at lower wages than white people), but it doesn't mean our country no longer has ingrained white privilege, systemic racism, or disproportionately higher police violence against people of color.
Secondly, minority unemployment rates did not suddenly start to decrease when President Trump took office in 2017. These rates have been decreasing steadily since 2010. The African American unemployment rate was cut in half during President Obama's presidency.
And finally, President Trump undermined the attempt to frame himself as a minority advocate when he dismissed NFL players who choose to kneel and pray during our national anthem as unpatriotic. Anthem protests are a completely normal practice in free countries worldwide.
3. The increased standard deductions and child tax credits are nice, unless they're temporary.
Surprisingly, our family doesn't come out too far ahead with the new tax reforms.
With so many kids, the increased standard deduction ($24,000 for married couples) doesn't counter the removed personal exemptions ($4,000 per person). The doubled child tax credit ($2,000 per child) should make up the difference from 2018 - 2024.
However, if standard deductions and child tax credits return to current levels in 2025 -- as Congress approved in the recent tax reform -- our tax burden will increase by $28,000, while our tax credits decrease by $5,000.
|Bader Tax Exemptions, Deductions, and Credits 2017 - 2025 (not adjusted for inflation)|
Nonetheless, I'm uncomfortable with either turnout of this tax reform: 1) Extending unsustainable credits and deductions for citizens in 2025 seems fiscally irresponsible. 2) Significantly increasing taxes for citizens in 2025 to protect corporate tax cuts seems, well, pretty shitty.
4. Removing the penalty for the individual mandate is good. But we're missing the bigger issue.
Yes, it's inane to fine people for not having the money to purchase health insurance. And that's what the individual mandate was -- a slap in the face to people who couldn't afford our country's unconscionable health insurance premiums.
Since we recognize that the average person can't afford these premiums, and since we've (rightly) removed the insult-to-injury fine that resulted from their inability to fulfill the individual mandate, what are we doing now to make health insurance affordable for these people? Sure, they no longer have to pay a fine. But they still don't have health care.
I understand it's year one for President Trump. I do hope, in the next three (seven?) years, he remembers his campaign promise to replace Obamacare, not just pull the plug of our failing lifeboat and walk away.
Returning to pre-ACA health care in America is not a solution to health care in America.
I applaud President Trump's actions to improve VA medical care.
6. It would be great if manufacturing jobs returned to the United States.
I would love to see car factories and manufacturers established all over the country. Hard work, manual labor, and a good day's work are as American as apple pie.
Unfortunately, our family can say from experience, livable wages, sick pay, health insurance, pensions, and 401(k) options are not as American as apple pie -- unless you're working a union gig.
To return manufacturing jobs to the American-Dream-supporting staple they once were, we either need a government-regulated market (legislated worker protections, including health insurance, livable wages, and retirement plans) or we need unions.
7. YES, let's lower the cost of prescription drugs. Now, about that swamp.
I am so glad President Trump is addressing the issue of medical costs, in this case, prescription costs, in America.
|President Trump's statement on prescription drugs during the SOTU|
8. Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure
Pleeeeeeeease no more toll roads. Seriously. Can't we figure out how to have roads without turning everything into a for-profit venture? Remember when the Dallas North Tollway was going to stop charging tolls, once it was paid for?
9. Vocational Schools
Yes! While we're helping younger workers find a path forward toward better jobs through education and training, let's figure out the student debt crisis and make all of this education and training affordable.
It seems incongruous to say this after removing the student loan interest deduction in recent tax reform, but based on President Trump's mention of the need for job training and "great vocational schools," maybe we are headed toward a period of re-training and development for American workers. I hope so.
|President Trump's SOTU statement on vocational schools|
It was an afterthought tacked onto a non-sequitur statement about vocational schools -- perhaps some insight into where it falls as an administration priority -- but the importance of paid family leave did make it into the SOTU!
Then there was a sweeping camera move to successful mom and businesswoman, Ivanka Trump, our dedicated leader on this front.
Please, somebody, recognize how paid family leave can help stabilize families in America, and figure out a way to make this happen.
11. Prison Reform
Wow! This was out of left field! I sat up and listened more closely, as soon as it was mentioned, but after half a sentence, the topic turned to illegal immigration.
But, wow. Seriously. No one's talked about this, and it's a serious issue, and President Trump said he's going to address it THIS YEAR.
Can you imagine the positive future for our country, if we could reform our criminal justice into a system that helps former inmates return to society in a positive, supportive, welcoming way?
Yes, let's do it!
|SOTU Statement on Prison Reform|
12. On Latino immigrants and violence
I think Senator Kamala Harris best expressed my concerns about President Trump's emphasis on gang violence during the SOTU:
"MS-13 is an example of some of the worst of criminal gang behavior. To equate that with Dreamers and DACA was completely irresponsible, and it was scapegoating, and it was fearmongering, and it was wrong."
MS-13 makes up only 1% of criminally-active gangs in the United States. Yes, they are dangerous. Yes, that is 1% too much. Yes, they should be imprisoned for their crimes, if they're U.S. citizens, or turned over to law enforcement in their home countries, if they are undocumented immigrants.
However, the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in our country are safe, well-meaning people. They are not dangerous. They are less likely to commit a crime than a person born in the U.S.
As an aside, when we penalize sanctuary cities -- whose law enforcement does not pursue deportation of law-abiding undocumented immigrants -- we increase unreported gang violence. If we want undocumented immigrants to participate in keeping our cities safe, we need them to feel safe reporting crime. If law-abiding undocumented immigrants fear deportation, crime in their neighborhoods will go unreported, which will only intensify and spread local crime.
13. Should we build the wall?
I'm coming around on this one.
If we can get a path to citizenship for 1.8 million people who are stuck in limbo in a country that they call home, let's do that. This isn't a hard choice for me.
No matter how someone feels about the wall, $25 billion divided by 1.8 million is $13,889. That's a cheap ransom to give someone a life, and to give generations after them a future in America.
Do I feel dissonance about this wall? Yes. By advocating for this political compromise, I feel like I am personally, with my own hands, laying the final brick myself. Behind that brick is another mother, just like me, whose only difference is she was born on the other side of that wall. And for that, she must watch her children suffer.
No, I'm not rejoicing about a wall, because those who will be hurt the most are the poor and the desperate. (Drug traffickers might be slowed, but they won't be stopped. As long as we fund prisons more than addiction therapy, business is just too lucrative to let a wall get in the way.)
For what it's worth, even with a wall, refugees can still run to the border, turn themselves into immigration authorities (as many already do), and beg asylum. I hope we hear them.
14. Merit-based visas over chain migration
We have lost the dignity of the working poor. Most immigrants who come to America are some of the hardest working people you will ever meet, whatever the skill level.
By instituting a merit-based visa system over a family reunification ("chain migration") system, our country is, once again, advocating for the powerful, the resourced, and the viable, for fear the rest are just too inconvenient or expensive to include.
(Immigration is a pro-life issue.)
15. Drug addicts need more than the incarceration of their dealers.
It's only been a year, so it's hard to criticize lack of action regarding drug addiction, the opioid epidemic in particular. President Trump still has three (seven?) years to work on this.
As he describes in the SOTU, drug addiction is a very serious national problem.
|President Trump, during the SOTU, on drug addiction|
That's my real interest. Supply will end if demand ends. How can we make affordable, effective addiction treatment available to those who need it most?
Supply will end if demand ends.
16. Militarization and rebuilding our nuclear arsenal
Look, I'm no foreign policy expert. I wasn't even going to comment on this part of the speech.
|President Trump, during the SOTU, on rebuilding our nuclear arsenal|
17. Is Guantanamo Bay our North Korea?
Shortly after his unsurprising announcement to recommission Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detainment of suspected international criminals, President Trump issued a harsh indictment against North Korea for detaining and arresting a student tourist, Otto Warmbier, who ultimately died from suspected prison abuse in North Korea.
Guantanamo Bay, to the rest of the world, is a place where the United States detains and tortured non-citizen suspects, without trial, in the name of protecting our nation. We are indefinitely holding captured suspects as prisoners, for decades, without trial, without charging them with any crime. Some might be innocent.
How would we view another nation who acted this way? China reportedly detains and kills political prisoners arbitrarily without justice, with stories from North Korea and Iran, as well. In President Trump's statement on the recent 20-week abortion ban, he says we don't want to be like these countries, specifically naming China and North Korea. As long as Guantanamo Bay remains open, America is just another fearful regime refusing the due process of justice to those it views as a threat.
This is complicated. It is a legitimate national security issue. But is it not a human rights issue as well? Is Guantanamo Bay who we are?
|President Trump, SOTU 2018|
Surprisingly (or maybe not surprising), abortion wasn't even mentioned. In an 80-minute SOTU address, the "pro-life" president failed to mention a pro-life agenda. Paid maternity leave, prison reform, and even vocational schools each got half a sentence. Even music and the arts -- whose presidential council has been effectively dissolved under President Trump -- got a mention. But nothing on abortion.
It wasn't for lack of a position. President Trump issued a pretty coherent statement just a few days earlier. He showed up at the March for Life.
He had such an easy target on this. He couldn't mention that nearly every Democrat in the Senate just voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act days earlier?
The House had already passed it. All that had to happen for our country to have a 20-week abortion ban was for the Senate to approve this legislation.
Look, he's the deal-making president. He makes late night phone calls, cancels out-of-town trips, invites influential Democrats to the White House for private meetings, all in the name of passing controversial legislation (tax reform, for example).
And yet, it's like they're not even trying. No one attempted to dialogue with pro-life Democrats from red states that just might go for it. Did McConnell even make a phone call? Did this even come up in bipartisan conversation? No one hosted a press conference. No one held other controversial legislation ransom over it. No one tweeted about it. It's like they didn't actually care if a national abortion ban passed.
I have two theories here.
The first is that President Trump has realized that anti-abortion legislation is not the most effective way to decrease abortion in our country, so he's decided not to pursue an abortion ban at all. Instead, he's positioned himself as an advocate for family-friendly policies that make it easier to support abortion-vulnerable women and their children, such as paid family leave, healthcare for poor children, adoption tax credits, and a strong social safety net.
This theory would explain why President Trump shared the beautiful story of Officer Holets' family during the SOTU. One night, while on his shift, Officer Holets met a pregnant woman addicted to heroin. This mother wanted a better life for her baby, and the officer offered to adopt the heroin-addicted child.
My second theory is that Republicans only care about the image of supporting anti-abortion legislation to the extent that it demonizes their Democratic counterparts and woos pro-life voters. This would explain why President Trump and Republican senators put so very little effort into anti-abortion legislation, even when it's practically in the palms of their hands, while putting so much effort into courting pro-life voters.
I would hope that my first theory is the case, and that the pro-life movement across America would pick up similar causes, in the name of protecting the most vulnerable among us.
19. On Prince Kennedy and the Democratic Response
Man, I want to hate this kid. I'm so over political dynasty families in America. No more Bushes. No more Clintons. No more Kennedys.
And at the same time, I like him. I read an article on him last year that quoted a bunch of Republican colleagues as liking him too. I'd link the article for you, but apparently, a lot of people have Googled this guy in the past two days, and I can't wade through the Google results.
Anyway, his response read a bit like an idealistic beat poet at a coffee shop, especially the "We choose" anthem. But, then again, I like idealism, poetry, and coffee shops, so it resonated.
20. In Conclusion