Analyzing the aftereffects of the State of the Union

President Donald Trump mentions his controversial wall prototype. Graphic Courtesy of Sam Annunziato ('19).

President Donald Trump mentions his controversial wall prototype. Graphic Courtesy of Sam Annunziato (’19).

On Tuesday, January 30th at 7:30 p.m., 46.79 million people tuned in to watch President Donald John Trump address the country in his annual State of the Union speech. The capitol was tightly packed as President Trump talked about various topics that define and trouble the country. In his speech, President Trump focused on unity between Republicans and Democrats.

“The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda. It is the agenda of the American people.”  

One underlying theme throughout President Trump’s speech was the “ridiculous partisan investigations” that he is subject to. President Trump is referring to the Russia investigation, led by prosecutor Robert Mueller. President Trump’s push for bipartisanship is crucial in modern American political society. Whether President Trump has worked to achieve this political unity he has espoused is questionable, but a more centrist America is something that people on all sides of the aisle should strive for.

During his speech, President Trump also took a jab at socialism. After talking about the miserable state of the socialist country Venezuela, President Trump said, “Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence – not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free.”

It is particularly interesting that President Trump brought up socialism, especially in the context of the rise of democratic socialists (think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders), who have been some of President Trump’s harshest critics. Self-proclaimed socialists Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders had different reactions to President Trump’s speech. Ocasio-Cortez laughed at the statement, while Sanders put on a stone-face, which he kept throughout the State of the Union address.

Moreover, the crisis in Venezuela is plaguing the country. Many portray Venezuela and their terrible state as a result of poor policies, attributing it to socialist policies. This picture-perfect scenario for Republicans shows the potential dangers of the socialism that some of their democratic critics support. For example, one of the strongest economies, Venezuela, has fallen into a state of chaos that can be attributed to socialist policies.

After laying out his speech, the first subject President Trump spoke about was the country’s current economic prosperity. He said, “We can make our communities safer, our families stronger, our culture richer, our faith deeper, and our middle class bigger and more prosperous than ever before.” Notice how he said we can, meaning we have the opportunity to do so but have not just yet. Trump believes that if the country can choose “greatness over gridlock,” the United States has room to grow.

He attributed some of the country’s economic fruition to his own presidency as he said,
“In just over 2 years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom – a boom that has rarely been seen before. We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs… Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades and growing for blue collar workers… Nearly 5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps. The United States economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office, and we are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world. Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in half a century. African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded. Unemployment for Americans with disabilities has also reached an all-time low. More people are working now than at any time in our history – 157 million.”

He followed these accomplishments by listing more changes his administration has made during his two-year term. In a speech where President Trump is trying to pitch his ideas for controversial topics that have troubled the government’s productivity as of late, it is smart of him to establish credibility.

During the following month of February, the number of people employed in the private sector increased by roughly 183,000, 17,000 of which became a part of the manufacturing sector that President Trump emphasized during his speech. It was an usual month of employment growth for the president, who has seen an increase in employment each month of his term. Also, to President Trump’s point about the economic prosperity for the middle-class American, on March 6th, the House of Representatives voted (28-20) to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour by 2024.

President Trump also addressed the elephant in the room: immigration. The State of the Union was postponed because of a government shutdown prompted by a lack of funding in the federal budget for one of President Trump’s signature initiatives – the border wall. The border wall’s goal is to prevent illegal immigration into the United States; this issue stems from countries south of the US, where illegal smugglers utilize the weak US-Mexico border to smuggle people from all over the world into the United States. On his idea of the wall, President Trump was met with raucous roars and cheers from the Republican side of the aisle, and boos from the Democratic side.

He addressed the arguments of his opposition stating, “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.” President Trump also explained why it is important for the American people to have a better-secured southern border. He said, “Working class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal migration – reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools and hospitals, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net. Tens of thousands of innocent Americans are killed by lethal drugs that cross our border and flood into our cities – including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl.”

President Trump also explained why a secured southern border is in the best interest of those living outside the United States stating, “Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate – it is cruel… One in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north. Smugglers use migrant children as human pawns to exploit our laws and gain access to our country. Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.”

Following the State of the Union speech, on February 15th President Trump declared a national emergency regarding the funding of the border wall. This ruling has the potential to be very problematic because the reason the government was shut down prior to the State of the Union Address in the first place was due to Congress’s inability to agree on a budget bill that President Trump would sign.

Now that the shutdown has come to an end and President Trump’s $8,000,000,000 budget has not been granted to construct a wall, he declared a national emergency. For those who oppose the construction, Trump’s request to spend $8,000,000,000 of the national budget to strengthen homeland security from the southern border seems costly. However, Trump has refuted this argument via Twitter saying, “Illegal immigration costs the United States more than 200 Billion Dollars a year.”Estimations from 2013 state that illegal immigration accounts for 3,700,000 households and imposes a $56,000,000,000 tax burden annually. Trump’s persistent push for a more secure border shows he has the best interest in mind for not just the safety of those living below and above the wall, but for the pockets of the Americans benefiting from its security.