With a call to “finish the job” begun two years ago, President Joe Biden delivered a State of the Union address Tuesday night that experts say focused attention on domestic issues of bipartisan priority, such as debt, the access to health, police reform and immigration, without mentioning the present and future relations of the United States with the rest of Latin America.
Kathleen Romig, director of social security and disability policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington DC, a nonpartisan policy and research institute, called the speech “a change of pace” from the conversation the capital has held in the last few days, “how are we going to pay off the debts we have accumulated?”
“Biden focused attention on what he is doing to help working people and their families get ahead, what he is doing to rebuild the country, and setting a positive vision for what can be done if they sit down and legislate, instead of fight for the same old things,” he added.
As anticipated, Biden highlighted issues such as the decline in the unemployment rate, which currently stands at 3.4%, the cap on the price of insulin, and the return of chip semiconductor manufacturing to the US. “Solid overall growth in the economy was central to his message,” said Steffen Schmidt, professor emeritus of political science at Iowa State University.
“The president stayed on the message. The US economy ranked high because it is the top topic of interest and importance to Americans. But he also touched on police violence, immigration, Putin’s attack on Ukraine, abortion rights, challenges from China, LGBTQ rights and other issues,” Schmidt added.
Call for joint work
Biden stressed the need to continue working between Democrats and Republicans and stressed that since his start in the presidency he has signed over 300 bipartisan laws. From reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Law, through the Electoral Count Reform Law, to the Respect for Marriage Law that protects the right to marriage between people of the same sex.
“He highlighted the many laws passed with Republican support. But Republicans booed and heckled him when he blasted Republicans for threatening to default on the deficit, cornering them into cutting or eliminating Medicare and Social Security. It was a very populist and ambitious speech aimed at helping working-middle-class Americans,” Schmidt said.
Republicans rejected Biden’s call for bipartisanship Tuesday night, accusing him instead of stoking culture wars in a nation they described as deeply divided.
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders rebutted Biden’s speech: “In the America of the radical left, Washington taxes you and sets fire to your hard-earned money. But you get crushed by high gas prices, empty supermarket shelves, and our children are taught to hate each other because of their race,” said Sanders, who was White House press secretary under President Donald Trump.
“The Biden administration seems more interested in the fantasies of the awakening than the harsh reality that Americans face every day,” he said.
“Biden’s speech appeals a lot to class differences.”
situation at the border
Biden referred to the Humanitarian Parole Program that grants a legal path for Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan migrants to enter the United States. The president highlighted that through this initiative, “illegal migration has been reduced by 97%.”
Faced with a divided Congress, the US president called for immigration “to be a bipartisan issue as it once was” and urged Congress to “at least” approve “my plan to provide the equipment and officers to secure the border.” . Said plan also includes a path to citizenship for “dreamers”, those with temporary status, agricultural workers and essential workers.
“We applaud the references to immigration reform. Everyone deserves a path to citizenship and this is a boost for the dreamers, for our teachers, farm workers. We knew that these groups would already be included in some legislation but we will continue working to urge the administration to include a law that covers the undocumented community in general,” said Yadira Sánchez, executive director of Poder Latinx, an organization that seeks the electoral participation of Latinos in the US
During his speech, Biden highlighted the arrest of 8,000 human traffickers and the seizure of more than 23,000 pounds of fentanyl in recent months. “It is our duty to protect all the rights and freedoms of the people,” he said.
Cody Keenan, former chief speechwriter for Barack Obama told VOA that this was “one of President Biden’s best speeches. He told a passionate and energetic story about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. And he spoke directly to the Americans at home with his quintessential empathy: as a son whose father once fell on hard times, as a father who lost his own children, as a president who cares about everyone in this country.”
The US president also referred directly to the murder of Tire Nichols at the hands of police in Memphis, Tennessee. The young man’s parents attended the speech and were received with a standing ovation by the public. Mentioning them, Biden called for “rising up to the moment” and passing police reform. In addition, he made reference to the ban on assault weapons and the prevention of gun violence.
Luis Peche Arteaga, a specialist in international studies at the Central University of Venezuela, highlights that irregular migration will be “a key issue” for thousands of undecided voters in the United States while Biden, he considers, laid the foundation stone of his launch on Tuesday. re-election in 2024 with references to the future.
“It is logical that Biden reinforces the messages that show that his party is indeed taking action to control this problem (irregular migration) and he does so by transferring responsibility to Congress, whose lower house is now controlled by the Republicans”, examines Peche Arteaga, a consultant politician in Venezuela.
He considered, however, that the Latin American region was “relegated” in Biden’s speech merely to illegal migration. This, he notes, “speaks a lot about the limited margin of action that Biden faces before a continent governed by an overwhelming majority of leftist rulers,” including the new presidents of Colombia and Brazil, Gustavo Petro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
According to the expert, Biden also “attempted to appropriately appropriate” the economic resurgence in the United States after the setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this matter, migration also came into play, he estimates.
“Job creation is essential for, for example, populations without a university degree and for groups of migrants recently regularized in the country,” he says.
A bipartisan agreement like the one that Biden stimulated on infrastructure issues and new jobs can mean “great news” for the Latino workforce, he highlights.
Looking to 2024
“Let’s finish the job,” the US president mentioned on various occasions during his address to the nation. For Peche Arteaga, the phrase was at the center of Biden’s speech as he reviewed what he considers to be achievements in job creation, health, the steps toward manufacturing independence from the United States, and orderly migration, perhaps paving the way for his candidacy for reelection. .
“It shows a country that is moving forward, but that requires a majority in the Republican Congress to make those gains happen. At the same time, he opens the doors so that it is through his re-election that the path of progress and economic achievements that he is showing is maintained”, comments the Venezuelan analyst to the voice of america.
With “social” load
For many Latin American countries, Joe Biden’s words will be very similar to their own political realities due to their high “social burden,” says Lauren Caballero, an expert in international relations and government sciences.
“So social is the burden of this discourse, that I am sure it can easily be compared to that of some populist leaders of the Latin American left, starting with the proposal to put limits on the prices of some medicines, which could be dangerous” , share with the VOA.
Based on his experience in public policies in Venezuela, he warns that price controls in sports businesses, tourism or air transport can be “dangerous”.
“The result of price controls always ends up being the same: scarcity and distortions that, at the end of the road, make the price of those products or services that were intended to be regulated a thousand times more expensive,” the analyst specifies.
Caballero also underscores Biden’s proposal that millionaires pay the same tax rates as a firefighter or a teacher, as well as his idea of quadrupling taxes on the buyback of corporate shares and auditing “the rich.”
“He appeals a lot to class differences,” says the expert, assuming that Biden’s critics will once again attack his rhetoric by branding it as close to “communism.”
Caballero also values Biden’s address to the nation as “very nationalistic” and as an attempt to take political advantage of the country’s need for unity in the face of issues such as the alleged Chinese threat from technological competition.
In turn, he highlights how Biden “managed to get applause from the Republicans” at a time when he addressed his initiatives on the social security of Americans.
“It seems that there is an implicit agreement on the need to maintain certain aid to the most needy sectors. There no longer seems to be that terrible barrier between the two sides that former President Donald Trump had built ”during his tenure, he says.
Source: VOA Español