President Donald Trump rightly boasted of the economic bump the changes to the tax code are creating, and identified some areas of focus for his administration. But his continued ill-founded attacks on immigrants cast a pall over much of what he had to say in his first State of the Union address last Tuesday.
He cited the soaring stock market, more than 3 million workers who are receiving wage bonuses, additional hiring and investment, and the arrival in this country of corporate earnings made overseas as a result of the corporate tax cuts. Unemployment rates do not drop in the short term – rates have been coming down over several years – but it is good news that the rates for minorities – though almost double other workers – are as low as they have been.
The president promised a couple of initiatives that appeal to us: one is to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, and another is to support additional job training and vocational schools.
He also said that he would fully fund the military to make it “so strong it will deter any other nation.”
But details were lacking, as they have been with this president in his first year. Beyond the announcement of $1.5 trillion for infrastructure improvements that he said will be leveraged with state, local and private funds, there were no specifics. Wanting “safe, faster and modern” infrastructure and streamlined regulations are insufficient, as both political parties are expected to now turn their attention to this significant legislative initiative.
Other pledges were new: Be tough on opiate dealers, give former prison inmates a second chance and be quicker to make new drugs available to the terminally ill.
Firing Veterans Administration leaders who failed in their duties is praiseworthy, continuing to keep open the prison at Guantanamo is not.
And while the president desires “fair and reciprocal trade agreements,” it is unclear whether he can do better than the multi-country trade and security pacts that have been in place and that he campaigned against.
To say, “Americans are Dreamers, too,” as the president did, is to poke a finger in the eye of those who rightly understand that all but Native Americans are descendants of immigrants, who continue to have much to offer as they better themselves, and that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program enrollees – those who were brought here underage – are naturalized Americans and deserve special consideration.
The president was specific in his immigration proposal: 1.8 million immigrants will be able to receive citizenship over 12 years, while merit selection will replace extended family approvals, the lottery, open to underserved countries, will be ended, and visa controls, which have been poorly enforced and allowed many to overstay, will be strengthened. He also talked about a wall.
These provisions will be negotiated by both parties in the coming months, and are among our most pressing issues.
The president, who both in public and private statements, has labeled the citizens of some countries to be less desirable immigrants than others, has tarnished the American ethos of the past century. An addition to the wall is not part of the solution.
Let’s see whether the changes that come about add or subtract to the country’s economic, social and cultural strengths.