WASHINGTON — Speaking in soft tones, but carrying the proverbial “big stick,” President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address Tuesday night that kicked off with a promise to “Make America great again for all Americans.”
There was no mention of the polarizing Russian investigation, but bi-partisanship was a theme that was struck early in his speech when Trump said: “Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.”
Trump spoke for an hour and 20 minutes, using real life people, that were sitting in the chamber last night, to illustrate his points to maximum effect when he touched on subjects ranging from the economy to immigration and infrastructure to opioid addiction to North Korea and terrorism.
Here are the highlights for the main points President Trump covered last night.
Economy & Detroit Auto Industry
The first hour focused on domestic policy, and began with a talking point about the creation of 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 jobs in manufacturing along with rising American wages and unemployment claims hitting a 45-year low. Detroit even got a Trumpian shout out, when the president said that he “halted government mandates that crippled autoworkers, so we can get the Motor City revving its once engines again.”Trump added that Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan and Toyota and Mazda got a plant going to Alabama. However, the Toyota-Mazda joint venture in Alabama is the only brand new standalone plant announced by a major automaker since Trump’s inauguration.
Switching gears, Trump recognized a black guy in the gallery named Corey Adams, who lost his job, then trained and became a welder and now has a new home and is now in a position to save for his kid’s education. Trump said African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded and Hispanic unemployment also reached the lowest level in history, according to Trump.
According to Trump, small business confidence is at an all-time high and the stock market gained $8 trillion dollars in value with 401(k)s, pensions and college savings accounts having “gone through the roof” and all of that economic upswing was bookended by the enactment of the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.
Tax Deductions, Credits & Savings
Trump says his tax reform doubled the standard deduction for everyone and he doubled the child tax credit with more “take home pay” for Americans starting next month.
One of the most exciting lines of the night went like this: “A typical family of four making $75,000 will see their tax bill reduced by $2,000, slashing their tax bill in half.” And, for now that’s true in America. Business Insider estimated the tax savings for a family of four with an annual income of $75,000 will save $2,244. Under the previous law, they would have paid $3,983. However, the Joint Committee on Taxation says down the road, by 2027, families making $50,000 to $75,000 per year will be paying more in taxes. Meanwhile, households earning $1 million per year would see their average tax rate decline to 30.4 percent in 2019, and they’d still be better off than they are now by 2027, paying an average rate of 31.7 percent, rather than the 32.1 percent under current law. Paid family leave was also exciting to hear from the presidential podium, but whether this proposal actually comes to fruition is another thing entirely.
Immigration Reform Promises New Pathway to Citizenship
Stating that “Americans are Dreamers, too,” Trump unveiled the four pillars of his immigration reform that will wipe out chain migration, Visa lotteries and the “catch and release” loophole that allows people to enter and re-enter the country. This is a line that actually triggered a few “boos,” from the audience.
“The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age. That covers almost three times more people than the previous administration covered. Under our plan, those who meet education and work requirements, and show good moral character, will be able to become full citizens of the United States over a 12-year period.”
Trump added that the four pillars will produce legislation that will fulfill his ironclad pledge to only sign a bill that puts America first. And warned about the dangers of the MS-13 gang and calling for measures to stop it, while showcasing the grief of Elizabeth Alvarado and Robert Mickens, Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas, two couples whose children were killed by MS-13 gang members. President recognized a hard-working ICE agent named CJ Martinez, who made 100 arrests of MS-13 gang members, and Mr. President continued his pledge to build a wall to tighten border security, but it remains to be seen how he will raise the $20 billion or so to turn his dream into a reality.
Last night was the kick off to a time to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure because “America is a nation of builders,” per Mr. Trump, who further called for a mix of government investment and reduced regulatory requirements. “We built the Empire State Building in just one year—is it not a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?” Trump talked about a proposal that if it ever happened, could be one of the greatest public works projects of all time, potentially creating thousands of jobs, but it has never materialized and last night was no exception.
Opioiod Epidemic and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs
Trump recognized police officer, Ryan Holets, from Albuquerque, N.M., and his wife, Rebecca who adopted Hope, a baby girl whose parents suffered from opioid addiction. From that Trump spring boarded to promised action on the opioid crisis (another area in which his administration has been slow to take any real steps), but fell back on the old “War on Drugs” mantra of prosecuting drug dealers. Trump also called for policies to lower prescription-drug prices—a possible area for bipartisan agreement, and one he has mentioned recently.
Following the pattern of past State of the Union addresses, foreign policy was addressed briefly and toward the end of the speech.
While turning down the volume a notch, Trump saved his most provocative language to address “the depraved character” of North Korea and its pursuit of nuclear missiles that could reach the United States. The president did not go into too much detail, but used the proverbial big stick by saying: “Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation,” he said. “I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this dangerous position.”
Trump said, “I am proud to report that the coalition to defeat isis has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria. . . But there is much more work to be done. We will continue our fight until isis is defeated.”
Trump also said he had signed an executive order to keep the prison at Guantánamo Bay open, and he called on Congress to eliminate the sequester, a budget deal that slowed the growth of the defense budget. He said the nuclear arsenal should be rebuilt.
Trump talked about America’s new recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—He also asked Congress to end foreign aid to countries that voted to condemn the move. “That is why, tonight, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to America’s friends,” said Trump.
Closing to Chants of “USA!”
Mr. President said he wanted to unify the country, something he has been criticized on starting with his rather dark inauguration speech in January 2017. But, last night he went for a tonal change saying, “All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family.” Trump added, “We all share the same home, the same heart, the same destiny, and the same great American flag. Together, we are rediscovering the American way.”
Trump did close with a big finish saying,” “It’s the people who are making America great again,” to the chants of “USA, USA…USA” that echoed throughout the chamber.