By Maria Gabriela Bolivar Gomez
President Joe Biden gave his second State of the Union address, his first to a divided Congress, on February 7, 2023, at 9 p.m. EST.
He started the address congratulating California Representative Kevin McCarthy as the new Speaker of the House, New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries as the first African American minority leader in history, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell as the longest-serving party leader and Californian former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to hold the position.
Highlighting the country’s comeback after the pandemic, he said, “our democracy remains unbound and unbroken.” When asked to describe America, he said he could do it in a single world— “possibility.”
Recognizing the present disagreements between democrats and republicans, Biden said “conflict for the sake of conflict gets us nowhere.”
He shared he’s signed over 300 legislations since becoming president, including last year’s Violence Against Women Act and Respect for Marriage Act.
Biden said he became president to make the economy work for everyone, discussing how the middle class has been "hollowed out."
According to the president, the unemployment rate has lowered to 3.4 percent - all to continue by exporting American products. He reassured audiences inflation will come down and praised the 10 million Americans who've applied to start new businesses.
He revealed new factories are going to open about 7,000 construction jobs, creating positions to pay $30,000 a year on average—with no college degree required.
Iron workers—known as cowboys of the sky—will be building a new bridge among different projects and new pipes to provide water to 10 million facilities along with high-speed internet to every community.
“My plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten,” said Biden.
Moving into the healthcare system, he said, “we pay more for prescription drugs than any other major nation in the world,” and shared plans to bring costs down.
At one point in his speech, Biden commented the GOP wants to “sunset” Medicare. It was then the republican party started to boo him, with some screaming “Not true!” - to which he replied, “Check it out!” Seconds later, he clarified himself and said, “not all re- publicans but some.”
The president also exposed Big Pharma for charging Americans hundreds for insulin that only costs $10 to make.
As of Jan. 1, insulin became $35 for seniors under Medicare, but he wants to go even further and mark insulin at $35 for everyone.
Switching gears toward the tax system, he highlighted the Inflation Reduction Act from last August, mandating billion-dollar companies pay a minimum of 15 percent in taxes.
“As long as I’m president, nobody earning less than $400,000 will pay an additional penny in taxes,” he said. “No billionaire should be paying less taxes than a schoolteacher or a firefighter.”
He also talked about passing the Junk Fee Prevention Act that will not allow companies to charge customers an unnecessary service fee.
One of the most heartbreaking moments of the evening was when President Biden recognized the parents of the late Tyre Nichols. Nichols was an African American man who was beaten to death by police officers in January.
Biden acknowledged parents like Nichols’ who must give their children a special safety talk on what to do if they’re stopped by police, an experience white parents don’t share. Though he is white, Biden reassured Americans he sees the inequality and wants to act on it, suggesting police officers need better training to do their job right.
Switching to gun violence, “We passed the most sweeping gun safety law in three decades,” said President Biden, referring to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act last June. “But even that is not enough, they should ban assault weapons now.”
Afterward, he spoke on immigration and said Congress should make it a bi-partisan issue once again, encouraging them to at least pass his plan to provide equipment to officers securing the border.
He also reassured audiences that Vice President Kamala Harris and him are doing everything they can to protect access to reproductive healthcare and safe-guard patients.
“Congress must restore the right that was taken away in Roe v. Wade and protect Roe v. Wade,” Biden said.
He touched on last year’s Bipartisan Equality Act, ensuring LGBTQ+ Americans, especially transgender individuals, can live safely with dignity.
He then proceeded to the opioid epidemic and said fentanyl is killing more than 70,000 Americans yearly. He suggested the launch of a major surge to stop the fentanyl problem, creating some commotion with some shouting, “it’s your fault!”
He ignored them and continued.
Closing with one of the most important matters nowadays, mental health and bullying, the president stated social media platforms should be held accountable for profiting from children.