Rep. John Lewis Comments on the State of the Union
"The State of the Union is not good. There is an unbelievable, unacceptable gap between the wealthy and the poor in our society. Despite the progress of our economy as a whole, which the President pointed to as his administration's one success, there are still millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet.
"In cities and counties across this nation, there are communities of citizens who are doing extremely well, and just a few miles away there are residents who can barely make ends meet. There are mothers and fathers who are working hard, sometimes at two or three jobs, but they still cannot put a decent meal on the table. These families are demonstrating personal responsibility, but the federal government has nearly abandoned them. The richest and most powerful nation in the world, a nation that supports so many in foreign lands, should take more interest in meeting the needs of all of its citizens, not just a handful of the wealthiest Americans and corporations.
"None of the proposals the President offered tonight demonstrated a significant federal commitment to close these gaps. His health care proposals will motivate employees to leave employer provided health plans and seek their own insurance coverage. That change is more beneficial to corporations who can use lower employee enrollment to terminate healthcare benefits altogether, saving them millions of dollars. Further, the health tax deductions the President proposed benefit the rich more than they do the poor families that really need the help. What will happen to workers if this kind of legislation is passed? Without the leverage of group negotiation, the President's plan will require families to eventually spend more and more of their monthly income on insurance premiums.
"The President's energy policy fails to offer incentives for corporate or consumer energy reductions and acts more as a set of guidelines rather than a federal mandate to protect our environment and moderate the energy appetites of this nation. The President's education proposals still offer no fiscal specificity to make No Child Left Behind a viable program. In short, most of the ideas the President offered tonight seem like the same empty promises he has made before. They sound good in a speech, but leave millions of American citizens with no hope. We can do better. We must do better for American families, and I believe this Democratic Congress will come up with better proposals than these to meet the needs of America's working families.
"Lastly, I will say again that it is time to bring our troops home. We must bring this war to an end. We must stop it. We cannot afford to go down this road of militarism and violence any longer. It is not working. It will not work. We need to support our troops, we need to maintain a strong national defense, but the head of the most powerful nation on Earth should not be afraid to sit down with the leaders of Iran and Syria. He should be willing to negotiate with our allies in the Middle East and Iraq's neighbors to help solve this conflict. The past three years have demonstrated that a military solution is too difficult in Iraq. We must find a political solution that uses the regional and international community of nations to bring peace and stability back to Iraq."