Responding to the State of the Union
The State of the Union on January 30, 2018 laid out President Trump's plans and policies for the coming year. Here's how FCNL responded.
President Donald Trump’s State of the Union report to Congress offered a full-throated defense of his expanding military engagement in Afghanistan, against ISIS and provided new evidence of the dangerous march toward a war of choice against North Korea.
North Korea, Pentagon Spending, and U.S. Wars
We at FCNL are urging members of Congress to speak out against a military attack on North Korea by cosponsoring legislation sponsored by Senator Chris Murphy (S. 2047) and Rep. Ro Khanna (H.R. 4837) that would prohibit the use of funds for preventative military operations against North Korea without explicit Congressional authorization.
The president’s embrace of military power, sadly, did not stop with North Korea. In the State of the Union, Trump also celebrated new rules of engagement for U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan that have coincided with a 52 percent increase in civilian casualties from airstrikes. As a matter of faith, we oppose all war. As a matter of public policy, our country should be working to reduce civilian casualties rather than taking action that could increase them.
Watching the president’s speech in our new Quaker Welcome Center with other people of faith, we were also alarmed at the president’s continuing attacks on the international diplomatic agreement with Iran that has blocked that country's pathway to building nuclear weapons. Every diplomatic agreement can be improved, but destroying the agreement with the stated purpose of improving it would be a grave mistake that would endanger our country and the world.
The president’s continued insistence on maintain the illegal U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay and his dangerously destabilizing policy in Israel remain of grave concern to our community.
The president continued to promote plans that would disproportionately hurt communities of color and benefit corporations.
President Trump outlined his four pillars for immigration legislation. FCNL believes in the need for urgent bipartisan action to protect Dreamers. We are extremely disappointed, however, that the president failed to use this opportunity to propose viable protections and reforms. Instead, the policies outlined further criminalize immigrant communities and communities of color, permanently prevent family unification in the U.S., and threaten the safety and lives of vulnerable children and refugees. This country needs accountable border enforcement not unchecked expansion. We value the contributions that immigrants make to our nation regardless of their education, race, country of origin, faith, or type of skill. The best next step for Congress is to move forward on a narrow bill centered around the Dream Act.
Criminal Justice Reform
The president called for prison reform while ignoring the desperate need for sentencing reform. To curb our country's unjust levels of mass incarceration, we need to move away from the overly harsh, irrationally long, and overly punitively sentences for non-violent, low-level drug offenses that tear apart families, weaken communities, destroy lives, disproportionately affecting communities of color and perpetuating our country's legacy of institutionalized racism. Instead, President Trump appeared to call for ramping up punishment for drug offenses. In discussion the opioid epidemic, he talked about the importance of treatment, which is necessary but requires access to health care. Taking away health care-—which the administration’s new Medicaid work requirements do—-and raising premiums for millions of people in our country—-which the president is doing by repealing the ACA's individual mandate—-makes accessing those sorts of treatment programs nearly impossible for individuals desperately in need of help with their addiction.
Taxes and the Economy
President Trump touted the tax bill that he signed into law in December. However, a recent study shows that only 29 Fortune 500 companies (5.8 percent) are reporting one-time bonuses while just 17 (3.4 percent) have announced wage increases (available here). Moreover, over time, the tax law is expected to raise taxes on millions of people in the U.S. while skyrocketing deficits and threatening future funding for critical federal services that help struggling families make ends meet. The president spoke about the need to lift people from poverty to prosperity by investing in workforce development and job training, opening more vocational schools, and supporting paid family leave. These are all necessary investments that would improve opportunity for millions of people in our country. Yet, the administration's recent rule allowing states to require people be working to receive Medicaid does the opposite. Taking away access to health care—-or other vital services such as nutrition assistance or housing assistance—-does not help people find work. In fact, it makes it harder.
The president began his speech by discussing the horrific hurricanes, floods, and wildfires our nation has faced in 2017. Yet he ignored how human-caused climate change has exacerbated each of these disasters, making them costlier and deadlier to our communities. The president talked about ending the “war on clean coal” and the “war on American energy” but really, by pulling out of the Paris Agreement, trying to repeal the Clean Power Plan, and repealing a series of regulations that effectively protect God's earth, President Trump's policies are creating a “war on the planet.”