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Trump’s First State of the Union Was Long On Time, But Short On Substance

On Tuesday, President Trump gave his first State of the Union address before Congress. It was the third longest SOTU in history (first and second place belongs to Bill Clinton), but short on policy detail.  As we’ve come to expect of President Trump’s speeches, there were plenty of platitudes and in some cases, outright lies – like his claim that the federal hurricane response in Puerto Rico was effective and immediate – but not much by way of a specific agenda moving forward.

The speech largely focused on economic news with the President taking credit for the rising stock market and the recently passed tax cut bill.  In his remarks, President Trump misleadingly implied that most of the cuts would go to middle income people and small businesses when in fact the vast proportion of tax cuts will go to the wealthiest Americans. 

Unfortunately, President Trump continued to conflate immigration with crime, particularly gang membership and murder.  It is clear that by doing so he is seeking to justify the crackdown against immigrants.  President Trump discussed the idea of a so-called “bipartisan” package on immigration that he described as containing “four pillars,” that would create a lengthy path for citizenship for dreamers (undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children) in exchange for increasing education and work requirements, border security (read: the wall), elimination of the visa lottery and family reunification policies.  It’s unlikely this package, which would change immigration drastically will be appealing enough to pass Congress (which would require the vote of some Democrats).  AIDS United is concerned this may create conditions in which immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants, become fearful of going to HIV service organizations or other health care clinics and do not seek treatment for HIV.

Turning to health care, he highlighted repeal of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act , failing to note that as many as 13 million people could lose coverage as a result.  Interestingly he stated that one of his highest priorities will be to reduce the price of prescription drugs, but once again failed to provide any detail on how this goal would be achieved. He simply concluded that “prices will come down substantially.”

The current opioid crisis was also featured prominently in the speech, noting that there were an estimated 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016 and echoing past rhetoric from the failed War on drugs with calls to get, “much tougher on drug dealers and pushers.” He did not provide a comprehensive direction or plan to react to the opioid crisis and failed to call for any additional funding to address the issue. AIDS United and others have noted that the opioid crisis have strong implications for HIV and viral hepatitis prevention efforts and has called for an increase of $100 million specifically for this purpose. In fact, there was no mention at all of the domestic or global HIV epidemics. Unfortunately, this was a missed opportunity to announce a commitment to ending the HIV epidemic.  AIDS United will continue to closely monitor all administration actions on behalf of people living with and vulnerable to HIV and update our members, allies and constituents regularly. 


Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, February 02, 2018

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