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Recap: State of the Union

Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address earlier this week. The president highlighted what he regarded as the primary successes of 2017, and laid out the administration’s plans for the coming year. Trump addressed five core topics over the course of his speech, which turned out to be one of the longest State of the Union addresses in history. 

If you were unable to watch it, here is a brief summary of the main policy points.

  Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Immigration

Given the president’s toing and froing over the repeal of DACA and the fate of the “dreamers,” perhaps one of the most highly anticipated topics to be addressed was immigration. For the first time, the president gave a more precise indication of what his administration plans to offer those affected by the scrapping of DACA.

“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,” Trump stated. He made clear, however, that this citizenship offer would be conditional: “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.”

Tax Reform

Trump painted the recent tax cuts as one of the greatest victories of his administration. “This in fact is our new american moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American dream, because Americans are dreamers too,” the president stated, eliciting an audible reaction from congress.

According to Trump, roughly 3 million people have received tax cuts, many of them “thousands and thousands of dollars per worker.”

In the newly passed tax law, Congress also eliminated penalties for people who go without health insurance. The president referred to these penalties as “an especially cruel tax that fell mostly on Americans making less than $50,000 a year — forcing them to pay tremendous penalties simply because they couldn’t afford government-ordered health plans. We repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare — the individual mandate is now gone.’’

According to The New York Times, Trump has overstated the impact of these penalties on low-income Americans. It is true that the penalty does disproportionately affect low earners, however the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a significant number of those affected by these penalties could find healthcare coverage for less, indicating that the cut may not be the great relief that the president suggested it will be.

Infrastructure

Following Trump’s celebration of the new tax laws, he continued to state that these cuts have greatly increased the economic prosperity of the country. Notably, he cited Apple’s recent announcement that it would “invest” more domestically over the next five years following the tax cuts. “Apply has just announced that it is going to invest $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers,” the President stated.

This, once again,might be somewhat misleading as fact-checkers have pointed out that Apple investing $275 billion domestically is in accordance with their past spending habits, so the total amount of “new” investment will likely only be around $37 billion. This amount is not insignificant, but certainly not as meaningful as $350 billion of new investment.  

Additionally, the President highlighted the administration’s success in the areas of unemployment and job creation. “We have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone, ” Trump claimed.

Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics analyzed by The New York Times’s Binyamin Appelbaum, show that the economy has been creating jobs at a rate of around 169,000 a month since the presidential election, which is less than the average 185,000 jobs created a month under the Obama administration.

Trade

The President stated that “the era of economic surrender is totally over. From now on we expect trading relationships to be fair and very importantly, reciprocal.”

Trade is another topic that analysts were eagerly anticipating being addressed in the speech. Later this month, the U.S., Mexico and Canada will hold a seventh round of talks aiming to address the fate of NAFTA. In his campaign, Trump promised to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA completely, however, there is growing skepticism that the President will actually pull the trigger on this. Trump did not reveal any significant policy decisions about international trade or NAFTA during his speech, but his insistence on “reciprocal” relationships indicates that he is still seeking to alter current policies. The exact nature of these changes remains unclear.

National Security

Trump had much to say on the topic of national security. Given the President’s recent tweets about the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, boasting that the U.S.’s nuclear button is “much bigger” and “more powerful” than North Korea’s, it is unsurprising that Trump spoke about the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal.

The President made clear his intent to ensure that his taunting tweets have a basis in reality: “As part of our defense, we must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression.”

He then referred to North Korea directly. “No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea. North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland.” The President referred to his plan as “a campaign of maximum pressure” to avoid this potential disaster.

Finally, the President praised the Coalition to Defeat ISIS’s liberation of many ISIS-controlled territories in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, claiming that the job is close to “100%” done. While Trump is correct on this point, some have criticized the President for capitalizing on successful policies put in place by the Obama-administration.

Trump concluded his address with a simple, but undoubtedly resolute message: “We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated. We will never fail. Our families will thrive. Our people will prosper, and our nation will forever be safe and strong and proud and mighty and free. Thank you, and God bless America.”