Feb 28 2022 What Needs to Be Said at the State of the Union Address
Accelerated vaccine distribution. A monumental, bipartisan infrastructure package. Record job growth. A historic nomination for the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. The state of our Union is . . . hopeful? At his 2022 State of the Union (SOTU) address, President Joe Biden should celebrate his administration’s many accomplishments in the past year — all achieved in spite of Republican obstruction at every step of the way.
But though we’ve seen significant efforts to build back better amid the ongoing devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, we have yet to witness true progress in US policymaking and politics that can address the magnitude of racial inequity and inequality in our country.
In the midst of a mass disabling event, we need a president who fights for disability justice. During a crisis that has exposed the extent of women’s labor — paid and unpaid — needed to uphold the entire economy, we need leaders who understand that carework is the most valuable form of infrastructure. And in the face of an unequal and unfair labor market, we need an administration that can assess disproportionate outcomes and work to undo the root causes.
The persistence of structural racism in America is and has always been our nation’s greatest challenge. As the Biden-Harris administration diverts their attention to international affairs, including a senseless war in Ukraine, we need the president to continue building safety and security at home.
At the SOTU, President Biden should first acknowledge his many promises on the campaign trail that have failed to materialize in his administration— particularly those made to communities of color. Top of mind is student debt cancellation, which would greatly benefit Black people — as noted by Rep. Barbara Lee — and other communities of color and low-wealth communities, as well as unburdening and uplifting Black women in particular.
Another unfulfilled promise is the passage of the US Citizenship Act of 2021, which would offer a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people, among other key elements; our friends at United We Dream have the vision and the blueprint on this. And notably, ahead of midterms, the president has been unable to make good on the promise to support reclaiming political power for the people by securing voting rights for the 21st century.
While the president bears the responsibility for these unfulfilled pledges, these failures should also be placed with Congress, which has been unable and unwilling to abolish the filibuster, to pass meaningful legislation that increases voting access, and to pass the president’s bold legislative agenda, including the Build Back Better Act.
Tomorrow, it’s crucial that President Biden not only own the shortcomings of his administration, which have cost people of color a lot both financially and personally, but that he also uses his bully pulpit to call out Congress for not doing their jobs. More importantly, we need to hear how the Biden-Harris administration — and a Democratic majority in Congress — intends to do more through intentional policy choices that can uproot racial injustice and cement equity throughout our economy.
Where we are is very far from where we need to be. But there’s always hope. By pursuing a slate of economic guarantees, President Biden and his administration can guarantee transformative public policy that can powerfully confront racial injustice and economic inequality. Rather than seeking an inadequate $15 an hour minimum wage, President Biden should be calling for guaranteed income. Rather than investing hundreds of billions of our public dollars — the people’s money — into a racist and commodified housing system, the Biden-Harris administration should guarantee that everyone has access to a safe, affordable home through foundational housing rights. Rather than canceling student debt through a bureaucratic process (e.g., Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)) or at some arbitrary level ($10K–$50K), all student loan debt should be canceled and then a guarantee of debt-free public college should be made. Through initiatives like baby bonds, we can move toward guaranteed wealth. To reach full employment, we need a jobs guarantee. And when it comes to caring for ourselves and each other, we need guaranteed universal health care, as well as child and elder care.
There’s a lot that can be said at this year’s SOTU address, and we’re definitely looking forward to Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s progressive response.
At Liberation in a Generation Action, we hope that President Biden will center people of color, name the deep hardships that our communities face, and rebuke the “business as usual” policymaking and politics that got us here in the first place. More than that, we need him to uplift and adopt our collective vision for a liberation economy and for a liberated future.
What Needs to Be Said at the State of the Union Address