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NETWORK's Response to President Obama's State of the Union Address

As we listened to President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 25, we were impressed by a real effort around the chamber to promote more civility throughout the evening. Even more important, of course, was the president’s overall message about vital challenges faced by our nation and how we can address them. This response pays particular attention to statements he made that are directly related to NETWORK’s 2011-2012 issue agenda. We were encouraged by much of what he had to say, but we also found some gaps.

ECONOMIC JUSTICE

We continue to believe that addressing the historic rise in poverty in the U.S. should be a government priority so we regret that the president did not directly address this crisis.

Improvement in the economy and employment are far too slow, and legislators, validly concerned about the deficit and growing national debt, are planning spending cuts and future caps. We take some solace from the fact that the president stated that these cuts should not happen “on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.” We will closely monitor the federal budget process and advocate for adequate support for programs that help lift people out of poverty and that help all people live lives of dignity.

We believe that continued spending on tax breaks for the richest Americans cannot be justified when so many are suffering, and we agree with the president’s statement that “if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.”

We support job-creation and training programs that meet the need for “green” development and that benefit not just the highly skilled, but all workers. President Obama’s emphasis on building a future that uses renewable, clean energy is exactly right.

And we also continue to advocate for fair trade. It was heartening that the president did not offer a specific timeline for advancing the pending Colombia Free Trade Agreement. This is an example of the failed NAFTA/CAFTA model that undermines the livelihoods of impoverished people in our trading partner countries. We hope that he will recognize the serious flaws in this agreement and c