Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), a rising star in the Democratic Party, was tapped to respond to President Trump’s first State of the Union (SOTU) Address, an opportunity riddled with perils and potential. The State of the Union response can be a make-or-break opportunity for young, ambitious politicians.
Although State of the Union Addresses are typically too slow-moving for many Americans, they remain one of the most watched political events of the year, and the response to the State of the Union is the minority party’s opportunity to provide an alternative vision for the future of the country.
What we learned in Kennedy’s SOTU response last night is that Democrats don’t appear to have a vision for America — or even a coherent policy proposal to offer. There’s plenty of charisma, sure, but nothing of substance.
In President Trump’s address, he highlighted the tremendous economic growth the country has experienced over the past year.
“African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded,” Trump noted. “And Hispanic-American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history. Small business confidence is at an all-time high. The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining eight trillion dollars and more in value in just this short period of time.”
Kennedy’s response? He called the past year “chaos” and downplayed the state of the economy.
“We see an economy that makes stocks soar, investor portfolios bulge, and corporate profits climb but fails to give workers their fair share of the reward,” Kennedy said.
Really? Perhaps Mr. Kennedy thinks the millions of Americans who have received $1,000 bonuses over the past month aren’t getting “their fair share of the reward,” but I’m willing to bet those workers are rather pleased with how things have turned out since the Republicans slashed tax rates.
And what about the billions of dollars corporations have said they will spend in investment over the next decade because of lower corporate tax rates? Apple alone has pledged to repatriate about $252 billion in funds held overseas to the United States because of the changes to the tax code, and the company plans to add 20,000 new jobs.
Kennedy also complained about the Trump administration’s alleged “zero-sum game.”
“They are turning American life into a zero-sum game,” Kennedy said. “Where for one to win, another must lose. Where we can guarantee America’s safety, if we slash our safety net. Where we can extend health care in Mississippi, if we gut it in Massachusetts. We can cut taxes for corporations today if we raise them on families tomorrow. Where we can take care of sick kids if we sacrifice Dreamers. We are bombarded with one false choice after another. Coal miners or single moms, rural communities or inner cities. The coast or the heartland.”
Every single one of these claims is misleading, factually incorrect, or a deliberate lie. For instance, there is no plan under consideration that would “extend health care” in some states while gutting health care in others. With that said, it’s true Obamacare has been a massive disaster and that Republicans want to roll it back and replace it with a more efficient free-market system. But the new system wouldn’t “gut” health care; it would make health insurance much more affordable for everyone, and states would have more control over how their health insurance markets work, allowing them to decide what programs need to be reformed and which do not.
Kennedy’s suggestion that Republicans chose to place the burden of the tax cuts on families is flat-out lie. Republicans’ tax reform legislation cut taxes for corporations, small businesses, and families; it doesn’t penalize families to pay for tax cuts. The claim that families will have to pay for the tax cuts in the future assumes a future Congress and president will choose to let the individual rate tax cuts expire. That is extremely unlikely to happen, but even if it were to, it would be liberals, who are constantly calling for tax increases, working to end some of the tax cuts, not Republicans. Further, congressional Republicans stated repeatedly they wanted to make the individual rate tax cuts permanent, but it is Democrats who have refused to work with them on legislation that would accomplish that.
Kennedy’s statement that Republicans are forcing people to choose between “Coal miners or single moms, rural communities or inner cities” is an absurd, deceptive attempt to create a false narrative based on absolutely nothing Republicans have proposed or plan to propose. Let’s not forget that it’s the Democrats, led by their fearless leader Barack Obama, who waged a ruthless war on the coal industry. Free-market advocates have been fighting tooth-and-nail ever since to save it. Further, it’s the supporters of massive government that are constantly forcing people in rural America to subsidize spending programs primarily focused on inner cities, not pro-liberty Republicans and moderate Democrats.
Perhaps even more striking than the lies Kennedy spewed throughout his SOTUS response was what he didn’t say. What are liberals offering the American people? What policies are they suggesting that will make things better? What exactly does “pay their fair share” mean? Why has the economy skyrocketed since President Trump was elected? All questions Kennedy didn’t bother addressing. Instead, he chose to bizarrely cry out for “unity” while at the same praising divisive groups such as Black Lives Matter.
Kennedy’s charm and liberal platitudes undoubtedly played well with left-wing activists, socialists, and Antifa protesters, but in the Heartland, hard-working Americans are only interested in real policy ideas and the results (or lack of results) they produce. If Kennedy and his comrades in the Democratic Party want to convince voters to support their cause in 2018 and beyond, they are going to need to do better than this.