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Stronger now and getting stronger: Biden outlines accomplishments and priorities

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address as Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on during a joint session of Congress. (Photo credit: Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

In his first State of the Union address to Congress, President Joe Biden said our nation is stronger than a year ago and will be “stronger a year from now than we are today.”

From beating back COVID to creating over 6.5 million new jobs – the most in a single year in the nation’s history, he said – Biden outlined his administration’s accomplishments during the Tuesday night speech.

He also laid out his priorities for what comes next, proposing a “unity agenda” that shows once again that he is on the side of working families. He highlighted proposals to lower the cost of prescription drugs and child care, make it easier for workers to form strong unions, fight climate change, and more.

“Let’s pass the PRO Act,” Biden said. “When a majority of workers want to form a union, they shouldn’t be stopped. When we invest in our workers, when we build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out together, we can do something we haven’t done in a long time: build a better America.”

In Biden’s first year in office, the economy grew at the strongest rate in nearly 40 years, thanks in part to the American Rescue Plan, which provided much-needed support to working families during the pandemic’s second year and was made possible in part by AFSCME members.

Biden also highlighted the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He announced that this year his administration will start fixing over 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges.

The president said Congress must allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs, which are the highest in the world. To lower energy costs and save families an average of $500 a year, the he suggested providing investment tax credits to encourage families and businesses to weatherize their homes and buildings and become more energy efficient, as well as doubling our country’s clean energy production and lowering the price of electric vehicles.

To improve the standard of living for working families, Biden said Congress must approve legislation to cut the cost of child care. His plan would cut child care costs in half for most families and provide universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds. He said families shouldn’t have to pay more than 7% of their income to care for their young children.

To pay for these initiatives, Biden proposed a 15% minimum tax rate for corporations.

“Last year, 55 of the Fortune 500 companies earned $40 billion in profit and paid zero in federal taxes,” he said. “Look, it’s not fair.”

He added that we need to close loopholes to ensure that the super-wealthy don’t have a lower tax rate than public service workers.

Biden said the right to vote, which he called “the most fundamental right in America,” is “under assault.” And he called on the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Before the State of the Union address, AFSCME President Lee Saunders praised Biden for his administration’s accomplishments and urged the president to specify what comes next.

“America has seen a dramatic reversal,” Saunders said in a press statement. “Today, we are diminishing COVID’s impact on our lives through science. America is hiring again. And best of all, working people have more power than ever, bolstered by an administration that supports their right to organize and strike to demand better pay, benefits and working conditions.”

Saunders said the president achieved his successes by listening to working people. Tuesday night, Biden not only answered the question of what comes next but made working people feel confident about the future.

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