Improving the State of the Union
The State of the Union speech is an opening salvo to the presidential election and Congressional debate. Soon the President will be sending his budget request to the Congress for the coming Fiscal Year 2013. The budget is the detailed brass tacks version of the “state of the union” and our nation’s priorities. The full budget release is expected on February 13, but the Department of Defense is releasing budget plans today, Thursday, January 26.
As we listened to the President’s speech on Tuesday, we at WAND heard much that we liked. While we were disappointed that some of our core issues weren’t well addressed, we note that in this election year, this isn’t the last significant policy speech we’ll hear.
Below are some specific highlights and themes from the State of the Union speech that provide us with some hints about the coming year and the agenda that WAND will pursue in 2012. Join WAND this year as we move our agenda to shape the state of the union. Help us to empower women to pursue policies for peace, security and sound budget priorities— you can start by responding to the State of the Union with a letter to the editor! If you’d like help writing and placing a letter, contact Elaina Ramsey.
War and Peace
The President started off his speech by highlighting the return of troops from Iraq and ended it with the killing of Osama Bin Laden. It was noteworthy that the President emphasized that the “tide of war is turning” and proclaimed that we should, “Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”
WAND has been pressing for a focus on nation-building at home since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afhanistan. The President also reminded us that veterans need jobs and health care. WAND would add that this is something we should always remember before we even think about going to war.
The President spoke about beginning a transition in Afghanistan with the aim to “build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan.” We agree, and this year WAND will push for a transition in Afghanistan that provides the foundation for a sustainable peace and fosters Afghan women to play a key role in building this peace.
Building a Sustainable Economy – Right Investments
The core of the President’s speech focused on developing “a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last,” with an emphasis on creating jobs and investing in education and clean energy. We like that. And we like that he noted that as our nation gets back to work, women should “earn equal pay for equal work.”
We will be better able to make the right investments to create a sustainable economy, if we cut the bloated, excessive Pentagon spending. While the President indicated some cost saving efforts at the Defense Department, we know that there is still too much wasteful, unsustainable spending based on Cold War strategies. Instead, we need the right strategy to provide 21st century security matched with sustainable spending that preserves economic security. As chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey put it: “It makes no sense at all for us as a nation to have an extraordinarily capable military instrument of power if we are economically disadvantaged around the world.” We need to invest in teachers, and clean energy jobs not in more nuclear submarines.
It’s really worth watching and not just listening to the State of the Union. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, seated with her Republican colleague Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and hugging the President, brought tears to our eyes. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has called Giffords the “brightest star Congress has ever seen.” With unmatched eloquence Gabby Giffords has said, “We can do so much more by working together.”
The President also knows that Washington has to work better to move forward. He said:
[…] None of this can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town. We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common-sense ideas.
National Security Investments/ America’s Role in World
Despite the best intentions of reasonable people, 2012 is an election year and it’s likely to be harder to find agreement about anything. National security is one area where bipartisanship should be an imperative. How can there possibly be disagreement about issues like preventing nuclear terrorism. Every American wants the United States to be a leader in the world for peace and security, and a favorite line for us was:
From the coalitions we’ve built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we’ve led against hunger and disease…. America is back.
Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
In the coming year we will urge bipartisan support from Congress and the President to make sure that investments and efforts to secure nuclear materials are strengthened and sustained.'
Join WAND this year as we work to establish sound budget priorities to provide peace and security to support human security and foster sustainable peace. You can get involved now:
- On February 3, you’re invited to a Conference Call with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis about job investments and women.
- Stay tuned for fact sheets, webinars and action opportunities addressing federal budget priorities and cuts to excessive military spending.