State of the Union: Five Things We’ll Be Listening For

President Obama has hyped his final State of the Union address as a speech that will help to define his legacy. Here's how he can break new ground.

Chris MacKenzie

Here are five issues that matter to the public and our future that we’re hoping to hear about in President Obama’s State of the Union address:

1.       We need to know who is funding our elections.

As the sixth anniversary of Citizens United approaches, the flood of secret political spending caused by the Court’s decision is still with us.

Last month, a coalition of organizations delivered one million petitions to the president, urging him to require federal contractors to disclose their political spending. Voters need to know who’s backing the candidates on their ballot. 

2.       We need a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

In less than four-and-one-half years, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has helped return nearly $11 billion to more than 17 million consumers tricked by deceptive financial practices. As the CFPB moves closer to finalizing a rule reining in payday and other high-cost lending practices, increasing pressure from payday lenders and Wall Street continues to threaten the existence of the agency.  We hope the president will continue to defend it.

3.       We need long-term infrastructure that encourages walking, biking and public transit

Americans, particularly millennials, increasingly choose to live and work in places where they don’t need to drive to get around. Yet, despite well-documented shifts in transportation trends, we’re still spending roughly $27 billion every year to expand roads and build new highways – instead of fixing the ones we have, and accommodating new transportation preferences.

In his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure.” We agree – and want to add that twenty-first century people need it too.

4.       We need antibiotics

In an era of rampant overuse of antibiotics on factory farms, bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics and causing infections that are difficult — and increasingly, impossible — to treat. 23,000 Americans die every year of such infections.

At the urging of consumers, restaurants are starting to demand meat raised without antibiotics. But an FDA ban on the use of antibiotics on animals for any reason other than the treatment of specific illness would do more to protect the health and safety of Americans, and help make sure our life-saving medicines remain effective.

5.       We need protection from dangerous chemicals

Today, there are 84,000 chemicals on the market — and only one percent of them have been reviewed for safety.

Our broken chemical regulatory process needs to be rebuilt with stronger chemical safety review, laws allowing states to protect public health, and EPA regulations to intercept potentially toxic products imported from abroad.  Americans should be able to trust that they are being protected from dangerous chemicals in the products they buy and use every day.


Chris MacKenzie