U.S. PIRG Statement on State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday, President Barack Obama came before Congress to give his seventh and final State of the Union address. In his speech, the President highlighted top national priorities and some of the greatest challenges faced by the American people.

On Money in Politics

“Right now, the vast majority of funds raised in our elections are coming from big donors writing checks exponentially larger than most Americans can afford. In his last State of the Union, President Obama spoke out for Americans who want to refocus our elections on ordinary voters rather than mega-donors and special interests,” said Dan Smith, Democracy Campaign Director for U.S. PIRG.  “As the president enters his last year in office, Americans are going to be watching to see if he backs up his call for a ‘real solution’ with real action.”

On Consumer Financial Protection

“We are pleased that the President reminded Congress that ‘recklessness on Wall Street’ caused the financial crisis,” added Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski. “While we expect continued Congressional attacks on Wall Street reform and the CFPB in 2016, we will stand with the President to defeat them.”

On Voter Access to the Polls

“Voting is a fundamental right and part of what makes our country great,” said Emma Boorboor, Election Reform Campaign Director with U.S. PIRG. “Yet in 2016, access to the polls is still inefficient and cumbersome and our voter rolls are inaccurate. On Tuesday, President Obama echoed what many Americans were already thinking – ‘voting should be easier, not harder.’ Over the next year we will work to modernize our elections and ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to be heard.”

On Transportation

“In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama called for transitioning away from over reliance on fossil fuels and spoke about the need to put Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system,” said John C. Olivieri, Transportation Campaign Director for U.S. PIRG. “That’s exactly right, but to achieve this, we will need to refocus our priorities. A truly 21st century transportation system will require greater investment in critical public transit, biking, and pedestrian options so that people have more choices in how they get around, and are less dependent on burning dirty fossil fuels. At the same time, we need to refocus on repairing our existing roads and bridges, which are literally crumbling. This means moving away from spending so many scarce transportation dollars on new and wider highways and more wisely investing our limited resources on more pressing needs like repairing the infrastructure we already have.”

On Tax and the Budget

“Tax dodging is not a victimless crime. When corporations dodge their taxes through accounting gimmicks and offshore tax havens the average American has to pick up the tab in form of higher taxes, cuts to public programs, and an increased national debt,” said Ana Owens, Tax & Budget Advocate for U.S. PIRG. “Last night President Obama criticized a tax system that allows corporations to legally avoid paying what they owe. Congress should take action this year to address this issue by closing offshore tax loopholes and ensuring that corporations play by the same set of rules as the rest of us.”

On Clean Energy

“On Tuesday night, President Obama took a stand against fossil fuels and renewed his commitment to American clean energy,” said Steve Blackledge, Public Health Program Director for U.S. PIRG. “Our nation’s investments in infrastructure, from our roads and bridges to new energy projects, should focus on the future and the opportunities and challenges our country will face in the decades to come. That means less reliance on dirty and dangerous energy sources like coal, gas and nuclear power, and continued work to build on the ideas laid out in the president’s Clean Power Plan.”

On Higher Education

“In the face of ever-increasing student debt, we are encouraged that the President maintains his commitment to affordable higher education,” said Ethan Senack, Higher Education Advocate, U.S. PIRG. “Today’s students are the greatest minds of tomorrow, and we can’t afford to bury them in debt. It’s past time for policymakers to come together and find concrete solutions that ensure all students have access to the resources they need to afford a college degree.”

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U.S. PIRG, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.