Biden delivers State of the Union address


Gabby Lucas/ Iowa State Daily

President Joe Biden speaks to supporters Feb. 3 in Des Moines after the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses. 

Katherine Kealey

Touching on a vast array of issues impacting America and the world, President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union Address Tuesday evening.

Biden began his speech by addressing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, announcing he will close off American air space for all Russian travel. While supplying humanitarian support for Ukraine, the U.S. is also enforcing economic sanctions and cutting off Russia’s international financial system with the hopes of obstructing the country’s war fund. 

“Putin has unleashed violence and chaos,” Biden said. “While he may make gains on the battlefield, he’ll pay the continuing high price over the long run.”

U.S. forces will not be engaging in the conflict unless Putin continues to move west, Biden said. Biden championed Russia’s 40 percent loss in stock value. The Department of Justice is also assembling a task force to target the crimes of the Russian oligarchs.

Kelly Shaw, an associate teaching professor of political science, said Biden made the argument that the economic sanctions are working, but Shaw said this is primarily because so many other groups have joined.

“If the Swiss join everyone else, then you know that you have done something bad,” Shaw said. “While of course the Swiss didn’t come up in his speech, it is clear the economic sanctions are having an impact. Now whether or not that changes policy ultimately, which is the goal of course in terms of Ukraine, remains to be seen.”

Veering the American business owner and consumer’s out of the sanction line of fire, Biden announced he will work with 30 other countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world, as well 30 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. These steps are intended to help “blunt” gas prices in America, Biden said. But Shaw said this is unlikely.

“That is going to be, no pun intended, basically a drop in the bucket in terms of inflationary pressures that we have,” Shaw said.

Even though inflation continues to be on the rise, 6.5 million jobs were created under the Biden administration and the economy saw growth of 5.7 percent.

Closing out 2021, Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure, which will fund the rebuilding of America’s roads, bridges and rails. The deal would also increase access to clean drinking water and high-speed internet. The Biden administration was unsuccessful in passing the Build Back Better social spending bill and voting legislation, two goals he made during his campaign.

Shaw said in Biden’s address, he was trying to redirect where things are going to go for the next year in terms of policy. Biden touched on remnants of the Build Back Better Plan he believes need to pass but never mentioned the presumably dead legislation in his speech. 

“Naturally, as you would do in a job interview, he failed to talk about, at least to any great degree, probably the biggest burdens of his presidency,” Shaw said. “Primarily being inflation.” 

Inflation is still on the raise, which Biden attributed to the pandemic closing businesses and the hiring shortage resulting in a production shortage.

“So, we have a choice,” Biden said. “One way to fight inflation is to drive down wages and make Americans poorer. I think I have a better idea to fight inflation. Lower your costs, not your wages.”

The pandemic was one of the later topics included in Biden’s address. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention updated masking guidelines which Biden said allows for most Americans in the country to go mask-less. 

The Biden administration is working with Pfizer to deliver antiviral treatment pills to reduce the chances of getting COVID-19. Biden said his administration is offering treatment as well as high-quality masks to those who are immunocompromised or vulnerable to the virus. The “test to treat” program allows for individuals to be tested at a pharmacy. If they are found to be positive, they will receive a free antiviral pill.

“It’s time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people,” Biden said. “People working from home can feel safe and begin to return to their offices. We’re doing that here in the federal government. The vast majority of federal workers will once again work in person. Our schools are open. Let’s keep it that way.”

Reynolds responses for Republicans

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said Biden is responsible for the “runaway inflation” following the State of the Union Address.

Reynolds was chosen by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to speak on behalf of the Republican party in response to Biden’s address. Her speech highlighted efforts by Republican governors and state legislators to limit government involvement in their children’s education. 

Throughout the pandemic, Reynolds remained adamant in keeping schools open and opposed masked mandates. 

“Republican governors faced the same COVID-19 virus head on,” Reynolds said. “But we honored your freedoms and saw right away that lockdowns and school closures came with their own significant costs, that mandates weren’t the answer.”

Reynolds blamed the Biden administration for 40-year high inflation rates, risking worsening the price of goods with the presumably dead Build Back Better Plan. In his address, Biden did not mention this legislation which was a focal point while campaigning. 

In the Republican address, Reynolds said the country is sending America back in time to the late 70s and early 80s. Also on Tuesday, Reynolds signed Iowa’s third tax cut since 2018. Starting in 2026, all Iowans will pay 3.9 percent flat tax. 

“While Democrats in D.C. are spending trillions, sending inflation soaring, Republican leaders around the country are balancing budgets and cutting taxes,” Reynolds said. 

Shaw said the selection of Reynolds for the address was an attempt by Republicans to delineate from Trump.

“She was being sold tonight as kind of the alternative to the Trump-wing Republican party,” Shaw said. “I think that was on purpose by the Republicans to have a fresh face from a Republican governor who from most angles is viewed as carrying on these conservative values.”

Four-part bipartisan agenda

Closing out his address, Biden announced a unity agenda with four goals: beat the opioid epidemic, mental health especially for children, privacy protections for children on social media and supporting the veterans. 

“Most of that was traditional left of center stuff,” Shaw said. “Some of it was a bit of an olive branch I think to the Republicans, showing where they could work together in terms of moving forward. There are policy areas that he talked about that could be bipartisan in terms of their approach there.”

With midterm elections in November, Shaw said Republicans have to recognize if they want to have any claims in terms of legislation, they are going to have to find some common ground, otherwise they will be unpopular in public opinion like the president.

“It is in this moment that our character of this generation is formed,” Biden said. “Our purpose is found. Our future is forged. Well, I know this nation. We will meet the test. Protect freedom and liberty, expand fairness and opportunity. And we will save democracy.”