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Press Release: NETWORK Responds to the State of the Union Address

FOR RELEASE: February 13, 2013
CONTACT: Stephanie Niedringhaus, 202-347-9797 x224, sniedringhaus@networklobby.org

NETWORK welcomed the optimistic, forward-focused themes of President Obama’s State of the Union address last evening. There is much in need of attention in our nation today, and the president’s words focused on concrete ways to approach many of our problems, including immigration injustice, gun violence, wealth/income inequality and climate change.

We affirm the president’s call for commonsense economic reform that does not harm those already struggling. As he stated, “we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful.” Clearly, we need a balanced approach that combines responsible cuts with more revenue. We at NETWORK are deeply concerned that there continues to be the threat of cuts in key social programs, including food assistance and other supports for low-income people – especially since domestic programs were dramatically cut while military programs not requested by the Pentagon continue to be funded.

Since our founding, NETWORK has called for raising the minimum wage. As a result, we were especially pleased to hear the president state, “let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage…” His call for a raise to $9.00 an hour does not fully address the need, but it is a step in the right direction. Everyone deserves to earn a living wage, one of the most effective ways to address the moral scandal of the huge wealth and income disparities in our nation today.

We will continue to lobby for justice for people struggling at the economic margins. We regret that the president did not speak more about poverty in our nation, which remains one of the most critical issues of our day. At the same time, we are pleased that he made special mention of people around the world who must live on less than one dollar a day. We support his call to “join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades.”

We further applaud the president’s strong call for commonsense immigration reform, including his statement that real reform includes a pathway to earned citizenship while fixing the immigration process so that, for example, waiting periods are shortened. Unifying families remains one of our top priorities.  At the same time, we regret that arming the borders continues to be a strong part of the immigration rhetoric.

President Obama was particularly effective when he focused his words on caring for children and our future. He noted, for example, that we “must do more to combat climate change” and to support quality education and training for all.

One of the most moving parts of his speech occurred at the end, when he lifted up the children of Newtown and the young Chicago girl who was recently shot and killed. Their families, along with all gunshot victims and their families, do indeed deserve a congressional vote on gun violence. Our nation must rise up together and say “enough is enough,” and Congress must respond.

We agree that we must all “accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.” That is the essence of caring for the common good, and we at NETWORK stand ready to help make that happen.