Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Berry Responds to Bush's Final State of the Union Address

The President's Final State of the Union should be a time of reflection and a speech about what we can do to improve our nation. Instead, the President's speech fell far short. Below is my response to his speech.

As President Bush addressed the nation tonight, I couldn't help but reflect on how much has changed in the past 7 years. Today, median household incomes are down over $900 and an additional 1.6 million workers are unemployed since 2001. Gas prices are more than double what they were in 2001, and the cost of food and medicine are rising as well. Today, 47 million Americans (including 8.7 million children) are uninsured, compared to 38 million in 2001. Today, the continued instability in the economy is making it harder for hard-working middle class families to make ends meet. And, finally, a projected $5.6 trillion surplus has turned into a $3.3 trillion deficit, pushing the National Debt to over $9 trillion and hampering the ability to address uncertainty in the economy and to meet urgent priorities.

The American people deserve better. It is time for Congress to step forward and work together pass legislation focused on helping the middle class rather than the special interests. This new session of Congress needs to continue to move in a new direction to refocus our nation's priorities and set an agenda for economic growth.

I have written a letter to Speaker Pelosi outlining the priorities we must address to stabilize and grow the economy. Our struggling economy requires urgent and immediate action, and then sustained attention. By reinvesting in America we can continue to ensure the prosperity of our nation for years to come."

The text of the letter below:

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

January 28, 2008

Dear Madam Speaker,

As we begin a new session in the 110th Congress I write to thank you for your leadership in taking America in a New Direction. Over the past year Congress has worked to make the issues of working families and the middle class a priority. Although great strides have been made, we still have a lot of work to do.

On the eve of the final State of the Union address from President Bush, both the short-term and long-term economic and budgetary outlooks are at best uncertain. Ordinary Americans have borne the brunt as prices for energy, food, healthcare and education skyrocket while wages remain stagnant. Millions of Americans are one missed payment or one illness away from going from economic insecurity to bankruptcy. I strongly encourage your continued leadership to push for priorities that will benefit the Americans who most need our help.

A critical aspect of boosting the economy is strong investment in infrastructure to promote local job development. The arteries of our economy--our roads, bridges, waterways, airways, and rails--have been neglected for too long. Every dollar spent on transportation and infrastructure spurs local job development. For every billion we spend on infrastructure, nearly 50,000 jobs are created. Many states and local communities could quickly direct new targeted investments to projects that improve our aging infrastructure and create more skilled jobs with higher wages.

Another often forgotten aspect in our nation's priorities is investing in our children. This means providing children with the education and resources they need to succeed and ensuring they have access to healthcare. Children who are sick cannot learn, which is why Congress must work harder to make SCHIP law. Although Congress has passed legislation to lower interest rates on student loans, we must also find more ways to make the dream of a college education a reality for more Americans who cannot afford to attend. By giving our children every opportunity to succeed early in life, we are ensuring the prosperity of our nation in the global community.

Affordable healthcare and access to prescription drugs are more difficult to obtain than ever before. Even though our country is a frontrunner in medical breakthroughs, too many people cannot obtain these life saving medicines and technology simply because they cannot afford it. Denying a patient treatment based on the inability to pay is a tragedy that is affecting too many Americans.

Furthermore, a Farm Bill has yet to become law. Without it, we will not be able to provide our nation with the safest and most secure food and fiber supply. If we are unable to provide our own food for our nation, we risk our national security. Also, in order to increase security, we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil by increasing our efforts to produce alternative fuels. Investing more resources in our biofuels industry will help alleviate rising gas prices and create more jobs in a new and growing market.

Our fiscal situation today is the consequence of living beyond our means and of neglecting priorities. We must act quickly to strengthen the economy, and do so without making our deficits worse and without doing more damage to our long-term fiscal health. The Congressional Budget Office projects the federal government will run a deficit of $219 billion this year, which will increase upon enactment of the stimulus package to correct a faulting economy. This need for emergency spending highlights our challenge going forward to adhere to the pay-as-you-go budget principle we enacted in 2007.

In addition, to an economic stimulus plan, we must take a hard look and reevaluate our nation's economic policies. A shot in the arm for the economy is not a vaccine against failure. It is imperative we work to build a plan that learns from the mistakes of our past, corrects the problems of the present and paves a path of success for our nation's future.