Congressman Blumenauer Reacts to the State of the Union Address

January 21, 2015
Press Release

This is my 19th State of the Union speech and never has one been delivered to a more divided audience and critical media. And yet I feel energized by the President's speech this evening and the specific areas of bipartisanship that he laid out for this Congress.

Often the best news in a troubled world will get the least attention.  The economy, which collapsed in the latter part of the Bush Administration and remained in free fall during the first few Obama months, has not just stabilized, but has turned around and strengthened.  It is the best economic performance of any of the large economies in the world. December marked the eleventh consecutive month of job growth above 200,000.

The income divide, the growing gap that saps our strength and our spirit, is a welcome focus. Greater investment in our infrastructure would help close it in every state by putting men and women back to work.  The simpler the solution the better, and merely increasing the gas tax would be a significant lift.

There were many worthy and interesting ideas floated this evening, but implementation is going to be hard.  Certainly paid family and sick leave, assistance to particularly low-income families to take advantage of a community college education, and middle class tax relief would help change the direction.  We also cannot lose focus on increasing the minimum wage at a time when many Americans have seen their incomes remain nearly stagnant for the last 15 years.  Absent a significant adjustment on the part of the people who now control both chambers, this agenda will be hard to accomplish.

Part of the question will be whether we are going to implement things this year, or whether we are basically setting the stage for the 2016 election and beyond, ignoring today’s pressing issues.  I think it is important to have a sense of where we will be for the next administration and a better Congress, and like the President, I am not yet willing to abandon progress for this Congress.

That is why I invited as my guest to the State of the Union speech Cheryl Strayed, the author of the best-selling novel Wild.  Throughout the day, Cheryl and I have been meeting with people to share her message, her personal journey and emotional challenge of overcoming adversity, and along the way protecting some of America’s special places.  These are the types of messages that resonate widely and can help lift our sights as well as our spirits.

I am hopeful that we can use her story as inspiration to do better -- or as the President put it, to "appeal to each other's basic decency instead of our basest fears".   It is important that we find ways not to talk past each other and retreat to full campaign mode any sooner than absolutely necessary.  I’m willing to fight the good fight for 2016, but I’d like to see us fight the good fight in the months ahead to make progress to address the critical issues facing us now.