An Analysis of Trump’s Policy Proposals in State of the Union Address

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An Analysis of Trump’s Policy Proposals in State of the Union Address

Feb 6, 2019 33 min read

President Donald Trump, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence looking on, delivers the State of the Union address. Pool / Getty Images News

President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night, and Heritage Foundation experts weighed in with analysis of the president’s policy proposals. Commentary editor of The Daily Signal, Daniel Davis, collected their responses for each issue. Here is what they had to say. 

A Call for Robust Border Security

President Donald Trump’s remarks on immigration tonight reflected a commonsense, principled approach to the immigration problem that his opponents refuse to acknowledge in their obsession with opposing anything he does. 

Trump also made a fundamental point that his opponents refuse to recognize when he said, “We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.”

He pointed out the sharp divide that exists between the public and the Washington establishment when he said, “No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.” 

Referring to the impasse between the president and Congress over border security, Trump was right when he said this was a “moral” issue and that “the lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well-being of all Americans.”

He said it was time for Congress to show that “America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business.”

Trump said he had ordered another 3,750 troops to the border to prepare for even more caravans that are not only headed to the border, but are being helped by the Mexican government “to bring them up to our country in areas where there is little border protection.”

He expressed what the majority of Americans believe: that we should support legal immigrants who “enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways” but that “tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate—it is cruel.”

It leaves “working class Americans” to “pay the price for mass illegal immigration: reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools and hospitals, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net.” 

Trump pointed out the danger of uncontrolled illegal immigration by listing the grim statistics on crimes committed by illegal aliens. In the last two years alone, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings.

He emphasized the victimization of Americans by these criminal illegal aliens by introducing a woman whose parents in Nevada were recently murdered by an illegal alien. And he pointed out the big drop in illegal crossings in cities like San Diego and El Paso that put in a “strong security wall.” That has made El Paso one of the safest cities in the country.

Trump said he would send a “commonsense proposal” to end the crisis on the southern border that includes not only humanitarian assistance, but “more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.” 

These are exactly the kinds of actions that need to be taken to remedy our border problem.

—Hans von Spakovsky, manager, Election Law Reform Initiative and senior legal fellow, Institute for Constitutional Government

The president was right to call for serious reforms to the U.S. immigration system and recognized that legal immigration respects our laws and enriches our society. Any legal immigration system, however, must be enforced with appropriate border security, interior enforcement, and adjudication by immigration courts.

Unfortunately, too many on the left do not believe that laws should be enforced or illegal immigration stopped. While we can and should expect a vibrant debate over how to best combat illegal immigration, too many progressives in the chamber appear to prefer far-left positions like abolishing ICE, defending immigration loopholes, and resisting nearly all efforts to stop illegal immigration and caravans coming to our border.

Congress can and should take real steps to combat illegal immigration while rejecting unfair amnesty deals that encourage more illegal immigration.

—David Inserra, policy analyst, homeland security and cybersecurity, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy


Tax Cuts Continue to Boost Jobs and Wages

Thanks to the 2017 tax cuts and other pro-growth economic reforms, like deregulation, the U.S. economy has continuously outstripped expectations. The president touted that “companies are coming back to our country in large numbers.” He is right, and the proof is in the numbers. 

The most recent example is January’s blockbuster jobs report, which showed businesses added over 300,000 new jobs and followed on the heels of workers receiving the largest wage gains in over 10 years.

What’s most impressive is that the lowest-income workers in the U.S. have benefited the most from the strong labor market. Wage growth for rank-and-file, nonsupervisory workers has outpaced both inflation and wage growth in the rest of the economy. Black, Latino, young, and low-skilled workers have also seen some of the largest drops in unemployment in recent years. Our strong economy is truly benefiting all Americans.

This isn’t happenstance. The 2017 tax cuts made American workers globally competitive again by lowering punitive business taxes to levels similar to most European countries. Coupled with sweeping reforms to outdated and unnecessary regulations, tax cuts have made the U.S. an easier place to do business and a more attractive destination for new investments. New business investments are what create new and better-paying jobs.

Massive Tax Cuts for Working Families

The president is right to champion the 2017 tax cuts for families, which put more money in the pockets of American taxpayers, is supporting a healthy economy, and lifting the wages of working Americans. The vast majority of households in every congressional district got a tax cut last year. Through lower employer tax withholdings, average Americans got a $1,400 tax cut and families of four saved $2,900.

Many Americans are benefiting twice from the tax cuts. First, by paying less in taxes, and a second time from higher wages generated by a faster-growing economy. At the end of 2018, workers received some of the largest wage gains in over 10 years and unemployment rates are historically low. Over the next 10 years, because of a larger economy, the typical American will benefit from over $26,000 more in take-home pay, or $44,697 for a family of four.

—Adam Michel, policy analyst, Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

Individuals With Disabilities Are Benefiting From the Strong Economy

The president highlighted how the strong economy is benefiting the most vulnerable in society, including Americans with disabilities for whom unemployment has also reached an all-time low. This is great news.

Now is the time to enact lasting reforms to help ensure that the Social Security Disability Insurance program is prepared for those times when the economy is weak by modernizing outdated benefits, improving the accuracy of the determination process, and putting in place policies to help individuals with disabilities access accommodations before they lose their jobs, and to set expectations and processes in place to help them return to work if they can.

—Romina Boccia, director, Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, Institute for Economic Freedom

Mixed Accuracy On US-China Trade

As expected, President Donald Trump reiterated the complaints his administration has regarding China’s unfair trade and investment practices. However, it’s misleading to suggest China has stolen American jobs.

It’s often suggested that the trade deficit the U.S. has with China somehow leads to U.S. job loss. But there is no correlation between a growing trade deficit and U.S. job loss. Over the last several months, the trade deficit with China has increased while U.S. employment has increased. 

Also as expected, we received no new information on the details of a U.S.-China trade deal. We likely won’t know any of the details until a final deal is made between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It’s been suggested the two could meet following the next summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on Feb. 27 and 28.

The U.S. and China have to make a deal before March 2, at which point the tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods that Americans buy from China will increase from 10 to 25 percent. 

—Riley Walters, policy analyst, Asia economy and technology, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy

Cuts to Regulation Are Bringing Back Jobs

Compared to previous speeches, President Donald Trump did not outline new regulatory reform goals. However, he did briefly note that the “administration has cut more regulations in a short time than any other administration during its entire tenure.”

As a result, he added, “Companies are coming back to our country in large numbers.”

The administration has indeed taken important steps to rein in agencies’ rulemaking. It issued 65 percent fewer “economically significant” rules—those with costs to the private sector that exceed $100 million a year—than the Obama administration, and 51 percent fewer than the Bush administration, after 22 months in office.

The White House is also pursuing rollbacks of the Obama administration’s costliest and unwarranted rules. But regulatory repeal is a laborious process that may take years—especially given the never-ending legal challenges pursued by regulatory proponents.

The No. 1 thing the administration must do is stop internet regulation. Further innovation is key to economic growth and national security, and both will be stymied if the statists get a regulatory foothold. If Trump pursues no other regulatory reform, preventing internet regulations would be enough.

The second priority would be to demand that any new regulatory statute has a hard expiration deadline. That’s needed to halt the cumulative regulatory burden and force agencies (and Congress) to review the necessity for regulations.

The White House cannot accomplish all the necessary reforms unilaterally. Congress must do much more to eliminate unnecessary regulation and curtail agency overreach.

Congress could do a great deal more to advance reform by exercising a bit of political will, including eliminating funding for regulatory programs that lack actual statutory authority or those that have failed to achieve the intended results. Lawmakers must also institute expiration dates for funding of regulatory initiatives to reduce the cumulative burden of regulation.

The 50-member staff of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs who review agency rulemaking is badly outnumbered by the hundreds of thousands of regulators who labor daily crafting rules. Congress should expand the resources of the office to improve regulatory oversight, as well as assert more of its own authority over runaway regulation.

—Diane Katz, senior research fellow in regulatory policy, Institute for Economic Freedom

Deregulation Helping the Economy

As a candidate, Donald Trump made a commitment to reform the regulatory state. As president, he has taken steps to do just that.

The Trump administration has taken historic steps to fight overregulation. The president has been committed to preventing needless regulations from strangling the economy.

Early in his presidency, Trump issued a series of executive orders designed to improve the regulatory process. He required two old regulations to be removed for every new one. He slowed the issuance of new rules so that the Office of Management and Budget, along with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, could ensure that new rules would not disrupt economic growth.

Overall, there has been at least a 27 percent decrease in the issuance of new regulations. Overall, 67 significant rules—rules with an effect of $100 million or more—have been eliminated, but only three new ones issued.

Atop that, the administration worked with Congress to use the Congressional Review Act to repeal rules proposed during the Obama administration. The Trump administration’s deregulatory efforts have contributed to historic economic growth.

Consider energy. America has taken fracking and made it into an engine of energy primacy. America is now a net exporter of energy and is the world’s largest oil and gas producer.

Proof of the wisdom of the administration’s deregulatory efforts can be seen in the fact that we have seen the reversal of the diaspora of American businesses that we saw in prior administrations. As the president said, “Companies are coming back to our country in large numbers thanks to our historic reductions in taxes and regulations.”

Deregulation not only helps the small businesses that we see throughout our neighborhoods, it also serves to encourage large businesses to move facilities back into the United States, as well as to entice foreign businesses to locate within our country. When that happens, more and more Americans get jobs that help each of them take a step toward their dreams.

—Paul Larkin, senior legal research fellow, Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Institute for Constitutional Government

Trump Right to Rebuke Socialism

President Donald Trump’s criticism of socialism is entirely valid. There is no more sure means to impoverish a country than to adopt socialist policies. Economic freedom is the key to prosperity. Free markets offer the most ethical and humane means of organizing economic life.

In 2018 and 2019, The Heritage Foundation hosted a speaker series, “Free Markets: The Ethical Economic Choice,” which critiques the liberal, progressive, and socialist egalitarian vision that seeks to use government to enforce a predetermined distribution of economic goods in the name of equality, fairness, or social justice.

—David Burton, senior fellow in economic policy, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity

Killing the Death Tax

The death tax, also known as the estate tax, is a 40 percent tax on assets left behind after death. For years, this tax has been a costly financial burden on family-owned businesses and has been known to stifle economic growth.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has begun to alleviate the burden by raising the threshold to assets exceeding $11.2 million. Lawmakers should seek to fully repeal the tax, as doing so will continue to boost American economic growth for years to come.

—Kevin Dayaratna, Ph.D., senior statistician and research programmer, Institute for Economic Freedom

Failure to Mention America’s Growing Debt Problem

One issue that the president failed to address Tuesday night is the nation’s ballooning debt.

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office released its latest budget and economic projections. The budget office estimates that the national debt will increase by a staggering $13 trillion over the next decade, driven by entitlement spending and growing interest payments on the national debt. And these projections are likely optimistic, assuming that the Budget Control Act spending caps remain unaltered through 2021 and that no major disaster and emergency spending is approved by Congress.

The good news is, these are just projections. There is still time to change course and avert the looming budget crisis. But doing so will take strong leadership from the president and Congress.

The president’s first two budgets pledged to cut spending and fundamentally reform the role of the federal government. Now more than ever, the president and Congress should recommit to fiscal restraint and work together to find solutions that will stabilize the debt and put the country back on a sustainable budget path.

—Justin Bogie, senior policy analyst in fiscal affairs, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity

A Misguided Approach to Paid Family Leave

President Donald Trump mentioned that he is the first president to include a plan for nationwide paid family leave in his budget. Americans want paid family leave, but not if they have to pay for it.

A federal paid family leave program would cost taxpayers hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars more in taxes each year. And most importantly, it could not meet workers’ needs as well as more flexible, employer-based policies. The federal disability insurance program is an example of the dysfunction that could come from a federal paid family leave program.

Paid leave is on the rise in the U.S. without federal involvement. Over the past three years, more than 100 large, name-brand companies announced new or expanded paid family leave programs, and the largest 20 employers in the U.S. all provide paid family leave.

Now is not the time to stifle this growth or to crowd out existing policies with a federal paid leave program.

Instead of a new national entitlement that would crowd out existing private- and state-based programs and shift their costs onto federal taxpayers, lawmakers should pursue policies, such as the Working Families Flexibility Actuniversal savings accounts, and lower taxes and fewer regulations that would free up resources for businesses to provide paid family leave.

—Rachel Greszler, research fellow in economics, budget and entitlements, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity

Celebrating Women’s Success

President Donald Trump celebrated the fact that the 116th Congress has more women than any other Congress in history.

The fact that the number of women in Congress has increased three and a half-fold since 1992 without any legislation addressing the gap shows that women are fully capable, when they choose to, of shattering so-called glass ceilings on their own.

Yet Democrats in Congress are already advocating so-called fair pay laws that would result in rigid pay scales and one-size-fits-all jobs that could hurt more women than they help, and that could cause employers to discriminate against women in the hiring process through the threat of punitive lawsuits.

Instead of focusing only on pay and ignoring women’s choices, let’s hope that the 116th Congress instead seeks ways to create equal opportunities for all women and men alike, without limiting access to jobs that meet women’s and men’s individual needs and desires.

—Rachel Greszler, research fellow in economics, budget, and entitlements, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity


Judicial Nominations

President Donald Trump noted that hundreds of highly qualified nominees have stalled in the Senate—and that includes a number of judicial nominees.

Since the very beginning of his administration, Trump has placed an emphasis on nominating individuals to the federal bench who will interpret and apply the Constitution and laws as written.

This is, perhaps, the most successful area of his administration so far. To date, he has appointed two Supreme Court justices, 30 U.S. Court of Appeals judges (more than any other new president at this point), and 53 U.S. District Court judges.

But the judiciary is still 16 percent vacant and we are in the longest period of triple-digit judicial vacancies in 25 years. Trump has re-nominated 48 highly qualified men and women whose nominations expired with the 115th Congress. The Senate has work to do.

—Thomas Jipping, deputy director and senior legal fellow, and Elizabeth Slattery, legal fellow, Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Institute for Constitutional Government

Honoring a Heroic Police Officer

It might have seemed like a small part of the president’s speech, but the significance of the event that he mentioned goes far beyond the few words he used.

Months ago, Jewish-Americans were viciously murdered in an attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. As the president noted, Pittsburgh SWAT Officer Timothy Matson raced into the gunfire to stop the murderous assault. Matson was successful, but he was shot seven times in the process.

Think about that. He ran toward the gunfire, not away from it, as most people would. But that is what America’s police do every day to help their fellow citizens and save lives.

America’s police are the foot soldiers of an ordered society. We owe them much, but most of all, we owe them our respect and thanks. People like Timothy Matson never become rich, they never play in Super Bowls, they never receive Academy Awards—but they should. They stand watch and put themselves between those who would do us harm and the people who cannot protect themselves.

Matson—and the rest of the officers like him—deserve more credit, more kudos, and more plaudits than they ever will receive. But we can at least be thankful that the president is aware of their heroism.

—Paul Larkin, senior legal research fellow, Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Institute for Constitutional Government

Celebrating Landmark Criminal Justice Reform

President Donald Trump repeatedly called for America to unite as one people—to put aside partisan politics and “choose greatness” for the country.

In support of his call for unity, Trump cited the First Step Act as an instance when lawmakers in Washington have overcome political differences to do great things for America.

The First Step Act, a landmark piece of bipartisan legislation, was signed into law by Trump on Dec. 21, 2018, and has brought, as Heritage scholars have observed, “modest yet much-needed prison and sentencing reform” to the federal criminal justice system.

The First Step Act, among other things, eliminated a disparity in federal sentencing laws for federal prisoners convicted of possessing or selling crack cocaine prior to the enactment of the Fair Sentencing Act.

As the president stated, the disparity in the sentencing laws has “wrongly and disproportionately harmed the African-American community.”

Attending the State of the Union on Tuesday, by personal invitation from Trump and the first lady, were two individuals who received disproportionate sentences for their crimes.

The first guest was Alice Marie Johnson, who was “sentenced to life in prison as a first-time nonviolent drug offender.” In June, Trump commuted Johnson’s sentence after learning of her “extraordinary” rehabilitation while in prison.

Trump then introduced Matthew Charles, who was the first beneficiary of the First Step Act’s sentencing reforms. Charles would have been sitting in federal prison for the State of the Union had the First Step Act not become law and had he not turned around his life.

While serving a 35-year sentence in federal prison for selling crack cocaine, Charles found God and dedicated himself to conducting Bible studies, working as a law clerk, teaching GED courses, and mentoring fellow inmates.

On Jan. 3, Charles was the first federal inmate to be released from prison after receiving a reduced sentence under the First Step Act. His story and the First Step Act were major focal points in the speech.

But there is more work to be done. My former Heritage colleague, John-Michael Seibler, perhaps stated it best after Trump’s first State of the Union when he wrote that “the need for criminal justice reform goes beyond prison walls … and into the criminal code.”

With the 116th Congress now in session, federal lawmakers need to consider additional proposals that would restore the integrity of the federal criminal justice system.

Now-retired Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, fought tirelessly while in the Senate for sensible mens rea (Latin for “guilty mind”) reform, and introduced the Mens Rea Reform Act of 2018 in the 115th Congress, which would have required all federal crimes to have a mens rea requirement unless Congress specifically stated otherwise.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also introduced in the 115th Congress a proposal that would have ordered the attorney general to take an inventory of all federal criminal offenses currently on the books. This was part of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017.

The time is ripe to take the next step forward to reform the federal criminal justice system. And the president confirmed Tuesday evening that he is ready to “build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future.”

—Jonathan Zalewski, visiting legal fellow and Koch associate

Justice Ginsburg’s Absence

There’s been a flurry of speculation from fan and foe alike about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health in recent months. At the end of last year, she was treated for broken ribs after falling in her office and she had cancerous nodules removed from her left lung. The latter led to her missing two weeks of oral argument in January while she recuperated from surgery.

We shouldn’t read too much into her absence from President Donald Trump’s address tonight because she has never appeared at a Republican president’s State of the Union address. Supreme Court justices are not required to attend the State of the Union. Indeed, five justices missed the address last year, and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor all missed at least one State of the Union address during President Barack Obama’s administration.

In 2010, Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out, “To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I’m not sure why we’re there.”

—Elizabeth Slattery, legal fellow, Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Institute for Constitutional Government

Defense & Foreign Policy

A Strengthened Military and NATO

When President Donald Trump says that in the last two years great progress has been made in rebuilding the U.S. military, he’s right. 

Increased defense budgets of $700 billion in 2018 and $716 billion in 2019 are already making a difference, reflected in increased readiness and modest growth. Army brigade combat team readiness, as an example, went from 33 to 50 percent ready in the space of one year. 

Now, as Congress begins to contemplate the 2020 defense budget, it is critically important that both Congress and the administration continue their support for rebuilding the military, and as Heritage Foundation research recommends, authorize and appropriate at least $742 billion for defense in 2020. 

Similarly, the president is right when he describes how NATO allies are spending more on defense. They have indeed begun to increase their defenses, pledging to increase their spending on defense by more than $100 billion. The Trump administration deserves credit for calling out the allies who have not been spending enough on their defenses. 

Previous U.S. efforts to call attention to this issue have been half-hearted and garnered little attention. This is an area where Trump’s straight talk has paid off.

Although credit is due, more effort is needed. Only 5 of 29 NATO allies now meet the target of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their militaries. As an example of some countries not investing enough, Germany was unable to deploy any of its submarines last year, and only half of its fighter aircraft were ready for use. 

Heritage research recommends continued pressure on NATO allies until all meet the established goals.

—Thomas Spoehr, director, Center for National Defense

Standing With the Venezuelan People

From early in his presidency, President Donald Trump has focused on addressing the crisis in Venezuela. Trump’s policy recognizes the reality that Nicolas Maduro must step down. 

The corrupt socialist regime has bankrupted Venezuela, causing Latin America’s worst economic and refugee crisis. Maduro’s thugs are directly involved in drug trafficking, support for terrorists, and human rights violations. Venezuela now has more political prisoners than even Cuba.

Trump has responded by sanctioning nearly 100 corrupt Venezuelan officials and cut off their access to illicitly obtained wealth. America is not going at this alone either. Dozens of countries have united alongside Trump’s efforts to restore freedom in Venezuela. 

—Ana Quintana, senior policy analyst, Latin America and Western hemisphere, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy

Eliminating ISIS

President Donald Trump briefly discussed Middle East policy in his speech, focusing primarily on the war against terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

“When I took office,” the president said, “ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria. Today, we have liberated virtually all of that territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty killers. Now, as we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home.”

Bringing the troops home and fulfilling campaign promises are laudable goals, but the Trump administration must be careful not to do this at the expense of long-term U.S. security interests in Syria and the Middle East.

The U.S. inevitably will have to withdraw at some point, but it must first ensure that arrangements have been made to protect U.S. national interests, including permanently defeating ISIS, which the administration correctly has made its top priority.

Just hours before the speech, Gen. Joseph Votel, the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and warned that ISIS could regroup and resurge unless the U.S. and its allies maintain relentless pressure on it.

Trump must keep this in mind and make sure that as he withdraws U.S. troops from inside Syria, the anti-ISIS coalition continues to nail ISIS’ coffin shut, supported by U.S. air power.

– Jim Phillips, senior research fellow, Middle Eastern affairs

Confronting the Growing Threat of Anti-Semitism

President Donald Trump warned, “We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who spread its venomous creed. With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.”

More than 70 years after the rebirth of the Jewish nation, enemies of her very existence are using boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) to economically harm and morally malign one of our closest allies. Indeed, the BDS movement exemplifies contemporary anti-Semitism. These peddlers of hate hurl false allegations against Israel in an attempt to generate public support for their movement.

Unfortunately, several newly elected members of Congress are vocal advocates of BDS —particularly Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

Following her election victory, Tlaib said, in reference to Israel, “I will not support racist countries that pick and choose who gets access to justice.” She further claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pursuing “apartheid policies.”

During Israel’s 2012 war against Hamas, an entity designated a foreign terrorist organization, Omar claimed, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She has also claimed that Israel is an “apartheid … regime.”

These allegations defy reality. The Israeli government does not impose ethnic segregation on communities. Arab and Jewish Israelis are free to buy and sell homes and land within areas that fall under Israeli administration.

On the other hand, Jews are precluded from living in zones controlled by the Palestinian Authority, which manages Palestinian civil affairs. In fact, a fatwa forbids Arabs from selling real estate to Jews in those areas, under penalty of death. A top judge of the Palestinian Authority warned that acting contrary to this order qualifies as “high treason.”

Israel is the Middle East’s only true democracy—one in which minority rights are protected. The right to vote, access to public health care, public education, freedom of speech, and protection of legal rights are enjoyed by all citizens, regardless of race and irrespective of religion. The Israeli government also protects the right of Muslims, Christians, and Jews (and others) to practice their respective faiths. Mosques, churches, and synagogues operate within yards of each other.

Political leaders in both U.S. political parties must recognize and speak out against those who normalize this “venomous creed.”

—Joel Griffith, research fellow, financial regulations, Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

President Donald Trump made three references to anti-Semitism in his address: to Iran’s genocidal threats against the Jewish people, to the Tree of Life synagogue attack, and to the Nazi concentration camps, which Judah Samet and Joshua Kaufman, two of the president’s guests, survived.

At home, the FBI reports that Jews were the most frequent targets of violent crimes based on religion in 2017. As anti-Semitism grows both in the United States and around the world, the Trump administration is ensuring that these attacks will be condemned and punished.

The Department of Justice under the Trump administration has aggressively prosecuted these crimes and created a website to provide a centralized portal on these types of crimes for law enforcement, media, researchers, victims, and advocacy groups.

—Emilie Kao, director, Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society


A Bold Stand for Life and Human Dignity

Tonight, President Donald Trump called on the country to work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life, and asked Congress to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would protect women and unborn children from gruesome late-term abortions performed after 20 weeks.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that passing this bill could potentially save 10,000 lives each year—a number widely considered to be on the conservative side.

The U.S. is one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortion past 20 weeks (five months), at which point scientific evidence suggests that the baby is capable of feeling excruciating pain during an abortion procedure.

At the state level, over a dozen states across the country have enacted 20-week bills. Americans support significant abortion restrictions by a large margin, regardless of party affiliation. In fact, 75 percent of Americans support limiting abortion to, at most, the first trimester.

Congress should ensure that public policy respects the rights of the most vulnerable and innocent among us. Passing legislation to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain would be a meaningful step toward that goal.

—Melanie Israel, research associate, Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society

Energy & Infrastructure

The Triumph of American Energy

President Donald Trump mentioned that the United States has become the world’s largest oil and gas producer. With an abundance of resources under U.S. soil, the energy revolution is here to stay.

The Institute for Energy Research has demonstrated that there is over 1.4 trillion barrels of oil and over 2.4 quadrillion barrels of cubic feet of natural gas here in the United States. Heritage Foundation research has found that taking advantage of this vast supply would create millions of jobs and grow the economy for years to come. 

We are now beginning to see these massive benefits. Pursuing unnecessary and burdensome regulations, or enacting plans like the Green New Deal and making conventional fuels prohibitively expensive, would undo these great gains.

—Kevin Dayaratna, Ph.D., senior statistician and research programmer, Institute for Economic Freedom

For Cutting-Edge Infrastructure, Unleash the Private Sector

President Donald Trump called the need for infrastructure legislation a necessity, not an option. Again, Trump wrongly characterized America’s infrastructure as crumbling when the facts say otherwise

Nevertheless, Trump said he was eager to work with Congress “on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting-edge industries of the future.” 

If the goal is to unleash new, cutting-edge infrastructure, Congress cannot go down the same top-down, tax-and-spend road. Massive new government spending on infrastructure will be inefficient, politically driven, and result in poor infrastructure outcomes that are not aligned with real needs.

>>> See The Heritage Foundation’s new report, Regulatory Reform Is the Key to Unlocking Infrastructure Investment.

Any infrastructure proposal must focus on the role of the federal government. A fiscally responsible bill should have offsets to pay for new spending and narrow the federal role by eliminating funding for local and often wasteful projects, such as bike paths and mass transit.

Furthermore, substantial regulatory improvements will unleash private-sector investment. Reforming environmental and labor regulations with a focus on transitioning authority to the states, creating market incentives, and removing costly, ineffective regulations will stimulate investment in new infrastructure around the country.

—Nicolas Loris, research manager, energy and environment and the Herbert and Joyce Morgan research fellow, Institute for Economic Freedom

Health Care

Lowering Drug Prices

The president is focused on the right problem: overly high prices for prescription drugs. He rightly recognizes that government policy plays a role in driving up these prices, and fixing it requires addressing a lot of flawed government policies. 

His administration has done much to start to address this problem. For example, the FDA approved a record number of generic drugs in 2017 and 2018. According to the Council of Economic Advisers, generic approvals under President Donald Trump have saved consumers $26 billion.

Congress should take up the president’s call to go further. One piece Congress can help with is the government payment system for drugs, which is fundamentally broken and drives up costs.

One way government does this is through an overly complicated payment system for seniors’ drugs in Medicare. Instead, Congress should help more seniors access Medicare Advantage, a system of premium support for Medicare beneficiaries that lets them choose the plan that covers all their needs—including drugs.

Today, one-third of seniors have already chosen Medicare Advantage, and the Trump administration has done much to improve it. So it is a good place to start.

This change would help ensure that seniors no longer have to face high out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. This approach is a proven way to empower seniors to afford the drugs they need, while creating pressure on drug companies to offer drugs at a price that people value.

—Marie Fishpaw, director, domestic policy studies


Striking the Right Balance on School Choice      

President Donald Trump tonight said that “to help support working-class parents, the time has come to pass school choice for America’s children.”

The administration’s support of school choice is praiseworthy. Although the federal government does not have the constitutional authority to create a nationwide school choice program, the president is right to use his bully pulpit to make the case for empowering families with school choice.

Congress should now heed the president’s call and work to create education choice in those areas in which it has a constitutional warrant to do so: for children from military families, Native American students on tribal lands, and for students living in Washington, D.C.

Such a federal focus would pay dividends for the school choice movement by leaving education choice programs to the states, which have been the catalyst for the impressive growth in school choice over the past two decades.

For their part, states across the country should also heed that call, and work to advance education savings accounts, vouchers, and tax credit scholarships so that every child in America has access to a learning environment that is the right fit for them.

Lindsey M. Burke, director, Center for Education Policy, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal