(NEW YORK, NY) – Last night, the President’s annual State of the Union highlighted policy proposals and reforms the administration will pursue in the coming months. In response, Demos President Heather McGhee issued the following statement:
For too long these issues, and many others that would tackle inequality to ensure a thriving American economy, have been placed on the back burner due to two issues that the President touched too briefly upon: our unequal democracy and our racial divisions.
"In the previous weeks, the President unveiled a number of bold progressive policy proposals to move our country forward, and last night, he once again confirmed his commitment to fostering upward mobility and bringing in a new American middle class.
"From free college tuition for those seeking to enhance their skills at local community colleges, to child care and paid leave for America’s workforce—these proposals are a reminder that the American middle class didn’t just build itself. It is the product of a country that invests in its citizens.
"But for too long these issues, and many others that would tackle inequality to ensure a thriving American economy, have been placed on the back burner due to two issues that the President touched too briefly upon: our unequal democracy and our racial divisions.
"The President mentioned ‘dark money’ campaign ads, but didn’t make the link to his stalled inequality agenda: a politics financed by the wealthy and corporate interests is one in which the majority of Americans have no ability to influence policy outcomes independent of the donor class’ preferences.
"For example, while 78% of Americans believe that the federal government should ensure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so, only 28% of America’s wealthiest agree. It's no wonder, then, that state governments have prioritized tax cuts over investing in college affordability across the nation.
"A return to debt-free college for all is extraordinarily popular with voters across the political spectrum. But to start winning on this kind of opportunity agenda, the President must also endorse campaign finance reform to put the voices of working-class families back at the center of policymaking.
"Finally, it’s important to remember that even with systems reforms, our democracy is only as healthy as the demos it represents. The President painted a vision of an America united across racial and partisan lines… of ‘a tight-knit family’ that sacrifices so that all members can succeed. Contrasting this picture with our actual politics was a jarring reminder of the empathy gap at the center of our wealth gap. One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, the President has an opportunity to make the connection between our racial anxieties and the conservative policies that spread economic anxiety; between the weakness of our social fabric and the fraying of our safety net.
"It’s time for that conversation. As we move into a new Congress, it’s time to keep our horizons set on bold changes that will invite more voices into the American political system, foster a new appreciation of who we are as a nation, and build new pathways to the middle class so that it is diverse, strong, and growing."
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