JANUARY 21, 2004
 4:55 PM
Suzanne Ffolkes 202-637-5018
Statement by AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney on the State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON - January 21 - The President must be experiencing a different America than the one in which most working families live.

In his State of the Union address last night, he offered no solutions to the urgent, immediate job crisis that his economic policies have worsened. He did not address the hammering of the middle class as a result of the loss of good, stable jobs with benefits and the trend toward low-paying jobs that do not provide health care or pensions.

In addition, he offered only platitudes to the tens of millions struggling with the high cost of health care. For seniors who cannot afford prescription drugs, he failed to propose any changes to the deeply flawed Medicare prescription drug bill, a bill that actually prevents Medicare from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices and that leaves seniors with huge gaps in drug coverage. His proposed tax credits for low-income families will barely scratch the surface of the health care crisis for tens of millions of uninsured Americans.

His solution for the lack of retirement security is to put Social Security funds into risky private accounts that cannot serve as the foundation for reliable retirement income for all older Americans. And he chose to brag about the Leave No Child Behind Act, even though his Administration’s budgets have failed to provide the funds the program needs to succeed and make the education of our children a real priority. The president’s agenda reveals a deep disconnect between the Administration and the concerns of average workers. His tax cuts and economic policies have benefited the wealthy but have not led to sustained job growth. They have led to huge deficits that prevent us from investing to meet the needs of working families and that will pass on a mountain of debt to our children.

Working Americans cannot applaud an economic program that has failed to create good jobs to replace the 2.3 million jobs lost under President Bush’s watch or plans to strip overtime protections from millions of workers. Nor can we take seriously claims of compassion and concern for jobless workers from a president and Administration that have turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the unemployed and underemployed. It is clear that President Bush’s plans for the future do not include any real strategies to solve the nation’s jobs crisis, and that his vision of a strong nation does not include the priorities of working Americans.