President Donald Trump gave his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, highlighting his legislative priorities for the coming year. While Trump sounds like a populist when he speaks, his policies are those of a right-wing conservative. Although he talked about the budget, infrastructure, and special interest influence in government, he gave few specifics on his plans.
U.S. PIRG offers this analysis of his speech:
On consumer protection
"While candidate Donald Trump campaigned against Wall Street and on behalf of ordinary Americans," said Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG consumer program director, “unfortunately President Trump's hirings and actions so far, including what he said tonight, leave us very concerned that his plan is now to help Congress dismantle hard-fought financial protections, including the successful Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, enacted after the spectacular economic collapse just eight years ago. Hang onto your wallets: consumers, savers, investors, and taxpayers."
On ethics reform
“The right to know who is exercising their influence with elected officials is essential to a functioning democracy,” said Andre Delattre, executive director of U.S. PIRG. “The president has made references to this ideal throughout his campaign and first month in office, and in Tuesday’s speech; now is the time to take meaningful action and make it a reality. Ending shadow lobbying must be an integral part of this action.”
“In Tuesday night’s address, President Trump called for increased spending in our infrastructure,” said Lauren Aragon, transportation associate for U.S. PIRG. “More investment is necessary, but to achieve a holistic 21st century transportation system we must focus on critical public transit, biking, and walking infrastructure so that people have choices in how they get around, and are less dependent on burning dirty fossil fuels.
“At the same time, we need to concentrate on repairing our existing roads, bridges, and transit system, which are suffering from lack of investment.” Aragon said. “This means moving away from spending billions of dollars on new and wider highways and instead using our limited resources on pressing needs like repairing our current system and investing in a multi-modal approach that will increase efficiency and clean up our transportation system.”
On taxes and the budget
"Our tax code has been riddled with loopholes for far too long, allowing the biggest multinational corporations’ gaming and gimmicks to run amok at the expensive of small businesses and ordinary Americans," said Michelle Surka, tax and budget advocate for U.S. PIRG. "Any tax plan President Trump and Congress agree on must put an end to offshore tax haven abuse and the mile-wide loopholes – like earnings stripping and inversion – that allow for and incentivize such tax avoidance.
“We have yet to see a proposal that adequately addresses these problems, and in fact, some members of Congress have started to suggest repealing hard-won rules that limited some of the worst of these tricks,” Surka said. “We urge President Trump to close tax loopholes, protect ordinary tax payers from picking up the tab for the largest corporations, and not reward corporations for competing based on the wiliness of their tax attorneys rather than the value of their products and services."