WASHINGTON - Black California Congresswoman Barbara Lee released the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress:
“President Obama addressed the critical issues facing our nation by focusing on creating jobs, continuing to rebuild the economy and forging a clear path out of the economic disaster inherited two years ago.
“We need to create opportunity for all, strengthen our middle class, and lift up the over 43.5 million Americans living in poverty. Direct investments in education, infrastructure, health care and clean energy will be key in these efforts. And of course we must do more to address the causes of chronic unemployment and provide much needed relief to the so called 99ers.
“There is a sensible way to jumpstart the economy and reduce the deficit, and that does not include cutting critical social safety net programs while rewarding the super wealthy. There is a sensible way that does not include taking a hatchet to the budget for the sake of doing so as many of my Republican colleagues have suggested.
“The President did express support for the modest military spending cuts proposed by Secretary Gates, and while this is a positive step, we should do more. We must reign in out-of-control defense spending that now sends nearly 60 percent of all discretionary dollars into a black hole at the Pentagon with no oversight, no accountability, and no consequences.
“We can make meaningful and safe cuts to the defense budget, safely end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and close loopholes for millionaires that will immediately save billions of dollars and allow us to make vital investments for our nation's future.
“Unfortunately, despite growing calls from Members of Congress and the American public, we did not hear the President announce a clear and urgent roadmap to peace in Afghanistan.
“I will continue to demand that the President announce a significant reduction in U.S. forces in Afghanistan this summer but also a complete withdrawal as soon as possible, and certainly well before 2014.
“I am pleased that the President renewed many of his previous commitments, including for comprehensive immigration reform, which is in the best interest of our nation and should not be a partisan issue.
“The President also is rightly not backing down from Republican’s misguided efforts to repeal the healthcare reform law, which is saving lives and returning patient freedoms previously hijacked by the insurance companies.
“Rather than repealing the healthcare law I believe we must go even farther to strengthen the bill and finally ensure healthcare is a basic human right for all and not a privilege of the wealthy few.
“Finally, while I am glad the President emphasized the need to strengthen and protect social security, I disagree that extending a blanket freeze on non-defense discretionary spending is the right path toward responsible budgeting. Budgets are moral documents, and they reflect who we are, and what we value as a people.
“We cannot allow a return to the failed policies of the past that led us to the brink of economic catastrophe, and I will fight any efforts to privatize or weaken social security, rollback Medicare benefits, or balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee serves as the founding co-chair of the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus and will soon be reintroducing legislation to provide an additional fourteen weeks of unemployment compensation for individuals who have exhausted their benefits.