Weekly Democratic Address
January 19, 2018
Hi, I’m Chris Van Hollen from the great state of Maryland.
This weekend marks the anniversary of President Trump’s first year in office – a year that has severely tested our democracy.
Past presidents – regardless of their political party or ideology – have understood that our American democracy is strongest when we unite around a sense of common purpose.
President Trump has taken the opposite approach. Where others have worked to unite us, he has sought to divide us – deepening divisions in our society rather than working together to achieve our goals.
Here at home, the President could have started his first term by focusing on the economic priority he spoke most about during his campaign – putting more people to work in good paying jobs by investing in modernizing our national infrastructure.
Instead, he took a very different approach. His top priority was to work in lockstep with a Republican Congress to destroy the Affordable Care Act – a proposal that would have resulted in huge spikes in health insurance premiums and 32 million fewer Americans with access to affordable coverage.
After people from all over the country rose up to protect our health system and defeat that plan, the President and Republicans in Congress shifted their focus to taxes.
They turned to high-priced Washington lobbyists to help them jam through Congress a tax scheme that is a massive giveaway to big corporations, Wall Street banks, and billionaires – all at the expense of working and middle-class America.
Just next year, foreign stockholders, who own 35 percent of U.S. corporate stock, will get a whopping $48 billion windfall benefit from the tax plan – while 11 million American families will see a tax increase.
That does not sound like ‘America First’ to me.
The reality is that trickle-down economics failed under President Bush, and it will fail again now.
President Trump and his family will get a huge tax cut, and millionaires will get an average annual tax break of $70,000 a year.
Do you really think that money is going to trickle down to you?
The President also promised that corporations would give their workers an average pay increase of $4,000 this year – not smaller, one-time bonuses.
Have you gotten your $4,000 pay raise?
What will go way up is our national debt – leaving our children and grandchildren to pay the tab. At the same time, the Republican budget paves the way for massive cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
Meanwhile, President Trump has refused to support Democratic proposals to reduce the sky-rocketing costs of prescription drugs or combat the opioid epidemic.
So, after one year in office, it turns out that Donald Trump’s campaign talk about helping the ‘forgotten men and women’ was just that – talk. His actions have betrayed hardworking Americans throughout our country.
He has tried to distract attention from the fact that his policies favor the already rich and powerful by cynically pitting Americans against one another based on religion, race, and ethnicity.
That’s demonstrated in everything from his refusal to denounce white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, to his recent repulsive and racist comments about certain immigrants, to his attempt to impose a Muslim ban.
While he has weakened us at home, he has also diminished our influence and stature around the world.
He has refused to hold Russia accountable for interfering in our elections, instead, lavishing praise on Vladimir Putin.
He said he was going to get tough on China and hold them accountable for its unfair trade practices, but then he backed off.
His attacks on the free press here at home have given comfort – and cover – to dictators around the world.
His withdrawal from the Climate Change Agreement puts us all at risk.
Despite all this, as we enter the second year of the Trump presidency, I have faith in the resiliency, judgement, and goodness of the American people.
Patriots in every part of our great country have marched and mobilized to protect the values and principles that make America great.
So I have faith in the strength of an engaged citizenry to protect our democracy.
And I want to be clear. If President Trump pursues a bipartisan agenda that supports hard-working Americans, we will work with him.
But if he continues down this path of division, hyper-partisanship, and special-interest giveaways, we will fight him tooth and nail.
Silence and inaction are not an option.
Together, we will defend our democracy from whatever challenges we face.
Thank you, and God Bless you.