People are concerned about skyrocketing gas and home heating costs, the struggles they face trying to pay for college, and the rising cost of healthcare. The baby boomers are also nearing retirement and are facing an uncertain future as companies are breaking their promises to retirees, slashing pensions and cutting other hard-earned benefits. Meanwhile, seniors are facing a Medicare prescription drug program that is at best confusing and at worst leaving seniors without critical prescription drugs that they need.
The President's State of the Union address was carefully crafted to convince Americans he would address concerns, but the President has already had five years to make these issues a priority. His record does not reflect tonight's rhetoric.
On energy, he has consistently backed policies that create a greater dependence on foreign oil as opposed to investing in research and development of alternative fuel sources. I, along with my Democratic colleagues, have proposed a bold plan to give America energy independence from the Middle East in the next 10 years. This, coupled with a real investment in research and development of alternative energy sources, would dramatically lower fuel costs and help our environment.
On education, in order to ensure that America remains a world leader, we must create an educated, skilled workforce in the vital areas of science, math, engineering and information technology. At the same time, we must give every student access to a college degree. The Bush Administration has spent the last five years cutting Pell Grants, student loans and key educational programs vital to our children's future. I support all of these programs as well as a plan to make a college education affordable and available to every qualified student.
On health care, the President is marketing Health Savings Accounts in a way that seems appealing, but will do little to help the nation's 46 million uninsured Americans or the middle class pay for medical care. This program will actually cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars and will increase the number of uninsured. We need a solution to provide universal health coverage for all Americans that removes financial barriers and gives families a choice. That's why I introduced the "States' Right to Innovate Health Care Act," which is a pilot program for states to develop universal, cost-effective health care coverage.
On retirement security, the Bush Administration's Medicare plan is a disaster. At best, seniors find it confusing. At worst, they discover their necessary prescription drugs aren't covered. With baby boomers about to retire, many are concerned about their financial future. Social Security privatization has been defeated at least for the time being, but many companies have reneged on their pension obligations. Meanwhile, many Americans feel they are unable to retire because they can't afford basic life necessities in this economy. I support strengthening the Medicare program by lowering prescription drug prices by allowing seniors to band together for purchasing power, just as our veterans do, making profitable corporations keep their pension obligations and safeguarding Social Security for this generation and the next.
All of the uncertainty Americans feel around their families' economic prospects are exacerbated by the President' failure, even now, to define a plan to resolve the situation in Iraq and bring our troops home safely, secure in knowing that they courageously answered their call to duty. People need to learn from the President that he will obey the Constitution and follow the law in pursuit of our national security, not use the threat of terror to act as if he is above the law. Congress has, is expected to, and will pass laws empowering the President as necessary. The President should have welcomed Congressional hearings into claims of eavesdropping on ordinary Americans, torture and imprisonment without charges or representation so the American people and the world can be assured the United States continues to deserve its reputation as a world leader in security and human rights.
The President needs to lay out a clear agenda to address American families' concerns and a bold strategy for our nation's future. It is unfortunate that President failed to offer such a plan during his State of the Union speech tonight.