In his final State of the Union address, President Obama touched briefly on some issues we view as priorities for our organization, our country and the global community.
He noted fixing the immigration system and the reality of gun violence as important priorities for this nation. Though he didn’t go into detail, B’nai B’rith is focused on these issues.
B’nai B’rith has long supported bipartisan measures to reduce gun violence in the United States, while respecting the right of law-abiding Americans to own guns. Tragically, the need for effective policy approaches to this urgent national dilemma has become increasingly apparent, as horrifying public shootings continue to focus attention on the problem.
The shocking number of gun-related deaths occurring in this country each year has made the status quo untenable. We therefore continue to call on the administration and both Democratic and Republican Congress members to work together to pass bipartisan legislation that will dramatically reduce gun violence. We still look forward to a detailed conversation on this subject.
As an organization founded by immigrants, B’nai B’rith is attuned to the topic of immigration reform. We recognize the need for comprehensive immigration reform, and for the United States to remain welcoming to immigrants who come to this country seeking to work hard and obey our laws. Immigration reform must also be balanced with our nation’s need for security. We need a plan that will increase and maintain security, while placing our undocumented neighbors on a legal path toward citizenship. A bi-partisan, national agreement is the best way to ensure a comprehensive, fair immigration reform system. We have long noted that the successful integration of immigrants into our society has led to some of America’s greatest accomplishments.
We were encouraged that the president acknowledged the importance of Social Security and Medicare, saying “That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them.”
Social Security is a vital lifeline for many seniors, providing the income needed for the most basic level of living: food, shelter and clothing. B’nai B’rith International is deeply committed to the long term solvency of social security to ensure the needs of our most vulnerable seniors are met. Without Social Security, millions of seniors would spiral into abject poverty. As per capita health costs continue to rise, Medicare also helps prevent seniors from plummeting into poverty.
We welcome the president’s commitment to ensuring the future of these social insurance policy systems that guard against poverty.
The president acknowledged that health care reform is still a contentious issue even while millions of previously un-insured people now have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. B’nai B’rith, with our long-time advocacy on behalf of seniors, is encouraged that more people are insured through the ACA and we look forward to working with lawmakers to improve the program even further. Healthy aging begins with access to affordable health care.
We share the president's desire for decreased dependence on foreign oil and are open to creative bipartisan approaches to achieving this goal. We further agree that the right of all Americans to vote must be protected. Voting rights measures that have been stripped away by the courts over time should be restored by legislation.
Unfortunately, talk of Iran, the world’s largest global state sponsor of terror, was brief and incomplete. Just hours before the State of the Union address, Iran seized two U.S. navy patrol boats in the Persian Gulf, and is detaining 10 American sailors. This aggressive action is in line with Iran’s long-standing hostility toward the United States and the global community of nations.
B’nai B’rith continues to remain deeply skeptical about Iran’s intentions regarding its nuclear weapons program. Iran has given no indication that it has changed its approach on a wide range of issues we monitor: human rights abuses, support for global terrorism, missile tests; calls for the destruction of Israel. We are concerned that the president is not taking into account Iran’s history of ignoring the international nuclear inspection watchdogs, and its other abuses when he continues to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran’s long and well documented history of deception about its nuclear program must factor into any conversation about the Tehran regime.
We agree with those in both parties who have called for an elevation of the political discourse that embraces our country's diversity. Rhetoric that alienates segments of our population simply because of their race, ethnicity or religion betrays America's ideals without bolstering our national security or economic prosperity.