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March 3, 2022

Biden focuses on situation in Ukraine, lowering prices, improving competition, easing supply chains in State of the Union address

President targets corporate tax 'loopholes,' outlines several health care proposals

In his first State of the Union address, President Biden on Tuesday, March 1, first focused on the situation in Ukraine, describing the administration's efforts to support Ukraine while targeting Russia and its banks and oligarchs with sanctions. The speech then turned to highlighting projects from the bipartisan infrastructure legislation (the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) signed into law last fall; fighting the wave of higher prices; tax fairness; and competing with China. Biden gave a status report on the coronavirus pandemic, saying guidance on mask-wearing would be relaxed, and offered a number of health proposals, such as capping the cost of insulin at $35 a month and giving Medicare the authority to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs.

Attached below, please find PDFs of fact sheets from the White House on Biden's remarks on the economy and his plan to address the national mental health crisis. Other fact sheets are posted here.

Russia Sanctions. The president said that as the situation in Ukraine continues, "I'm taking robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at Russia's economy. And I will use every tool at our disposal to protect American businesses and consumers. Tonight, I can announce that the United States has worked with 30 other countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world. America will lead that effort, releasing 30 million barrels from our own Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And we stand ready to do more if necessary, unified with our allies."

Tax Policy. The president targeted tax fairness, saying the administration would work to close what he called corporate tax loopholes. "The one thing all Americans agree on is that the tax system is not fair. We have to fix it," Biden said. "I'm not looking to punish anyone. But let's make sure corporations and the wealthiest Americans start paying their fair share. Just last year, 55 Fortune 500 corporations earned $40 billion in profits and paid zero dollars in federal income tax. That's simply not fair. That's why I've proposed a 15% minimum tax rate for corporations. We got more than 130 countries to agree on a global minimum tax rate so companies can't get out of paying their taxes at home by shipping jobs and factories overseas. That's why I've proposed closing loopholes so the very wealthy don't pay a lower tax rate than a teacher or a firefighter."

Infrastructure. The president announced that "this year we will start fixing over 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges in disrepair. When we use taxpayer dollars to rebuild America, we are going to Buy American: buy American products to support American jobs … We will Buy American to make sure everything from the deck of an aircraft carrier to the steel on highway guardrails are made in America."

Fighting Inflation. Biden said his approach to inflation was to "lower your costs, not your wages. Make more cars and semiconductors in America. More infrastructure and innovation in America. More goods moving faster and cheaper in America … And instead of relying on foreign supply chains, let's make it in America. Economists call it 'increasing the productive capacity of our economy.'" Along with lowering the cost of prescription drugs (see below), Biden said his plan would cut energy costs for families by an average of $500 a year. His plan would achieve that by combating climate change; providing investments and tax credits to weatherize homes and businesses to be energy efficient; doubling the nation's clean energy production in solar, wind, and other renewables; and lowering the price of electric vehicles.

Biden said the third element of his inflation strategy would cut the cost of child care in half for most families and help parents, "including millions of women, who left the workforce during the pandemic because they couldn't afford child care, to be able to get back to work," while also featuring home and long-term care, more affordable housing and universal pre-K for every 3- and 4-year-old.

Competing with China. To compete for the best jobs of the future, Biden said, "We also need to level the playing field with China and other competitors," and pressed Congress to approve the pending USICA/ COMPETES legislation to provide additional investments in emerging technologies and manufacturing. Biden spotlighted the area in Ohio where Intel plans to build a $20 billion semiconductor "mega site," with "up to eight state-of-the-art factories in one place; 10,000 new good-paying jobs; some of the most sophisticated manufacturing in the world to make computer chips the size of a fingertip that power the world and our everyday lives … And all they're waiting for is for you to pass this bill. So let's not wait any longer. Send it to my desk. I'll sign it. And we will really take off."

Health Care Proposals

On the coronavirus pandemic, the president said the nation has "reached a new moment in the fight against COVID-19," touting new mask guidelines that lift mask recommendations for most Americans. He laid out a plan for the country to "move forward safely," including vaccinations, new treatments to reduce hospitalizations, and renewed access to no-cost tests. Biden said the administration is launching a "Test to Treat" initiative, "so people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they're positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost." Biden said that if new coronavirus variants emerge, "if Congress provides the funds we need, we'll have new stockpiles of tests, masks, and pills ready if needed." Praising Pfizer's antiviral treatment, Biden said, "We've ordered more of these pills than anyone in the world. And Pfizer is working overtime to get us 1 million pills this month and more than double that next month." Biden said it was time to "end the shutdown of schools and businesses. We have the tools we need. It's time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again." He said the administration is also "going after the criminals who stole billions in [pandemic] relief money meant for small businesses and millions of Americans. And tonight, I'm announcing that the Justice Department will name a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud."

Biden said the American Rescue Plan has lowered health care premiums for millions of families who buy coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, adding that the provision should be made permanent. He discussed policies to cut the cost of prescription drugs, saying the U.S. should "cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month" and give Medicare the authority to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. In addition, Biden committed to improving nursing home quality, mental and maternal health care and beating the "opioid epidemic" in part by removing "outdated rules that stop doctors from prescribing treatments." He also touted his effort to renew the Cancer Moonshot initiative and called on Congress to fund ARPA-H, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, "to drive breakthroughs in cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes and more."

Biden laid out plans to improve children's mental health (by "holding social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they're conducting on our children for profit," strengthening privacy protections, banning targeted advertising to children and demanding that tech companies stop collecting personal data on children). He also pledged to support veterans by expanding eligibility to veterans suffering from nine respiratory cancers and urging Congress to pass a law to make sure veterans exposed to toxins in Iraq and Afghanistan "finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they deserve."


Contact Information
For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Washington Council Ernst & Young
   •  Any member of the group at (202) 293-7474.


Fact sheet on economy

Fact sheet on mental health