Skip to content

Our Take on the 2023 State of the Union

President Biden highlights bipartisan issues, many of which are critical to Arnold Ventures, including public safety, affordable health care, and smart tax policy.

President Joe Biden speaks into a microphone and gestures as Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy are seated behind him.
President Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), delivers his State of the Union address Feb. 7 at U.S. Capitol. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Biden delivered his third State of the Union address on Tuesday, highlighting the legislative accomplishments of his first two years and calling on a new Republican majority in the House to work on bipartisan issues, many of which are critical to Arnold Ventures, including public safety, affordable health care, and smart tax policy.

Policing Reform/​Public Safety

What Biden Said: 

We all want the same thing. Neighborhoods free of violence. Law enforcement who earn the community’s trust. Our children to come home safely.” 

Our Takeaway: 

Police accountability is essential for both justice and community safety in America. While it is encouraging to see members of Congress show some willingness to take up this policy debate once again, it is well past the time of rhetoric and time for bipartisan action. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (JPA) includes a number of provisions that resonate with reforms that we and our partners have worked hard to pass at the state level and with significant results. This includes: strengthening use of force standards and investigations, improving data collection and transparency requirements, and enhancing officer accountability primarily through licensure and decertification, in addition to other areas. 

Read the policing team’s entire response to the State of the Union.

Read more: 
Bipartisan Police Reform Sweeps All 50 States
Demanding Accountability After the Killing of Tyre Nichols


What Tyre Nichols’ Killing Tells Us About Policing

Crisis Response

What Biden Said: 

We know police officers put their lives on the line every day, and we ask them to do too much. To be counselors, social workers, psychologists; responding to drug overdoses, mental health crises and more. We ask too much of them.” 

Our Takeaway: 

Too often, law enforcement serves as the first if not primary response for people facing acute and chronic behavioral health problems, such as substance use disorder and mental illness. At the same time, police often are not offered the training and resources necessary to effectively handle these complex situations – resulting in arrests and use of force rather than connecting people with the help they need. We believe that it is significant that President Biden acknowledged the importance of responding to people in crisis through a combination of approaches that include harm reduction services and mobile crisis teams. And we are investing in building the evidence base to make appropriate policy decisions. This includes, for instance, research investments to understand the impact of naloxone distribution by law enforcement, the problems facing our emergency call centers, and how to better handle certain types of emergency and non-emergency 911 calls, particularly those that are non-criminal in nature.

Read the policing team’s entire response to the State of the Union.

Read more: Alternatives to Police Crisis Response Are Driving Improved Public Safety

Gun Violence

What Biden Said: 

Do something. That was the same plea of parents who lost their children in Uvalde: Do something on gun violence.” 

Our Takeaway: 

About 40,000 Americans die every year from gun violence. With the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, Congress has begun to support policies aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people who pose a threat to themselves or others. But this should be the first of many steps to implement evidence-based policies that will help decrease firearm deaths, suicides, and injuries. Research and data are needed on what interventions might be most effective in preventing deaths and injuries from firearms. Unfortunately, gun policy in America has been intentionally understudied for the past two decades. To begin filling this gap, Arnold Ventures supports the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research (NCGVR), which is funding critical research that can help inform policy decisions at the state and federal level.

Read the policing team’s entire response to the State of the Union.

Read more:
Arnold Ventures Renews Commitment to Gun Policy Research

Amid Shifting Legal and Political Landscapes, a New Report Highlights the Latest Findings in Gun Policy Research

Foundation Leaders Call for Greater Philanthropic and Government Support for Gun Violence Research

Junk Fees

What Biden Said: 

My administration is also taking on junk’ fees, those hidden surcharges too many businesses use to make you pay more.” 

Our Takeaway: 

Incarcerated people are particularly vulnerable to junk fees that are levied on all types of services — including phone calls, money transfers from loved ones, and electronic messaging — by prison facilities and the private companies that they contract with. In particular, incarcerated people have extremely low incomes and have no ability to shop for different services or providers to avoid such fees. You can’t comparison shop behind bars,” Mike Wessler of the Prison Policy Initiative explains. So incarcerated people are either forced to pay the excessive fees or to go without essentials like hygiene products, food, or communication with their loved ones.” 

We support the call from dozens of consumer, civil rights, and faith-based organizations — including the National Consumer Law Center, an AV grantee — for the Biden Administration, Congress, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to include incarcerated people in this effort to crack down on junk fees. 

Tax fraud

What Biden Said: 

Before I came to office, many inspector generals who protect taxpayer dollars were sidelined. Fraud was rampant. Last year, I told you the watchdogs are back. Since then, we’ve recovered billions of taxpayer dollars. Now, let’s triple our anti-fraud strike forces going after these criminals, double the statute of limitations on these crimes, and crack down on identity fraud by criminal syndicates stealing billions of dollars from the American people. For every dollar we put into fighting fraud, taxpayers get back at least ten times as much.” 

Our Takeaway 

Modernization is long overdue for the broken administrative and audit procedures at the Internal Revenue Service. The $80 billion in new funding granted to the agency in the Inflation Reduction Act will accelerate that overhaul, but more work needs to be done to ensure that the new funding is used effectively. We support the new Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Rep. Jason Smith’s (R‑MO) prioritization of oversight on issues like the agency’s tax return backlog and shoddy taxpayer support functions. For more information on what effective implementation of the IRS’s new funding looks like, check out the recording from our grantee the Tax Policy Center’s event, How Could $80 Billion Make the IRS More Effective?” 

We were also heartened to hear the president commit to stronger efforts to root out pandemic-related fraud, which led to billions of dollars in taxpayer resources being siphoned off by criminals. Our unemployment insurance system alone suffered nearly $200 billion in fraud, by some estimates. We are expanding our support of research on these topics to help strengthen our vital safety net programs against such abuse. 

Surprise Medical Billing

What Biden Said:

We’re already preventing Americans from receiving surprise medical bills, stopping $1 billion surprise bills per month so far.”

Our Takeaway: 

The No Surprises Act (NSA) protects patients from receiving expensive surprise medical bills and lowers health care costs. AV is proud of the law and of the hard work of partners and advocates who made it happen. 

Prior to the passage of the NSA, millions of Americans received expensive surprise bills — typically resulting from an out-of-network provider that the patient was not able to choose — which could not only financially devastate individual patients and families, but also resulted in higher premiums for everyone. The NSA is an important step in protecting patients and lowering their health care costs. 

Read More: We’ve Come So Far’: The No Surprises Act is a Law Worth Defending

Medicare Drug Price Negotiations 

What Biden Said: 

[W]e’re finally — finally giving Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices. Bringing down prescription drug costs doesn’t just save seniors money. It cuts the federal deficit by billions of dollars, by hundreds of billions of dollars, because these prescription drugs are drugs purchased by Medicare to keep their commitment to seniors. Well, guess what? Instead of paying $400 or $500 a month, you’re paying $15. That’s a lot of savings for the federal government.” 

Our Takeaway: 

The Biden Administration led with evidence and committed to lowering drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. The law enacted historic reforms to lower prescription drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate the prices of some of its most expensive medications. Other industrialized countries have some form of price negotiations, and as a result, pay less than half what Americans pay for the same medicines. AV is committed to lasting change and building on this historic progress. 

Read More: How Medicare Drug Price Negotiations Finally Became Law

Listen: Big Reasons Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Actually Happened This Time Around — What Changed?