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Biden’s SOTU Was Deeply Pro-Consumer. Here’s Why.

Emily Berg


In his third State of the Union (SOTU)  address (March 7, 2024), President Biden talked passionately about many key issues affecting the American public: reproductive freedom, the war in Ukraine, internal threats against democracy, the mental health crisis, infrastructure and agriculture policies, Big Pharma, affordable education, tax codes, paid parental leave, social security, voting rights, gun reform, the Middle East conflict, and China – just to name a few. As is tradition, he touched on how his administration has tackled each issue, highlighting his achievements, milestones, and plans for the future.

In addition to the very newsy and controversial topics listed above, one notable theme that Biden kept returning to throughout his speech was the plight of the average consumer, and how everyday Americans are routinely and systematically taken advantage of by corporations who disregard the law and cause harm to millions of people. But he didn’t venture into populist attacks on corporate America; rather, he demonstrated deep compassion and empathy for the people who are often victims of corporate carelessness and greed.

At the top of his speech, Biden stated: “Wall Street didn’t build America,” but then went on to clarify: “they’re not the bad guys; they didn’t build it, though. The middle class built this country, and unions built the middle class.” He continued with: “I understand corporations. I’m not anti-corporation… but I grew up in a home where trickle-down economics didn’t put much on my dad’s kitchen table. That’s why I’m determined to turn things around so the middle class does well.” 

This set the tone for a speech that focused on policies that would improve the lives of everyday Americans, recognizing the government’s role in passing – and enforcing – legislation that protects people from negligent or harmful illegal acts by corporations. 

Calling Out Junk Fees & “Shrink-Flation”

It’s no secret that the Biden administration is laser focused on confronting the junk fee dilemma, which disproportionately affects low-income individuals who do not have the ability to absorb the hidden and unexpected charges. “Look,” he said to his viewers, “too many corporations raise prices to pad their profits, charging more and more for less and less. I’m also getting rid of junk fees – those hidden fees – at the end of your bill that are there without your knowledge. My administration has proposed rules to make cable, travel, utilities, and online ticket sellers tell you the total price up front, so there are no surprises. It matters. It matters.”

Speaking directly to the everyday consumer, Biden then continued to share his plans on eliminating junk fees, calling out corporations that are engaged in price gouging and deceptive pricing, taking a direct shot at snack companies, saying: “they think you won’t notice if they change the size of the bag and put a hell of a lot fewer chips in it. No I’m not joking. It’s called ‘shrink-flation.’ You probably all saw that commercial on Snickers bars. You get charged the same amount, and you get about 10% fewer Snickers in it.”

To some, snacks may sound like an inconsequential issue to focus on in a SOTU address, especially compared to many of the seemingly more serious matters covered by POTUS; however, these are real issues that real people deal with every single day. As we know all too well, junk fees and false advertising are often the types of litigation portrayed by corporate America as frivolous, petty, or excessive, like the well-known Subway class action lawsuit of 2016 which claimed the company’s “footlong” sandwiches were only 11 inches. 

But, as President Biden called out in his speech, these cases matter. In fact, they matter greatly. The practice of lying to consumers is unjust and it costs the American public $20 billion each year. For consumers who live paycheck-to-paycheck, those few hundred dollars can be the difference between giving their kid a birthday party that year or not; between buying groceries that week or not; between paying their rent on time or not; between filling up their car with gas or not.

Standing Up to Big Landlords for Price Fixing

Next up, Biden mentioned antitrust laws, referencing a specifically egregious violation: landlords who engage in price-fixing practices which unfairly increases rent for millions of Americans. He was likely referencing landmark cases such as those recently filed against Yardi Systems Co. and rental tech firm RealPage. “For millions of renters,” said Biden, “we’re cracking down on big landlords who break antitrust laws by price-fixing and driving up rents.”

This is a critical issue affecting millions of Americans with far-reaching consequences that disproportionately harm renters, contributing to the ongoing affordable housing crisis. 

Price-fixing occurs when landlords collude to manipulate rental prices, eliminating competition and artificially inflating the cost of housing. The ramifications of such actions are dire, particularly for those already struggling to make ends meet. President Biden’s commitment to cracking down on these practices reflects a recognition of the urgent need to address the widening gap between income and housing affordability.

One of the most direct and immediate impacts of big landlord price fixing is the skyrocketing cost of rent. For renters, this translates to an ever-increasing financial burden that strains budgets and limits their ability to save or invest in other essential areas of life, exacerbating an already challenging situation for vulnerable populations. Low-income individuals and marginalized communities, often hit the hardest by these practices, face heightened barriers to upward mobility. The promise of a better future becomes elusive when the majority of income is swallowed by exorbitant rents, perpetuating cycles of poverty and limiting access to opportunities. 

Biden’s seeming commitment to enforcing antitrust laws signifies a crucial step towards dismantling the structures that enable landlords to exploit their tenants. By holding these entities accountable, the government aims to restore fairness and competition to the housing market. The initiative is not only about holding wrongdoers accountable, but about fostering an environment where housing is a basic human right, not a privilege reserved for the wealthy. 

Environmental Justice for Fenceline Communities

Another key issue Biden drew attention to during his SOTU address last week is the horrible and dangerous reality faced by America’s many vulnerable fence line communities – those immediately adjacent to a company, military base, industrial or service center and therefore affected by their noise, odor, chemical emissions, traffic, parking or other operations. 

More specifically, he referenced “taking action on environmental justice for fence line communities smothered by the legacy of pollution.”

Biden’s recognition underscores the urgent need to rectify the long-standing disparities faced by people disproportionately affected by environmental degradation. More than any other group, these areas bear the brunt of industrial pollution, hazardous waste, and toxic emissions, perpetuating a cycle of health disparities and economic challenges. Biden’s pledge to take action on environmental justice (although he notably did not get into specifics) is a crucial step toward rectifying the historical and systemic neglect of these communities. 

The legacy of pollution in fence line communities is not just an environmental issue; it is a matter of public health and social equity. Residents in these areas are subjected to elevated levels of air and water pollution, leading to severe health consequences such as respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and higher cancer rates. Furthermore, the economic fallout from environmental degradation disproportionately affects low-income communities, limiting their ability to thrive and achieve upward mobility.

“It matters. It matters.” But what can we do about it?

This stuff is the business of plaintiff’s attorneys – lawyers who represent the public’s interest and fight against corporate greed and wrongdoing to secure justice for the people. Plaintiff’s lawyers are the ones ultimately tasked with transforming Biden’s policies and legislation into actionable, meaningful litigation that holds corporations accountable and delivers justice to those who have been harmed. 

But it’s not always that easy. In fact, it isn’t even humanly possible to detect every single legal violation. Most of the time, people aren’t even aware they have been harmed by illegal practices like price-fixing, junk fees, or environmental violations. And as more and more violations occur in the digital realm, it’s that much harder for attorneys to keep up. 

Detecting these violations is a complex and highly specialized task that requires both an in-depth knowledge of the law, as well as deep technological comprehension. Due to the constant evolution of the technologies used, even very experienced professionals may find it challenging to stay on top of new developments in the field.

That’s where Justice Intelligence comes in. As we move increasingly more online (commerce, work, communications, telehealth, etc), these types of legal violations become exponentially harder for attorneys to detect. In today’s world, where AI is integrated into nearly every industry, the justice system needs to keep pace with technological advancements or it will fail to protect our rights.