OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
- February 2, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 2, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 29, 2014
Source: WH, 1-29-14
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Maryland! (Applause.) It’s good to see you. I love getting outside the Beltway, even if it is just a few hundred feet away. (Laughter.)
Well, first of all, give Teressa a great big round of applause for the great job she did. (Applause.) It is good to be here with all of you. I want to acknowledge a champion for working families right here in Maryland — Governor Martin O’Malley. (Applause.) Some folks who go to bat for working people every single day: Senator Ben Cardin is here. (Applause.) Congresswoman Donna Edwards is here. (Applause.) And all of you are here. (Applause.)
Teressa’s story proves that treating workers well is not just the right thing to do — it is an investment. And Teressa’s 27 years of hard work at Costco proves that investment pays off.
I talked a little bit about this last night in my State of the Union address. Now, I only finished 12 hours ago, so these remarks will be quicker. (Laughter.) And I needed some time to pick up a snow shovel and one of those 50-pound bags of dog food for Bo and Sunny. (Applause.) I was told I’d get a big-screen TV, too, for the Super Bowl coming up — 80-inch. (Laughter.) So 60 is not enough? Got to go 80. (Laughter.)
It is funny, though — I was looking — you can buy a sofa, chocolate chip cookies and a snorkel set all in the same — (laughter and applause.) The sofa didn’t surprise me, but the snorkel set — (laughter) — that was impressive. Although I do want to ask, who’s snorkeling right now? (Laughter.) How many of those are you guys selling? You never know. (Laughter.)
But what I talked about last night was a simple but profound idea — and it’s an idea that’s at the heart of who we are as Americans: Opportunity for everybody. Giving everybody a fair chance. If they’re willing to work hard, take responsibility, give them a shot. The idea that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is, if you work hard, you live up to your responsibilities, you can succeed; you can support a family. (Applause.) That’s what America should be about. Nobody is looking for a free lunch, but give people a chance. If they’re working hard, make sure they can support a family.
Now, we’re at a moment where businesses all across the country, businesses like Costco have created 8 million new jobs over the last four years. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in more than five years. Our deficits have been cut in half. Housing is rebounding. Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the ‘90s. We sell more of what we make here in America to other places than ever before. Business leaders are deciding that China’s not the best place to invest and create jobs — America is.
So this could be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of hard work, overcoming the worst recession in our lifetimes, we’re better-positioned for this young century than anybody else. But the question for folks in Washington is whether they’re going to help that progress or hinder that progress; whether they’re going to waste time creating new crises for people and new uncertainty — like the shutdown — or are we going to spend time creating new jobs and new opportunities.
And I know what I’m choosing to do because it’s what you do — I’m choosing this to be a year of action. (Applause.) Because too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by, much less get ahead. The scars of the recession are real. The middle class has been taking it on the chin since before the recession. The economy has been growing for four years now, and corporate profits, stock prices have all soared. But the wages and incomes of ordinary people haven’t gone up in over a decade.
So that’s why last night, I laid out some steps that we can take, concrete, common-sense proposals to speed up economic growth, strengthen the middle class, build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.
And this opportunity agenda has four parts. Number one, we need more new jobs. Number two, we need to train more Americans with the skills that they need to fill those jobs. Number three, we should guarantee every child access to a world-class education. (Applause.) And number four, let’s make sure hard work pays off. (Applause.)
Now, some of my ideas I’ll need Congress. But America can’t just stand still if Congress isn’t doing anything. I’m not going to stand still either. Wherever I can take steps to expand opportunity for more families, I’m going to do it — with or without Congress. (Applause.) Because the defining project of our time, of our generation, is to restore opportunity for everybody.
And so I’m here at Costco today to talk about the fourth part of the opportunity agenda, and that is making hard work pay off for every single American.
Five years ago I signed my first bill into law. I didn’t have any gray hair. (Laughter.) You think it’s distinguished? Okay. (Laughter.) That’s the guy with the gray beard saying — (Laughter). So this first bill that I signed was called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.) Lilly was at my speech last night. And it’s a law to help protect a woman’s right to fair pay. But at a time when women make up about half of the workforce, but still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns -– we’ve got to finish the job and give women the tools they need to fight for equal pay. Women deserve equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) They deserve — if they’re having a baby, they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their job. A mom deserves a day off to care for a sick child or a sick parent -– and a father does, too.
As I said last night, we got to get rid of some of these workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode, belong back in the ‘50s. We’ve got to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because when women succeed, America succeeds. (Applause.)
Now, women happen to hold a majority of lower-wage jobs in America. But they’re not the only ones who are stifled when wages aren’t going up. As Americans, we understand some people are going to earn more than other people, and we don’t resent those who because they work hard, because they come up with a new idea, they achieve incredible success. We want our kids to be successful.
And it’s funny — Michelle and I sometimes talk — Michelle’s dad was a blue-collar worker; her mom was a secretary. I was raised by a single mom. We didn’t go around when we were growing up being jealous about folks who had made a lot of money — as long as if we were working hard, we could have enough.
So Americans overwhelmingly agree nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. (Applause.) And that is why I firmly believe it’s time to give America a raise. (Applause.)
A hundred years ago, Henry Ford started Ford Motor Company. Model T — you remember all that? Henry Ford realized he could sell more cars if his workers made enough money to buy the cars. He had started this — factories and mass production and all that, but then he realized, if my workers aren’t getting paid, they won’t be able to buy the cars. And then I can’t make a profit and reinvest to hire more workers. But if I pay my workers a good wage, they can buy my product, I make more cars. Ultimately, I’ll make more money, they’ve got more money in their pockets — so it’s a win-win for everybody.
And leaders today, business leaders today, some of them understand this same concept. Costco’s CEO, Craig Jelinek, he understands this. He feels the same way. He knows that Costco is going to do better, all our businesses do better when customers have more money to spend. And listen, Craig is a wonderful guy, but he’s not in this for philanthropy. He’s a businessman. He’s looking at the bottom line. But he sees that if he’s doing right by Costco’s workers, then they can buy that 80-inch TV, too. (Laughter and applause.) Right?
Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as a smart way to boost productivity and to reduce turnover. So entry-level employees here -– stock associates, cashiers –- start out at $11.50 an hour. (Applause.) Start at $11.50.
AUIDENCE MEMBER: Mr. President, we love you!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
The average hourly wage is more than $20, not including overtime or benefits. And Costco’s commitment to fairness doesn’t stop at the checkout counter; it extends down the supply chain, including to many of the farmworkers who grow the product — the produce that you sell. (Applause.)
Now, what this means is that that Costco has some of the lowest employee turnover in your industry. So you’re not constantly retraining folks because they quit. You got people like Teressa who has been here 27 years — because it’s a company that’s looking out for workers.
And I got to tell you, when I walk around, just — I had a little tour of the produce section, the bakery — you could just tell people feel good about their job and they feel good about the company, and you have a good atmosphere, and the managers and people all take pride in what you do.
Now, folks who work at Costco understand that, but there are a lot of Americans who don’t work somewhere like Costco, and they’re working for wages that don’t go as far as they once did. Today, the minimum wage — the federal minimum wage doesn’t even go as far as it did back in the 1950s. And as the cost of living goes up, the value of the minimum wage goes down over time. Just last year alone, workers earning the minimum wage basically got the equivalent of a $200 pay cut because the minimum wage stayed the same but costs of everything else are going up.
I don’t need to tell you this. You go shopping. (Laughter.) So you’re like, mm-hmm. (Laughter.) For a typical minimum-wage worker, that’s a month’s worth of groceries. It’s two months of electricity. It’s a big deal to a lot of families.
So I brought a guy here today who knows a little bit about this — Tom Perez is America’s Secretary of Labor — (applause) — works for working families every day. I stole him from Governor O’Malley. (Laughter.) He came here from Maryland. But when he was Governor O’Malley’s labor secretary here in Maryland, he helped implement the country’s first statewide living wage law. And that helped a lot of Maryland families. But there are more families in Maryland and across the country who put in long days, they’ve got hard jobs — they deserve higher wages.
In the year since I first asked Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs. Governor O’Malley is trying to do it here in Maryland, and lift the minimum wage to $10.10. He says, “We all do better when we’re all doing better.” He’s right. Prince George’s County, Montgomery County are banding together with D.C. to raise the regional minimum wage. And I’m here to support your efforts. (Applause.) I’m here to support your efforts. And as I said last night, to every governor, mayor, state legislator out there, if you want to take the initiative to raise your minimum wage laws to help more hardworking Americans make ends meet, then I’m going to be right there at your side.
While Congress decides whether it’s going to raise the minimum wage or not, people outside Washington are not waiting for Congress. And I’m not, either. So as a chief executive, I’m going to lead by example. In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees on new contracts a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour. (Applause.) Because if you cook our troops’ meals and wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.
So there’s some steps businesses are taking on their own. There are steps that certain states and counties and cities are taking on their own. There are steps I’m going to take as President. But ultimately, Congress does have to do its part to catch up to the rest of the country on this.
And there’s a reason why a wide majority of Americans support increasing the minimum wage. Look, most Americans who are working make more than the minimum wage. So it’s interesting that the overwhelming number of Americans support raising the minimum wage. It’s not that it’s going to necessarily affect them personally right now; it’s that they know, they understand the value behind the minimum wage. If you work hard, you should be able to pay your rent, buy your groceries, look after your kids. (Applause.) If you put in a hard day’s work, you deserve decent pay for it. That’s a principle everybody understands, everybody believes.
So right now in Congress, there’s a bill that would lift the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — 10.10 — 10.10, it’s easy. It will give more businesses more customers with more money to spend. I guarantee you, if workers have a little more money in their pocket, they’ll spend more at Costco. (Applause.) And if Costco is seeing more customers, they’ll hire some more folk. Everybody does better.
And the thing about it is raising the minimum wage doesn’t require new spending by the federal government. It doesn’t require a big bureaucratic program. It would help a lot of Americans make ends meet.
So I need everybody here and everybody who’s going to be watching, tell Congress to make this happen. Give America a raise. Making work pay means doing more to help Americans all across this country, but it also means improving the economy — because one of the things that’s been holding our economy back is wages and incomes being flat, which means consumers aren’t spending as much, which means businesses don’t have as many customers, which means they don’t hire as much and they don’t invest as much, and we don’t get that liftoff on the economy that we could.
If we want to make work pay, we also have to help Americans save for retirement — and I’m going to be flying up to Pittsburgh this afternoon to talk about that. (Applause.) Making work pay means access to health care that’s there when you get sick. And the Affordable Care Act means nobody can ever be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma or cancer. (Applause.) You can’t be charged more if you’re a woman. You can’t be charged just because your job makes your back hurt sometimes. Those days are over. (Laughter.)
More Americans are signing up for new private health insurance plans every day. Already 3 million people have signed up. So if you know somebody who isn’t covered, who doesn’t have health insurance, call them up, sit them down, help them get covered at healthcare.gov by March 31st.
So this is the opportunity agenda that I’m going to be talking about this year. I don’t know — I hope Congress will be talking about it, too. But I’m not going to wait. Because we’ve got to restore some economic security in a 21st century economy, and that means jobs that are more plentiful, skills that are more employable, savings that are more portable, health care that’s yours and can’t be canceled if you get sick.
I just focused on one piece of that opportunity agenda today — raising the minimum wage. But these are real, practical, achievable solutions that can help shift the odds back in favor of working and middle-class Americans who haven’t been seeing some of the benefits of growth that we’ve seen over the last four years.
And before I grab a 10-pound barrel of pretzels and — (laughter) — 500 golf balls — (laughter) — let me just leave you with something I heard from Costco’s founder, Jim Sinegal, who’s been a great friend of mine and somebody who I greatly admire. And Jim is rightly proud of everything he’s accomplished. “But,” he said, “here’s the thing about the Costco story. We did not build our company in a vacuum. We built it in the greatest country on Earth. We built our company in a place where anyone can make it with hard work, a little luck, and a little help from their neighbors and their country.”
That’s what Jim said — a place where anyone can make it. That’s who we are. That’s our story. If we pull together, work together, put our shoulder to the wheel, keep moving forward, that’s going to be our future as well, and the future for our kids and grandkids.
Thanks so much, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
10:34 A.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 29, 2014
Source: NYT, 1-28-14
REPRESENTATIVE CATHY McMORRIS RODGERS (R-Wash.):
What an honor it is for me to be with you after the president’s State of the Union.
Tonight we honor America, a nation that has witnessed the greatest rise of freedom and opportunity our world has ever seen, a nation where we are not defined by our limits but by our potential, and a nation where a girl who worked at the McDonald’s drive-through to help pay for college can be with you from the United States Capitol.
But the most important moments right now aren’t happening here. They’re not in the Oval Office or in the House Chamber. They’re in your homes, kissing your kids good night, figuring out how to pay the bills, getting ready for tomorrow’s doctor’s visit, waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan or searching for that big job interview. After all, we the people have been the foundation of America since her earliest days, people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world, people who come to America because here no challenge is too great and no dream too big. That’s the genius of America.
Tonight the president made more promises that sound good but won’t actually solve the problems facing Americans. We want you to have a better life. The president wants that too. But we part ways when it comes to how to make that happen. So tonight I’d like to share a more hopeful Republican vision, one that empowers you, not the government. It’s one that champions free markets and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you. It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable, and it’s one where Washington plays by the same rule that you do. It’s a vision that is fair and offers the promise of a better future for every American.
If you would have told me as a little girl that I would one day put my hand on the Bible and be sworn in as the 200th woman to serve in the House of Representatives, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. I grew up working on my family’s orchard and fruit stand in Kettle Falls, a small town in eastern Washington, getting up before dawn with my brother to pick apples.
My dad drove a school bus and my mom worked as a part-time bookkeeper. They taught me to work hard, help others, and always, always dream for more.
So, when I showed my 4H animals at the county fair, my parents used to say to me, “Cathy, you need to save this money so you can go to college one day!” And so I did — I saved, I worked hard, and I became the first in my family to graduate from college.
The chance to go from my Washington to this one was unexpected. I came to Congress to help empower people, not politicians; to grow the working middle class, not the government; and to ensure that everyone in this country can find a job. Because a job is so much more than a paycheck: It gives us purpose, dignity and the foundation to build a future.
I was single when I was elected — but it wasn’t long before I met Brian, a retired Navy commander, and now we have three beautiful children, one who was born just eight weeks ago.
Like all parents, we have high hopes and dreams for our children. But we also know what it’s like to face challenges. Three days after our son was born, Cole, we got news no parent expects. Cole was diagnosed with Down syndrome. The doctors told us he could have endless complications, heart defects, even early Alzheimer’s. They told us all the problems.
But when we looked at our son, we saw only possibilities. We saw a gift from God. And today we see a 6-year-old boy who dances to Bruce Springsteen; who reads above grade level; and who is the best big brother in the world.
We see all the things he can do, not those he can’t.
And Cole, and his sisters, Grace and Brynn, have only made me more determined to see the potential in every human life, that whether we’re born with an extra 21st chromosome or without a dollar to our name, we are not defined by our limits, but by our potential, because our mission, not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become. That is the gap Republicans are working to close. It’s the gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be.
The President talks a lot about income inequality, but the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality. And with this Administration’s policies, that gap has become far too wide. We see this gap growing every single day. We see it in our neighbors who are struggling to find jobs, a husband who’s now working just part-time, a child who drops out of college because she can’t afford tuition, or parents who are outliving their life’s savings.
Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one. Too many people are falling further and further behind, because right now, the President’s policies are making people’s lives harder. Republicans have plans to close the gap, plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape. Every day, we’re working to expand our economy, one manufacturing job, nursing degree and small business at a time.
We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school, so college is affordable and skill training is modernized.
And yes, it’s time to honor our history of legal immigration. We’re working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest and hardest working from around the world.
And with too many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, we have solutions to help you take home more of your pay, through lower taxes, cheaper energy costs and affordable health care.
Not long ago I got a letter from Bette in Spokane, who had hoped the president’s health care law would save her money but found out instead that her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month. We’ve all talked to too many people who received cancellations notices they didn’t expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have. No, we shouldn’t go back to the things — the way things were, but this law is not working. Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s, and that whether you’re a boy with Downs syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you.
So we hope the President will join us in a year of real action by empowering people, not by making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes and fewer jobs. As Republicans, we advance these plans every day because we believe in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started. That is what we stand for. It’s for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional.
If we’re successful, years from now our children will say that we rebuilt the American dream. We built a working middle class that could take in anyone, and a work force that could take on the world. Whether you’re a girl in Kettle Falls or a boy from Brooklyn, our children should be able to say that we closed the gap. Our plan is one that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one.
The president said many things tonight. But now I ask him to listen to you, for the true state of the union lies in your heart and in your home.
Tomorrow I’ll watch my son Cole get on the school bus. Others will wait in the doctor’s office, or interview for that first job. Some of us will celebrate new beginnings. Others will face great challenges. But all of us will wake up and do what is uniquely American. We will look forward to the boundless potential that lies ahead. We will give thanks to the brave men and women who have answered America’s call to freedom, like Sergeant Jacob Hess from Spokane, who recently gave his life to protect all of ours. So tonight I simply offer a prayer, a prayer for Sergeant Hess’s family, your family and for our larger American family, that with the guidance of God, we may prove — proves ourselves worthy of His blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For when we embrace these gifts, we are each doing our part to form a more perfect union.
May God guide you and our president, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 28, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 28, 2014
Source: USA Today, 1-28-14
Charles Dharapak/Associated Press – President Barack Obama takes the podium to give his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio are behind the president.
President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address, as prepared for delivery.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:
Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.
An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did her part to add to the more than eight million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.
An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world, and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil.
A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history. A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades, and give thanks for being home from a war that, after twelve long years, is finally coming to an end.
Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.
Here are the results of your efforts: The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. Our deficits – cut by more than half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.
That’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.
The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress. For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It’s an important debate – one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy – when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States – then we are not doing right by the American people.
As President, I’m committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. I believe most of you are, too. Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, this Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year’s severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country’s future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way. But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.
In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.
Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.
Our job is to reverse these trends. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.
As usual, our First Lady sets a good example. Michelle’s Let’s Move partnership with schools, businesses, and local leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in thirty years – an achievement that will improve lives and reduce health care costs for decades to come. The Joining Forces alliance that Michelle and Jill Biden launched has already encouraged employers to hire or train nearly 400,000 veterans and military spouses. Taking a page from that playbook, the White House just organized a College Opportunity Summit where already, 150 universities, businesses, and nonprofits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education – and help every hardworking kid go to college and succeed when they get to campus. Across the country, we’re partnering with mayors, governors, and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality.
The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments, and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That’s what drew our forebears here. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House; how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth.
Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.
We know where to start: the best measure of opportunity is access to a good job. With the economy picking up speed, companies say they intend to hire more people this year. And over half of big manufacturers say they’re thinking of insourcing jobs from abroad.
So let’s make that decision easier for more companies. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home.
Moreover, we can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. But I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.
We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. My administration has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh and Youngstown, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies. Tonight, I’m announcing we’ll launch six more this year. Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create. So get those bills to my desk and put more Americans back to work.
Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other. And when ninety-eight percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped “Made in the USA.” China and Europe aren’t standing on the sidelines. Neither should we.
We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel. And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.
Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.
One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.
It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.
And even as we’ve increased energy production, we’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.
Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.
Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.
The ideas I’ve outlined so far can speed up growth and create more jobs. But in this rapidly-changing economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.
The good news is, we know how to do it. Two years ago, as the auto industry came roaring back, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make them. She just needed the workforce. So she dialed up what we call an American Job Center – places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or better job. She was flooded with new workers. And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees.
What Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for every employer – and every job seeker. So tonight, I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now. That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life. It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs. And if Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.
I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.
Let me tell you why.
Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She’d been steadily employed since she was a teenager. She put herself through college. She’d never collected unemployment benefits. In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home. A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved. Last month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and wrote me a letter – the kind I get every day. “We are the face of the unemployment crisis,” she wrote. “I am not dependent on the government…Our country depends on people like us who build careers, contribute to society…care about our neighbors…I am confident that in time I will find a job…I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love. Please give us this chance.”
Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance. They need our help, but more important, this country needs them in the game. That’s why I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job and new chance to support their families; this week, many will come to the White House to make that commitment real. Tonight, I ask every business leader in America to join us and to do the same – because we are stronger when America fields a full team.
Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.
Estiven Rodriguez couldn’t speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age nine. But last month, thanks to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his classmates – through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors – from their high school to the post office, where they mailed off their college applications. And this son of a factory worker just found out he’s going to college this fall.
Five years ago, we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy – problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math. Some of this change is hard. It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it’s worth it – and it’s working.
The problem is we’re still not reaching enough kids, and we’re not reaching them in time. That has to change.
Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old. As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, thirty states have raised pre-k funding on their own. They know we can’t wait. So just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year, we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children. And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K they need.
Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.
We’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career. We’re shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information, and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education. We’re offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to ten percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt. And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.
The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us. But we know our opportunity agenda won’t be complete – and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise – unless we do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.
Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.
Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs – but they’re not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.
In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs. Many businesses have done it on their own. Nick Chute is here tonight with his boss, John Soranno. John’s an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the dough. Only now he makes more of it: John just gave his employees a raise, to ten bucks an hour – a decision that eased their financial stress and boosted their morale.
Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead and do what you can to raise your employees’ wages. To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on. And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.
Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.
There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, and few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families pull themselves up through hard work than the Earned Income Tax Credit. Right now, it helps about half of all parents at some point. But I agree with Republicans like Senator Rubio that it doesn’t do enough for single workers who don’t have kids. So let’s work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, and help more Americans get ahead.
Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most workers don’t have a pension. A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401ks. That’s why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little to nothing for middle-class Americans. Offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everyone in this chamber can. And since the most important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations of Americans.
One last point on financial security. For decades, few things exposed hard-working families to economic hardship more than a broken health care system. And in case you haven’t heard, we’re in the process of fixing that.
A pre-existing condition used to mean that someone like Amanda Shelley, a physician assistant and single mom from Arizona, couldn’t get health insurance. But on January 1st, she got covered. On January 3rd, she felt a sharp pain. On January 6th, she had emergency surgery. Just one week earlier, Amanda said, that surgery would’ve meant bankruptcy.
That’s what health insurance reform is all about – the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything.
Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans.
More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.
And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.
Now, I don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people aren’t interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice – tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. But let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans like Amanda. The first forty were plenty. We got it. We all owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against.
And if you want to know the real impact this law is having, just talk to Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who’s here tonight. Kentucky’s not the most liberal part of the country, but he’s like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth’s families. “They are our friends and neighbors,” he said. “They are people we shop and go to church with…farmers out on the tractors…grocery clerks…they are people who go to work every morning praying they don’t get sick. No one deserves to live that way.”
Steve’s right. That’s why, tonight, I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31st. Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind – plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.
After all, that’s the spirit that has always moved this nation forward. It’s the spirit of citizenship – the recognition that through hard work and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation can pursue its dreams as well.
Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote. Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened. But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it; and the bipartisan commission I appointed last year has offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote. Let’s support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.
Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.
Citizenship demands a sense of common cause; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve to our communities. And I know this chamber agrees that few Americans give more to their country than our diplomats and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops and civilians who risk and lay down their lives to keep us free, the United States is more secure. When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over.
After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future. If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces, and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda. For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country.
The fact is, that danger remains. While we have put al Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved, as al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks. In Syria, we’ll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks. Here at home, we’ll keep strengthening our defenses, and combat new threats like cyberattacks. And as we reform our defense budget, we have to keep faith with our men and women in uniform, and invest in the capabilities they need to succeed in future missions.
We have to remain vigilant. But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our military alone. As Commander-in-Chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office. But I will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it’s truly necessary; nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us – large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.
So, even as we aggressively pursue terrorist networks – through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners – America must move off a permanent war footing. That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones – for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence. That’s why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs – because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated. And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay – because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.
You see, in a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power – including strong and principled diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than fifty countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles. American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve – a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear. As we speak, American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel – a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side.
And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of that program back – for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium. It is not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb. And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
These negotiations will be difficult. They may not succeed. We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and the mistrust between our nations cannot be wished away. But these negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.
The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed. If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance, then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.
Finally, let’s remember that our leadership is defined not just by our defense against threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do good and promote understanding around the globe – to forge greater cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want. And no one is better positioned to take advantage of those opportunities than America.
Our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known. From Tunisia to Burma, we’re supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy. In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and have a say in their country’s future. Across Africa, we’re bringing together businesses and governments to double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty. In the Americas, we are building new ties of commerce, but we’re also expanding cultural and educational exchanges among young people. And we will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies, shape a future of greater security and prosperity, and extend a hand to those devastated by disaster – as we did in the Philippines, when our Marines and civilians rushed to aid those battered by a typhoon, and were greeted with words like, “We will never forget your kindness” and “God bless America!”
We do these things because they help promote our long-term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment – when Team USA marches the red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium – and brings home the gold.
My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might – but because of the ideals we stand for, and the burdens we bear to advance them.
No one knows this better than those who serve in uniform. As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life. We’ll keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned, and our wounded warriors receive the health care – including the mental health care – that they need. We’ll keep working to help all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs here at home. And we all continue to join forces to honor and support our remarkable military families.
Let me tell you about one of those families I’ve come to know.
I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he walked me through the program – a strong, impressive young man, with an easy manner, sharp as a tack. We joked around, and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.
A few months later, on his tenth deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.
For months, he lay in a coma. The next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn’t speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, and hours of grueling rehab every day.
Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He still struggles on his left side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. Day by day, he’s learned to speak again and stand again and walk again – and he’s working toward the day when he can serve his country again.
“My recovery has not been easy,” he says. “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.”
Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.
My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen. The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach.
God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 28, 2014
Source: WH, USA Today, 1-28-14
A request to Congress
“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want — for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all — the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.”
A changing economy
“Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.”
“Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by — let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.
Obama’s economic plans — and executive actions
“Our job is to reverse these tides. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The theme of opportunity
“Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.”
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 28, 2014
Source: CBS News, 1-28-14
“The most important moments right now aren’t happening here. They’re not in the Oval Office or in the House Chamber. They’re in your homes. Kissing your kids goodnight. Figuring out how to pay the bills. Getting ready for tomorrow’s doctor’s visit. Waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan, or searching for that big job interview. After all, ‘We the People’ have been the foundation of America since her earliest days – people from all walks of life, and from all corners of the world – people who come to America because here, no challenge is too great and no dream too big.
“So tonight I’d like to share a more hopeful, Republican vision – one that empowers you, not the government. It’s one that champions free markets – and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you. It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable. And it’s one where Washington plays by the same rules that you do. It’s a vision that is fair and offers the promise of a better future for every American.”
“Because our mission – not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become. That is the gap Republicans are working to close. It’s the gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be.”
“Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one. Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the President’s policies are making people’s lives harder. Republicans have plans to close the gap…Plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape…Every day, we’re working to expand our economy, one manufacturing job, nursing degree and small business at a time. We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school…to help you take home more of your paycheck…with lower taxes, cheaper energy costs, and affordable health care.
“We’ve all talked to too many people who have received cancellation notices they didn’t expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have. No, we shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but the President’s health care law is not working. Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s. And that whether you’re a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you.”
“As Republicans, we advance these plans every day because we believe in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started. That is what we stand for – for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional…Our plan is one that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one.”
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 28, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 26, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 25, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 24, 2014
Source: ABC News, 2-13-13
Sen. Marco Rubio is turning his unfortunate mid-speech water swigging from Tuesday night’s State of the Union Republican response into a fundraising tactic.
Rubio’s PAC, Reclaim America, is now offering a “Marco Rubio Water Bottle” that people can obtain by donating $25 or more to his PAC online.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 13, 2013
“The argument I would make is Marco Rubio’s was a general election response and Rand Paul’s was a primary election response,” says John Brabender, a Republican strategist who served as a senior adviser for Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 13, 2013
Source: New Yorker, 2-13-13
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 13, 2013
Source: WaPo, 2-13-13
President Obama laid out a litany of policy proposals that he will pursue in the months and years ahead. And polls suggest most of his big proposals have broad public support….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 13, 2013
Source: Wall Street Journal, 2-13-13
President Barack Obama outlined an ambitious agenda in his State of the Union address Tuesday that included raising the minimum wage, increasing spending on infrastructure, attacking climate change and passing gun-control legislation….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 13, 2013
Source: USA TODAY, 2-13-13
Marco Rubio is being a good sport about awkwardly taking a sip of water during his response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, using some Wednesday morning TV appearances to poke fun at himself….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 13, 2013
Source: NYT, 2-13-13
President Obama during his State of the Union address on Tuesday. More Photos »
President Obama pledged to fight for a higher minimum wage, more government investment in schools and clean energy, and deficit reduction through spending cuts and tax increases….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 13, 2013
Source: ABC News Radio, 2-12-13
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. used the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday to challenge the president on how to best serve the middle class, arguing that the answer to alleviating the burdens on working class people is not through the president’s “obsession” with taxes and spending but by supporting a free enterprise system.
“Tax increases can’t do this. Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That’s why I hope the president will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy,” Rubio said from the Speaker of the House’s conference room in the U.S. Capitol….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 12, 2013
Source: ABC News Radio, 2-12-13
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Pursuing an aggressive and diverse early second-term agenda, President Obama turned his focus Tuesday night to the economy, using his State of the Union address to unveil new government initiatives aimed at creating jobs.
The defining duty of the new Congress and new administration is to “reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class,” Obama said Tuesday night from the House chamber.
“That must be the North Star that guides our efforts,” he said….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 12, 2013
Source: WaPo, 2-13-13
Here is a look at some of President Obama’s more fact-challenged claims….READ MORE
Source: San Jose Mercury News, 2-13-13
President Barack Obama did some cherry-picking Tuesday night in defense of his record on jobs and laid out a conditional path to citizenship for illegal immigrants that may be less onerous than he made it sound….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 12, 2013
Source: ABC News Radio, 2-12-13
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Sen. Rand Paul Tuesday night delivered the Tea Party response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Below is a transcript of his remarks as prepared for delivery.
I speak to you tonight from Washington, D.C. The state of our economy is tenuous but our people remain the greatest example of freedom and prosperity the world has ever known.
People say America is exceptional. I agree, but it’s not the complexion of our skin or the twists in our DNA that make us unique. America is exceptional because we were founded upon the notion that everyone should be free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.
For the first time in history, men and women were guaranteed a chance to succeed based NOT on who your parents were but on your own initiative and desire to work.
We are in danger, though, of forgetting what made us great. The President seems to think the country can continue to borrow $50,000 per second. The President believes that we should just squeeze more money out of those who are working.
The path we are on is not sustainable, but few in Congress or in this Administration seem to recognize that their actions are endangering the prosperity of this great nation.
Ronald Reagan said, government is not the answer to the problem, government is the problem.
Tonight, the President told the nation he disagrees. President Obama believes government is the solution: More government, more taxes, more debt.
What the President fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous.
What America needs is not Robin Hood but Adam Smith. In the year we won our independence, Adam Smith described what creates the Wealth of Nations.
He described a limited government that largely did not interfere with individuals and their pursuit of happiness.
All that we are, all that we wish to be is now threatened by the notion that you can have something for nothing, that you can have your cake and eat it too, that you can spend a trillion dollars every year that you don’t have.
I was elected to the Senate in 2010 by people worried about our country, worried about our kids and their future. I thought I knew how bad it was in Washington. But it is worse than I ever imagined.
Congress is debating the wrong things.
Every debate in Washington is about how much to increase spending – a little or a lot.
About how much to increase taxes – a little or a lot.
The President does a big “woe is me” over the $1.2 trillion sequester that he endorsed and signed into law. Some Republicans are joining him. Few people understand that the sequester doesn’t even cut any spending. It just slows the rate of growth. Even with the sequester, government will grow over $7 trillion over the next decade.
Only in Washington could an increase of $7 trillion in spending over a decade be called a cut.
So, what is the President’s answer? Over the past four years he has added over $6 trillion in new debt and may well do the same in a second term. What solutions does he offer? He takes entitlement reform off the table and seeks to squeeze more money out of the private sector.
He says he wants a balanced approach.
What the country really needs is a balanced budget.
Washington acts in a way that your family never could – they spend money they do not have, they borrow from future generations, and then they blame each other for never fixing the problem.
Tonight I urge you to demand a new course.
Demand Washington change their ways, or be sent home.
To begin with, we absolutely must pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution!
The amendment must include strict tax and spending limitations.
Liberals complain that the budget can’t be balanced but if you cut just one penny from each dollar we currently spend, the budget would balance within six or seven years.
The Penny Plan has been crafted into a bill that millions of conservatives across the country support.
It is often said that there is not enough bipartisanship up here.
That is not true.
In fact, there is plenty.
Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses.
It is time for a new bipartisan consensus.
It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.
Where would we cut spending; well, we could start with ending all foreign aid to countries that are burning our flag and chanting ‘Death to America.’
The President could begin by stopping the F-16s and Abrams tanks being given to the radical Islamic government of Egypt.
Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America’s credit rating.
Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess.
Bipartisanship is not what is missing in Washington. Common sense is.
Trillion-dollar deficits hurt us all.
Printing more money to feed the never-ending appetite for spending hurts us all.
We pay higher prices every time we go to the supermarket or the gas pump. The value of the dollar shrinks with each new day.
Contrary to what the President claims, big government and debt are not a friend to the poor and the elderly. Big-government debt keeps the poor poor and saps the savings of the elderly.
This massive expansion of the debt destroys savings and steals the value of your wages.
Big government makes it more expensive to put food on the table. Big government is not your friend. The President offers you free stuff but his policies keep you poor.
Under President Obama, the ranks of America’s poor swelled to almost 1 in 6 people last year, reaching a new high as long-term unemployment left millions of Americans struggling and out of work.
The cycle must be broken.
The willpower to do this will not come from Congress. It must come from the American people.
Next month, I will propose a five-year balanced budget, a budget that last year was endorsed by taxpayer groups across the country for its boldness, and for actually solving the problem.
I will work with anyone on either side of the aisle who wants to cut spending.
But in recent years, there has been no one to work with.
The President’s massive tax hikes and spending increases have caused his budgets to get ZERO votes in both houses of Congress. Not a single Democrat voted for the President’s budget!
But at least he tried.
Senate Democrats have not even produced a budget in the time I have been in office, a shameful display of incompetence that illustrates their lack of seriousness.
This year, they say they will have a budget, but after just recently imposing hundreds of billions in new taxes, they now say they will include more tax hikes in their budget.
We must stand firm. We must say NO to any MORE tax hikes!
Only through lower taxes, less regulation and more freedom will the economy begin to grow again.
Our party is the party of growth, jobs and prosperity, and we will boldly lead on these issues.
Under the Obama economy, 12 million people are out of work. During the President’s first term 800,000 construction workers lost their jobs and another 800,000 simply gave up on looking for work.
With my five-year budget, millions of jobs would be created by cutting the corporate income tax in half, by creating a flat personal income tax of 17%, and by cutting the regulations that are strangling American businesses.
The only stimulus ever proven to work is leaving more money in the hands of those who earned it!
For those who are struggling we want to you to have something infinitely more valuable than a free phone, we want you to have a job and pathway to success.
We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future.
We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities.
We must be the party that says, “If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.”
For those striving to climb the ladder of success we must fix our schools.
America’s educational system is leaving behind anyone who starts with disadvantages.
We have cut classroom size in half and tripled spending on education and still we lag behind much of the world.
A great education needs to be available for everyone, whether you live on country club lane or in government housing.
This will only happen when we allow school choice for everyone, rich or poor, white, brown, or black.
Let the taxes you pay for education follow each and every student to the school of your choice.
Competition has made America the richest nation in history. Competition can make our educational system the envy of the world.
The status quo traps poor children in a crumbling system of hopelessness.
When every child can, like the President’s kids, go to the school of their choice, then will the dreams of our children come true!
Washington could also use a good dose of transparency, which is why we should fight back against middle of the night deals that end with massive bills no one has read.
We must continue to fight for legislation that forces Congress to read the bills!
We must continue to object when Congress sticks special interest riders on bills in the dead of night!
And if Congress refuses to obey its own rules, if Congress refuses to pass a budget, if Congress refuses to read the bills, then I say:
Sweep the place clean. Limit their terms and send them home!
I have seen the inner sanctum of Congress and believe me there is no monopoly on knowledge there.
If they will not listen, if they will not balance the budget, then we should limit their terms.
We are the party that adheres to the Constitution. We will not let the liberals tread on the Second Amendment!
We will fight to defend the entire Bill of Rights from the right to trial by jury to the right to be free from unlawful searches.
We will stand up against excessive government power wherever we see it.
We cannot and will not allow any President to act as if he were a king.
We will not let any President use executive orders to impinge on the Second Amendment.
We will not tolerate secret lists of American citizens who can be killed without trial.
Montesquieu wrote that there can be no liberty when the executive branch and the legislative branch are combined. Separation of powers is a bedrock principle of our Constitution.
We took the President to court over his unconstitutional recess appointments and won.
If necessary, we will take him to court again if he attempts to legislate by executive order.
Congress must reassert its authority as the protector of these rights, and stand up for them, no matter which party is in power.
Congress must stand as a check to the power of the executive, and it must stand as it was intended, as the voice of the people.
The people are crying out for change. They are asking for us to hear their voices, to fix our broken system, to right our economy and to restore their liberty.
Let us tonight let them know that we hear their voices. That we can and must work together, that we can and must re-chart our course toward a better future.
America has much greatness left in her. We will begin to thrive again when we begin to believe in ourselves again, when we regain our respect for our founding documents, when we balance our budget, when we understand that capitalism and free markets and free individuals are what creates our nation’s prosperity.
Thank you and God Bless America.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 12, 2013
Source: ABC News, 2-12-13
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., rehearsed the Republican address to the Nation, Feb. 12, 2013. (U.S. Senate Photographic Studio)
The Official Republican State of the Union Response by Marco Rubio (as prepared for delivery)
Good evening. I’m Marco Rubio. I’m blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate. Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term. Tonight, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Union address on behalf of my fellow Republicans. And I am especially honored to be addressing our brave men and women serving in the armed forces and in diplomatic posts around the world. You may be thousands of miles away, but you are always in our prayers.
The State of the Union address is always a reminder of how unique America is. For much of human history, most people were trapped in stagnant societies, where a tiny minority always stayed on top, and no one else even had a chance.
But America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.
Like most Americans, for me this ideal is personal. My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children the chance at an even better one. They made it to the middle class, my dad working as a bartender and my mother as a cashier and a maid. I didn’t inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better – the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams.
This opportunity – to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life – it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs.
Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity.
But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems. That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.
This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.
And the idea that more taxes and more government spending is the best way to help hardworking middle class taxpayers – that’s an old idea that’s failed every time it’s been tried.
More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.
More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.
And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty. Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can’t afford to follow.
Because more government raises taxes on employers who then pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs.
And because many government programs that claim to help the middle class, often end up hurting them instead.
For example, Obamacare was supposed to help middle class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring. Not only that; they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.
Now does this mean there’s no role for government? Of course not. It plays a crucial part in keeping us safe, enforcing rules, and providing some security against the risks of modern life. But government’s role is wisely limited by the Constitution. And it can’t play its essential role when it ignores those limits.
There are valid reasons to be concerned about the President’s plan to grow our government. But any time anyone opposes the President’s agenda, he and his allies usually respond by falsely attacking their motives.
When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather – he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air.
When we suggest we strengthen our safety net programs by giving states more flexibility to manage them – he accuses us of wanting to leave the elderly and disabled to fend for themselves.
And tonight, he even criticized us for refusing to raise taxes to delay military cuts – cuts that were his idea in the first place. But his favorite attack of all is that those who don’t agree with him – they only care about rich people.
Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy. The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs.
And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security.
So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.
Hard-working middle class Americans who don’t need us to come up with a plan to grow the government. They want a plan to grow the middle class.
Economic growth is the best way to help the middle class. Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012.
But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion dollars over the next decade.
Tax increases can’t do this. Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That’s why I hope the President will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy.
One of the best ways to encourage growth is through our energy industry. Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called “clean energy” companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration. And let’s reform our energy regulations so that they’re reasonable and based on common sense. If we can grow our energy industry, it will make us energy independent, it will create middle class jobs and it will help bring manufacturing back from places like China.
Simplifying our tax code will also help the middle class, because it will make it easier for small businesses to hire and grow.
And we agree with the President that we should lower our corporate tax rate, which is one of the highest in the world, so that companies will start bringing their money and their jobs back here from overseas.
We can also help our economy grow if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world’s best and brightest. We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.
Helping the middle class grow will also require an education system that gives people the skills today’s jobs entail and the knowledge that tomorrow’s world will require.
We need to incentivize local school districts to offer more advanced placement courses and more vocational and career training. We need to give all parents, especially the parents of children with special needs, the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice.
And because tuition costs have grown so fast, we need to change the way we pay for higher education. I believe in federal financial aid. I couldn’t have gone to college without it. But it’s not just about spending more money on these programs; it’s also about strengthening and modernizing them.
A 21st century workforce should not be forced to accept 20th century education solutions. Today’s students aren’t only 18 year olds. They’re returning veterans. They’re single parents who decide to get the education they need to earn a decent wage. And they’re workers who have lost jobs that are never coming back and need to be retrained.
We need student aid that does not discriminate against programs that non-traditional students rely on – like online courses, or degree programs that give you credit for work experience.
When I finished school, I owed over 100,000 dollars in student loans, a debt I paid off just a few months ago. Today, many graduates face massive student debt. We must give students more information on the costs and benefits of the student loans they’re taking out. All these measures are key to helping the economy grow. But we won’t be able to sustain a vibrant middle class unless we solve our debt problem.
Every dollar our government borrows is money that isn’t being invested to create jobs. And the uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren’t hiring.
The President loves to blame the debt on President Bush. But President Obama created more debt in four years than his predecessor did in eight.
The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending 1 trillion dollars more than it takes in every year. That’s why we need a balanced budget amendment.
The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programs where spending is already locked in. One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now.
I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it.
Republicans have offered a detailed and credible plan that helps save Medicare without hurting today’s retirees. Instead of playing politics with Medicare, when is the President going to offer his plan to save it? Tonight would have been a good time for him to do it.
Of course, we face other challenges as well. We were all heart broken by the recent tragedy in Connecticut. We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country. But unconstitutionally undermining the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it.
On foreign policy, America continues to be indispensable to the goal of global liberty, prosperity and safeguarding human rights. The world is a better place when America is the strongest nation on earth. But we can’t remain powerful if we don’t have an economy that can afford it.
In the short time I’ve been here in Washington, nothing has frustrated me more than false choices like the ones the President laid out tonight.
The choice isn’t just between big government or big business. What we need is an accountable, efficient and effective government that allows small and new businesses to create middle class jobs.
We don’t have to raise taxes to avoid the President’s devastating cuts to our military. Republicans have passed a plan that replaces these cuts with responsible spending reforms.
In order to balance our budget, the choice doesn’t have to be either higher taxes or dramatic benefit cuts for those in need. Instead we should grow our economy so that we create new taxpayers, not new taxes, and so our government can afford to help those who truly cannot help themselves.
And the truth is every problem can’t be solved by government. Many are caused by the moral breakdown in our society. And the answers to those challenges lie primarily in our families and our faiths, not our politicians.
Despite our differences, I know that both Republicans and Democrats love America. I pray we can come together to solve our problems, because the choices before us could not be more important.
If we can get our economy healthy again, our children will be the most prosperous Americans ever.
And if we do not, we will forever be known as the generation responsible for America’s decline.
At a time when one showdown after another ends in short-term deals that do little or nothing about our real problems, some are starting to believe that our government leaders just can’t or won’t make the right choices anymore.
But our strength has never come from the White House or the Capitol. It’s always come from our people. A people united by the American idea that, if you have a dream and you are willing to work hard, nothing should be impossible.
Americans have always celebrated and been inspired by those who succeed. But it’s the dreams of those who are still trying to make it that sets our nation apart.
Tonight, all across this land, parents will hold their newborn children in their arms for the first time. For many of these parents, life has not gone the way they had planned.
Maybe they were born into circumstances they’ve found difficult to escape. Maybe they’ve made some mistakes along the way. Maybe they’re young mothers, all alone, the father of their child long gone.
But tonight, when they look into the eyes of their child for the first time, their lives will change forever. Because in those eyes, they will see what my parents saw in me, and what your parents saw in you. They will see all the hopes and dreams they once had for themselves. This dream – of a better life for their children – it’s the hope of parents everywhere. Politicians here and throughout the world have long promised that more government can make those dreams come true.
But we Americans have always known better. From our earliest days, we embraced economic liberty instead. And because we did, America remains one of the few places on earth where dreams like these even have a chance.
Each time our nation has faced great challenges, what has kept us together was our shared hope for a better life.
Now, let that hope bring us together again. To solve the challenges of our time and write the next chapter in the amazing story of the greatest nation man has ever known.
Thank you for listening. May God bless all of you. May God bless our President. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 12, 2013
Source: WH, 2-12-13
President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Tonight President Obama outlined his plan for a thriving middle class and a strong America.
“Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis,” he said, “and we can say with renewed confidence that the State of our Union is stronger.”
The President described a strategy that will make the United States a magnet for jobs and manufacturing, equip every American with the skills they need to do those jobs, and ensuring that hard work leads to a decent living — through investments manufacturing, clean energy, infrastructure, and education.
He asked Congress to send him legislation to reform immigration, combat climate change, increase the minimum wage, and reduce gun violence.
To make sure you get the most out of the State of the Union, we put together an enhanced broadcast with charts, infographics, and important statistics. Watch that here:
We’re also introducing new tool you can use to dig in to the President’s speech, line by line, and tell us what resonates with you and matters for your community. It’s called the Citizens Response. Check it out here.
And if you want to dig into the Enhanced State of the Union, you can check out our slide deck here:
Source: WH, 2-12-13
9:15 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, fellow citizens:
Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress.” (Applause.) “It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union — to improve it is the task of us all.”
Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. (Applause.) After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20. (Applause.) Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before. (Applause.)
So, together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the State of our Union is stronger. (Applause.)
But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs — but too many people still can’t find full-time employment. Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs — but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.
It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class. (Applause.)
It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country — the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love.
It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation. (Applause.)
The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. (Applause.) They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together, and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.
Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget — decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.
Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion — mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.
Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?
In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as the sequester, are a really bad idea.
Now, some in Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training, Medicare and Social Security benefits. That idea is even worse. (Applause.)
Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms — otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.
But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful. (Applause.) We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers and more cops and more firefighters. Most Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share. And that’s the approach I offer tonight.
On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. (Applause.)
Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. (Applause.) And the reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. (Applause.) We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital; they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. (Applause.) And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep — but we must keep the promises we’ve already made. (Applause.)
To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and the well-connected. After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? Why is it that deficit reduction is a big emergency justifying making cuts in Social Security benefits but not closing some loopholes? How does that promote growth? (Applause.)
Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit. (Applause.) We can get this done. The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring — a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t work the system and pay a lower rate than their hardworking secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that are creating jobs right here in the United States of America. That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together. (Applause.)
I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform will not be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans. So let’s set party interests aside and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors. (Applause.) The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. (Applause.) We can’t do it.
Let’s agree right here, right now to keep the people’s government open, and pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. (Applause.) The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another. (Applause.)
Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear, deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. (Applause.) A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs — that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. (Applause.) Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?
A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than 1 million new jobs. And I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda. I urge this Congress to pass the rest. (Applause.) But tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat — nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth. (Applause.) That’s what we should be looking for.
Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again. (Applause.)
There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns.
So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America. We can get that done. (Applause.)
Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. We need to make those investments. (Applause.)
Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. (Applause.) We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar — with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before — and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.
But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. (Applause.) Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods — all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late. (Applause.)
Now, the good news is we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. (Applause.) I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year — let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we.
Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. And that’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. (Applause.) That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and our water.
In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.
I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. (Applause.) We’ll work with the states to do it. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.
America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire — a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet; high-tech schools, self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America — a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina — said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world. And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district. I’ve seen all those ribbon-cuttings. (Laughter.)
So tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. (Applause.) And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children. (Applause.) Let’s prove that there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let’s start right away. We can get this done.
And part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. The good news is our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years. Home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.
But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back. We need to fix it.
Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before, so what are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill. (Applause.) Why would we be against that? (Applause.) Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks refinance? Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.
These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, housing — all these things will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs. (Applause.)
And that has to start at the earliest possible age. Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for a private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America. (Applause.) That’s something we should be able to do.
Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on — by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance. (Applause.)
Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges. So those German kids, they’re ready for a job when they graduate high school. They’ve been trained for the jobs that are there. Now at schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools and City University of New York and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in computers or engineering.
We need to give every American student opportunities like this. (Applause.)
And four years ago, we started Race to the Top — a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, all for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. And we’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math — the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.
Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education. It’s a simple fact the more education you’ve got, the more likely you are to have a good job and work your way into the middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.
Through tax credits, grants and better loans, we’ve made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers can’t keep on subsidizing higher and higher and higher costs for higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure that they do. (Applause.)
So tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. (Applause.) And tomorrow, my administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria — where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.
Now, to grow our middle class, our citizens have to have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require. But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work — everybody who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.
Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. (Applause.) And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities — they all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. (Applause.) Now is the time to do it. Now is the time to get it done. Now is the time to get it done. (Applause.)
Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration has already made — putting more boots on the Southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship — a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally. (Applause.)
And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy. (Applause.)
In other words, we know what needs to be done. And as we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. So let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away. And America will be better for it. (Applause.) Let’s get it done. Let’s get it done.
But we can’t stop there. We know our economy is stronger when our wives, our mothers, our daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. And I now urge the House to do the same. (Applause.) Good job, Joe. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year. (Applause.)
We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.
Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. (Applause.) We should be able to get that done. (Applause.)
This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. And a whole lot of folks out there would probably need less help from government. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year — let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on. (Applause.)
Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.
Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance anymore. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods. And this year, my administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, and education, and housing.
We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and do more to encourage fatherhood — because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one. And we want to encourage that. We want to help that. (Applause.)
Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity — broad, shared, built on a thriving middle class — that has always been the source of our progress at home. It’s also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.
Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda. (Applause.)
Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue and by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over. (Applause.)
Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We’re negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions — training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.
Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. (Applause.) It’s true, different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged — from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad or occupy other nations. Instead, we’ll need to help countries like Yemen, and Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans. (Applause.)
Now, as we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That’s why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way. So in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world. (Applause.)
Of course, our challenges don’t end with al Qaeda. America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only further isolate them, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.
Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)
At the same time, we’ll engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands — because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead and meet our obligations.
America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. (Applause.) Now, we know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private emails. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.
And that’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy. (Applause.)
But now Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks. This is something we should be able to get done on a bipartisan basis. (Applause.)
Now, even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not just dangers, not just threats, it presents opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I’m announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union — because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs. (Applause.)
We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all — not only because it creates new markets, more stable order in certain regions of the world, but also because it’s the right thing to do. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades by connecting more people to the global economy; by empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve, and helping communities to feed, and power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach. (Applause.)
You see, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon, in Burma, when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”
In defense of freedom, we’ll remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. (Applause.)
We know the process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt, but we can — and will — insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We’ll keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. (Applause.)
These are the messages I’ll deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month. And all this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk –- our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. As long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military the world has ever known. (Applause.)
We’ll invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all servicemembers, and equal benefits for their families — gay and straight. (Applause.) We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters and moms, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.
We will keep faith with our veterans, investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors — (applause) — supporting our military families; giving our veterans the benefits and education and job opportunities that they have earned. And I want to thank my wife, Michelle, and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they have served us. Thank you, honey. Thank you, Jill. (Applause.)
Defending our freedom, though, is not just the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes one of the most fundamental right of a democracy: the right to vote. (Applause.) When any American, no matter where they live or what their party, are denied that right because they can’t afford to wait for five or six or seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. (Applause.)
So tonight, I’m announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And it definitely needs improvement. I’m asking two long-time experts in the field — who, by the way, recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign — to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it, and so does our democracy. (Applause.)
Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource: our children. It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans — Americans who believe in the Second Amendment — have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. (Applause.) Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.
Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. (Applause.) Now, if you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun — more than a thousand.
One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.
Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote. (Applause.) Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. (Applause.) The families of Newtown deserve a vote. (Applause.) The families of Aurora deserve a vote. (Applause.) The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence –- they deserve a simple vote. (Applause.) They deserve a simple vote.
Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. In fact, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.
We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country. We should follow their example.
We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, she wasn’t thinking about how her own home was faring. Her mind was on the 20 precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.
We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When Desiline arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. And hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line to support her — because Desiline is 102 years old. (Applause.) And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read, “I voted.” (Applause.)
We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside, even as he lay bleeding from 12 bullet wounds. And when asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.”
That’s just the way we’re made. We may do different jobs and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title — we are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter of our American story.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless these United States of America. (Applause.)
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 12, 2013