Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the president shall give to Congress information about the state of our union. For 220 years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty. They've done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility. And they've done so in the midst of war and depression, at moments of great strife and great struggle.
It's tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable — that America was always destined to succeed. Really? I don't remember ever hearing anybody say that. Well, let's put this down to "standard-grade pompous and meaningless puffery that everybody expects at the beginning of a Big Solemn Speech anyway." But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run, and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt. When the market crashed on Black Tuesday, and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain. These were the times that tested the courage of our convictions and the strength of our union. And despite all our divisions and disagreements, our hesitations and our fears, America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as one people.
Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history's call. Hmm, decent rhetoric, I guess, but that's the sort of phrase that immediately should set off alarm bells when uttered by a politician -- "answer history's call" is almost always a way to say "see to it that everybody in the country does what I want them to do" when it's a politician saying it, politicians being in general highly prone to confusing their own desires and agenda with the Voice of History. Good rhetoric, though, insofar as his target audience is his base; progressivists (as you can tell from the very word they choose for self-identification) are far more susceptible than most people to the folly of thinking that they have figured out Where History Is Going Next. And since only the very skeptical (such as myself) are on the lookout for giveaway phrases such as this one, this line should make the base happy without upsetting most independents.
One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted — immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.
Well, he doesn't explicitly mention Bush. On the other hand, since Barack has spent the last year trying to say, "My problems aren't my fault, I inherited them," there's little doubt that most of the audience will take this to be Barack's intended implication. So let's take this point by point:
- "...amid two wars..." Well, if it had been up to Barack, who declaimed his furious certainty that the Surge would never work, we wouldn't have still been in the Iraq War, that much is true. Because, um, we would have already given up and come home in defeat, leaving Islamofascists everywhere convinced that you can always beat America if you just hang in there, and leaving the conventional wisdom that "democracy can't work in the Middle East" intact. So, all in all, I think I'd prefer being in the Iraq War and in the last stages of winning it, to being out of Iraq War because we decided we preferred defeat.
- "...an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse..." Both of which, as it happens, have a great deal more to do with the Democratic Congress's constant interference in the "affordable" housing market, and with the refusal of the Democratic Congress (including Senator Obama) to cooperate with President Bush in reigning in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, than they have to do with anything President Bush did. Of course, I would criticize the Bush bailouts and stimulus plans...but Obama wouldn't, because he went way more over-the-top in the bailout-and-stimulus world than Bush did. How's that working out, by the way?
- "...and a government deeply in debt..." ??????? Obama can actually say that with a straight face???? For God's sake, isn't there anybody on his speechwriting team that can tell him, "Uh, Barack, we should probably try very hard not to remind anybody of how much debt you've added to the backs of future generations"??? I mean, he’s just begging for somebody to post a deficit chart like, say, this one:
And about that bit about how "the worst of the storm has passed"...um, got any evidence for that one?
But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. So there's at least one silver lining: the housing bubble has burst and housing prices are returning to their true values. So at least some good has come out of this, at least as long as the federal government has learned its lesson and isn't planning to reinflate the bubble and recreate the whole disaster all over again bigger and better. Oh, wait... Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for those who'd already known poverty, life has become that much harder.
This recession has also compounded the burdens that America's families have been dealing with for decades — the burden of working harder and longer for less, of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college.
So, let's see: throwing a big wad of money at a Democratic wish list of special-interest spending, while simultaneously threatening to raise taxes and impose massive new costs and regulatory burdens on private businesses across the board, and also introducing the tremendous uncertainty on the part of business owners about what consequences will actually follow from the reworking by government fiat of a sixth of the nation's economy, said government fiat having been designed by the trustworthy members of the United States Congress all of whom openly admit to having no intention of actually reading the bill...that didn't cause private business across the land to decide it was time to invest capital and ramp up payrolls? Wow. Shocker. But, hey, since we've had a year to see how well that works...you think maybe it might be time to try something different?
Then, too, there’s the fact that if you create massive deficits from which the only escape is hyperinflation, that doesn’t exactly make it easier to save enough to retire or help kids with college or even, you know, pay for that $250 pack of gum next to the register…
But, hey, on the bright side, we're seven paragraphs in and he's only said "I" once. Can he keep it up?
So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They're not new. These struggles are the reason I ran for president. These struggles are what I've witnessed for years in places like Elkhart, Ind., Galesburg, Ill. I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by children — asking why they have to move from their home, asking when their mom or dad will be able to go back to work.
For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. An invocation of the old reliable "change..." except that I'm not sure that's a good idea, as the base is furious with Obama precisely because they think he's reneged on most of the "change" they understood him to have promised. Besides, since most Americans have disapproved of the changes Obama has tried to bring, I'm not sure most Americans would agree with him that he’s taking too long to make these changes they don’t want. Now, I understand that he would say that that's not the "change" he's talking about, and that he just means "recovery;" but Obama mantracized the words "hope" and "change" and they are no longer available for his personal use in any situation in which he doesn't want to remind people of Obama The Campaigner. And at this point in his administration I don't think that's a great idea. Some are frustrated; some are angry. Especially the Tea Partiers, who somehow find it frustrating that the President and Congress refuse to listen to the extremely plain message being sent to them by the American people, and who are angry about the grotesque irresponsibity displayed by any administration that proposes budget deficits of a trillion dollars a year for as far out as the administrations projections reach. Oh, wait, that's not the "some" you're talking about? I guess you're talking about the "some" who voted Scott Brown into office because they were so happy with the job you're doing. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. Actually, we don't have much difficulty figuring out why bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded...speaking of which, Mr. President, since you threw such a hissy fit demanding that AIG executives return their bonuses, I assume you've returned the money AIG gave you as well? We also don't have any trouble understanding why taxpayer money was used to hand over GM to your buddies at the UAW, even those of us who don't know the exact breakdown of UAW dollars donated to political candidates ($7,189,729 to Democrats, $30,500 to Republicans in 2006, for example). As for Washington's failure to solve our problems...well, a whole bunch of us would be thrilled if you fools would just stop causing them. Do us a favor -- stop helping. They're tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now.
So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope — what they deserve — is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences, to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. That would certainly be nice. Since we’re talking about Barack, Harry and Nancy, I’ll believe it when I see it. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills, a chance to get ahead, most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.
Now that last bit is bullshit. It is true that there are some anxieties that are shared on both sides of the political divide, though not on both sides of the economic divide. And it is true that there are some aspirations that are common to both ends of the political spectrum. But there are very great differences between the anxieties and aspirations of the President's base and those of the Tea Partiers; and even where the anxieties and aspirations are the same, we have very different opinions about what government politices are most likely to confirm our fears or to open the doors of opportunity.
The President's base aspires to the creation of a world in which all sorts of services and goods are considered "rights," even though those services and goods have to be provided by the labor and sacrifice of other people, and even though the establishment of these "rights" can only mean an enormous increase both in the cost of government and in its freedom to interfere more or less constantly in the life of any America who declines to go along, of his own free will, with the progressive vision. The Tea Partiers' overmastering anxiety, at the moment, is precisely that the President and his base will achieve their aspiration. The President’s base is deathly afraid that if health care doesn’t pass now, they’ll never be able to nationalize it; the Tea Partiers are deathly afraid that once the President and his henchmen manage to get the government’s foot in the health care door, the liberty thus lost will never be regained. The conservative part of the country is afraid that innocent Americans will be attacked and killed by Islamic terrorists; the far Left is afraid that the government might someday admit publicly that there’s, you know, a sort of correlation between Willingness To Commit Terror on the one hand, and Being Named Mohammed on the other. Speaking personally, if President Obama’s base were ever to achieve its political aspirations, the America I love will have pretty much ceased to exist. That’s my own anxiety. I can guarantee that President Obama’s union buddies don’t share it.
In short, the truth is not, “The anxieties they face are the same; the aspirations they hold are shared.” It is that, “Some of the anxieties they face are the same; some of the aspirations they hold are shared; but when it comes to the federal government…well, the things that the people who elected Nancy Pelosi sent her to make happen, are pretty much exactly the things that the people who elected John Cornyn sent him to stop.”
You know what else they share? They share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our history, -- hey, wait a minute. I don’t think President Way-Smarter-Than-You really knows all that much about our history. The Civil War – that was a tough few years. The War of 1812, and the Revolutionary War…not that easy. 1939, when after two terms of FDR’s saving the day unemployment was still twice as high as it is now…pretty tough. World War I probably qualifies as “difficult,” and World War II was no walk in the park. I don’t think 1968 worked out all that well, and I’m old enough (even if Barack, apparently, isn’t) to remember how much life sucked under Jimmy Carter (you know a President is incompetent if economists have to invent a whole new word, in his case “stagflation,” to describe a whole new way he’s invented for an economy to be in the crapper). And you are or were black, then 2009 has been better than every year from 1607 up through the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Well, maybe by “one of the” he means “in the 90th percentile or so, or the 80th for sure, for white people, that is.” So I guess we’ll let him by with this one -- they remain busy building cars and teaching kids, starting businesses and going back to school. They're coaching Little League and helping their neighbors. One woman wrote to me and said, "We are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged."
It's because of this spirit — this great decency and great strength — that I have never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight. Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency, that embodies their strength.
I was fine with that, right up until we got to the part about the government that “embodies their strength.” Here is the fundamental divide between progressives, whose political vision is a government that is too strong for individuals to resist, and libertarians, whose political vision is a government that is kept weak enough that individuals can stand up and tell it where to get off. I don’t want a strong government. I want a strong military, but I don’t want a strong government. The dominant preoccupation of the Founding Fathers was simply, “How can we get a government that is strong enough to defend us, without getting a government that is strong enough to dominate us?” What are the dominant concerns of the Tea Partiers? First, that Obama is spending us into bankruptcy at about Mach 1000; and second, that the government has gotten far too strong. I don’t think Obama is ignoring the latter concern – I think that Barack has spent his entire life in such a far-Left liberal cocoon that he can’t even conceptualize that concern.
And tonight, tonight I'd like to talk about how together we can deliver on that promise.
It begins with our economy.
Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, and everybody in between, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal. “The same banks that helped cause this crisis…” You mean the banks that gave more money to you than to any candidate other than Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (soon to be retired)? You mean Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, who were acting at the direct behest of you and Barney Frank and your friends in the Black Congressional Caucus, and whom you and your friends protected from Dubya’s attempts to reign them in? Those banks?
But when I ran for president, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular — I would do what was necessary.
By the way, Gentle Reader, if you haven’t read the SIGTARP’s Quarterly Report to Congress, January 30, 2010 -- that is, the report to Congress from the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program – then I would advise you to do so. Here, for example, we have a passage from page 8:
It is hard to see how any of the fundamental problems in the system have been addressed to date.Any comment, there, Barry me boy? [Damn, those crickets are annoying!]
- To the extent that huge, interconnected, “too big to fail” institutions contributed to the crisis, those institutions are now even larger, in part because of the substantial subsidies provided by TARP and other bailout programs.
- To the extent that institutions were previously incentivized to take reckless risks through a “heads, I win; tails, the Government will bail me out” mentality, the market is more convinced than ever that the Government will step in as necessary to save systemically significant institutions. This perception was reinforced when TARP was extended until October 3, 2010, thus permitting Treasury to maintain a war chest of potential rescue funding at the same time that banks that have shown questionable ability to return to profitability (and in some cases are posting multi-billion-dollar losses) are exiting TARP programs.
- To the extent that large institutions’ risky behavior resulted from the desire to justify ever-greater bonuses — and indeed, the race appears to be on for TARP recipients to exit the program in order to avoid its pay restrictions — the current bonus season demonstrates that although there have been some improvements in the form that bonus compensation takes for some executives, there has been little fundamental change in the excessive compensation culture on Wall Street.
- To the extent that the crisis was fueled by a “bubble” in the housing market, the Federal Government’s concerted efforts to support home prices — as discussed more fully in Section 3 of this report — risk re-inflating that bubble in light of the Government’s effective takeover of the housing market through purchases and guarantees, either direct or implicit, of nearly all of the residential mortgage market.
Stated another way, even if TARP saved our financial system from driving off a cliff back in 2008, absent meaningful reform, we are still driving on the same winding mountain road, but this time in a faster car.
So I supported the last administration's efforts to create the financial rescue program. Hey – that comes pretty close to praising Dubya! Time for some very sincere, not-at-all-tongue-in-cheek praise: well done, Mr. President! Well done indeed! I mean, I think the last administration’s efforts to create the financial rescue program were very dubious, but I’m delighted to hear you give Bush some credit. Well done, I say again. And when we took that program over, we made it more transparent and more accountable. And as a result, the markets are now stabilized, and we've recovered most of the money we spent on the banks
recipients to exit the program in order to avoid its pay restrictions” – that was it. Most but not all.
To recover the rest, I've proposed a fee on the biggest banks. Now, I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea. But if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.
Now, as we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps to get our economy growing again, save as many jobs as possible and help Americans who had become unemployed. For example, we ramped up deficits to levels never before imagined in the history of the Republic, thereby greatly increasing investors’ confidence in the future of the economy and thus stimulating a flood of new private investment…oh, wait…
That's why we extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans, made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA and passed 25 different tax cuts.
Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.
I thought I'd get some applause on that one. Um, well, you probably would have if it hadn’t been for the fact that any attempt whatsoever to present yourself as a person who, in the general sense, has cut taxes, is ludicrous on its face. The most you can say is that you have cut some taxes, temporarily. But do you really think the American public isn’t smart enough to figure out that either you’ll have to jack taxes right back up and way higher than they’ve ever been to pay off your trillion-dollar deficits, or else that our currency will shortly be worth less than toilet paper? (And I mean worth less than toilet paper, as anybody who has ever tried to wipe his butt with a dollar bill can tell you. That’s some raspy TP, that is; for God's sake take back that green stuff and give us our Charmin.) I mean, really, Barack, how @#$!#$!@# stupid do you !@#$!@#$! well think we are???
As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas and food and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime. Thanks for that, at least. If only you could say the same thing about government spending.
Because of the steps we took, there are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. Does anybody believe this? I mean, the guy is lying through his teeth. Is there a bigger joke in America right now than “jobs saved or created”? Pretty much everything the guy says about how the stimulus bill has reduced unemployment, is a bald-faced lie; so I won’t bother fisking it line by line. Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy, 300,000 are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, first responders. And we're on track to add another one-and-a-half-million jobs to this total by the end of the year. Okay, I know I said I wouldn’t fisk it line by line, but what do almost all of the people Barry just mentioned, have in common? Yes, that’s right: either they work directly for the government, or else they work in industries heavily subsidized by the government. So what Obama is bragging about, restated in bald terms, is this: “We’ve taken a whole bunch of money that private businesses could have been using to hire people in the private sector with, and given that money to people who work for the government. And we’re on track to put another million or so people on the taxpayers’ payroll by the end of the year.” Forgive me if my applause is, shall we say, tepid.
The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act. That's right — the Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus bill. Economists on the left and the right say this bill has helped save jobs and avert disaster. But you don't have to take their word for it.
Oh, by the way, Barack: how about the jobs that weren’t created because of small business’s fears about your cap-and-trade and health-care bills? Did you back those out of that “two million” number before you pulled said number out of your ass? Just askin’.
There are stories like this all across America. And after two years of recession, the economy is growing again. Retirement funds have started to gain back some of their value. Businesses are beginning to invest again, and slowly some are starting to hire again.
Look, before we go any further with this, let’s just take a quick look at Innocent Bystanders’ invaluable chart:
Is there really anybody reading this who thinks a single person on Obama’s economic team knows what the hell they’re talking about?
But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from, who send out resumes week after week and hear nothing in response. That is why jobs must be our No. 1 focus in 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight. Let me guess: it’s going to involve spending more of the taxpayers’ money, not taking less of it (though it might involve taking less today by waiting and taking tons more sometime down the road).
Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America's businesses. But government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers. Hey, that’s a great point. You can provide a stable environment in which businesses know what’s coming; you can make it clear that the government is not going to impose massive new costs on them; you can cut capital gains taxes across the board; and you could refrain from slapping populist taxes on the banks that the businesses need to borrow money from…those would all be helpful things to do. Let’s see what you suggest.
We should start where most new jobs do — in small businesses, companies that begin when — companies that begin when an entrepreneur — when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides it's time she became her own boss. Through sheer grit and determination, these companies have weathered the recession, and they're ready to grow. But when you talk to small business owners in places like Allentown, Pa., or Elyria, Ohio, you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again, they're mostly lending to bigger companies. Financing remains difficult for small business owners across the country, even those that are making a profit.
So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. As opposed to doing what the TARP legislation requires you to do with it, which is apply it to the deficit. I'm also proposing a new small business tax credit — one that will go to over 1 million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. And why not to large businesses as well? Is there any conceivable reason to restrict this to small businesses other than that (a) you're trying to buy off one of the special-interest groups you have trouble with and/or (b) your base hates Big Business rather more than they hate Islamofascist terrorists? While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment. While we’re at it, why not just cut capital gains taxes across the board without trying to have politicians decide which form of capital investment will provide the most value for the future?
Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. Sounds like progressive code words to me…whatcha wanna bet what comes next is “put more people on the government payroll”? From the first railroads to the interstate highway system, our nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.
Tomorrow, I'll visit Tampa, Fla., where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act. Government project, paid for either by taking money that the private sector could have used on non-patronage jobs, or else by inflating the deficit. And, um, what’s the worker-to-taxpayer-dollar ratio on that one? There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help move our nation's goods, services and information.
We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities (that is to say, jobs in industries that don’t provide enough value to survive unless propped up at taxpayer expense) — and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America. In the process dramatically raising the cost of goods for everybody who shops at Wal-Mart, most of whom are in the demographic that can least afford it. If goods are being made overseas, there’s a reason, that reason usually being, “Because we can get it to the American consumer cheaper that way.”
Now, the House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps. As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same, and I know they will. They will. And when Barack says he knows Congress is going to do something, you can take it to the bank (the fun thing about that video, by the way, is that it was produced by members of Obama's own base). People are out of work. They're hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay.
But the truth is, these steps won't make up for the seven million jobs that we've lost over the last two years. The only way to move to full employment is to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth, and finally address the problems that America's families have confronted for years. So, running trillion-dollar deficits for the foreseeable future; adding more debt to the U.S. taxpayer’s back in one year than in the previous 200-plus years all put together and doing this during peacetime…you’re doing this for the sake of long-term economic growth???? My God.
We can't afford another so-called economic "expansion" like the one from the last decade — what some call the "lost decade" — where jobs grew more slowly than during any prior expansion, where the income of the average American household declined while the cost of health care and tuition reached record highs, where prosperity was built on a housing bubble and financial speculation. Instead, we want to take as our model FDR and the 1930’s, in which jobs grew…wait a minute, what was unemployment in 1939 again? But hey, at least Barack and his Democratic pals are taking care not to reinflate the housing bubble...oh, wait...
By the way, Barack, since you've seen fit to bring up the topic of "things we can't afford" -- I'd say we can't afford a spending binge in which for a decade we spend over a trillion more dollars every year than we take in. Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure I remember learning from my parents back in my allowance days, that the simplest rule for determining, "I can't afford it," is simply, "I don't have the money."
From the day I took office, I've been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious, such an effort would be too contentious. I've been told that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for a while.
Here’s a constant feature of Obama’s rhetoric: “Some would say.” “I’ve been told.” Really? Who are these “some”? By whom were you told? Were these men you were talking to…were they perhaps made of straw?
For those who make these claims, I have one simple question: How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold? How about, “Until we have a Congress that will actually read its own goddamn bills before voting on them, and until we have a President who has passed third grade math and therefore has realized that a trillion is a really really really really really big number?” How about, “Until our politicians propose something that will actually improve our future prospects rather than bankrupting us and destroying our currency?” How about, “Until we get a President and Congress who know what the hell they’re doing?” I’m good with that answer. Rule #1, Mr. President: first, do no harm.
You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Um, actually, right now, the American people are telling you, Mr. President, to wait – because you’re about to make our problems immeasurably worse. Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations — they're not standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America.
As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may become, it's time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth. The problem, Barry buddy, isn’t that you aren’t serious about fixing the problem. The problem is that your proposed solutions are vastly worse than the original problem. How about instead of getting serious, you try getting smart? That would be a nice change.
Now, one place to start is serious financial reform. Look, I am not interested in punishing banks. Even though you just pitched a bank tax by reminding everybody that the banks in question are “the same banks that helped cause this crisis” – even the banks that, strictly speaking, didn’t have a damn thing to do with causing this crisis. But you're not interested in punishing them, oh heavens no…So the point in that “helped cause this crisis” line was what, then? Just stirring up a little populist resentment against rich people, for your own political benefit, maybe? If the point wasn’t “let’s give ‘em some pain because they deserve it for behaving badly,” then what exactly was the point? And that is, after all, precisely what “punishing the banks” consists of. I'm interested in protecting our economy. A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes. But that can only happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy.
We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families have the information they need to make financial decisions. We can't allow financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy.
Now, the House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes. And the lobbyists are trying to kill it. But we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back until we get it right. We've got to get it right.
Just one question: how in heaven’s name would Barack Obama know what “getting it right” looks like? Why, at this point, should we have any confidence at all in the man’s grasp of economic cause and effect?
Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Um, no, you just need to get out of the way and stop allowing the engines of government to inhibit it. Tort reform would be a good place to start, and letting companies keep a bigger share of their profits would be even better. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history — an investment that could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. I love the way Democrats refer to “taking your own personal money from you at virtual gunpoint and giving it to some other person wholly unconnected to you, without ever ever promising that we’ll ever repay a penny of it to your own personal self” as “investment.” You keep using that word; I do not think it means… Actually, this is an absolutely lovely example of what I mean when I say that the fallacy of hypostasization is rife in politics. If A loans his money to B with the expectation that B will return it later with interest, then A has invested his money. If, on the other hand, C forces A to hand over his money, which C then gives to B as a grant with no obligation to repay it, then this is not an “investment” – it’s theft. Democrats attempt to hide from themselves the reality of what they’re doing by hypostasization: “We [that is, C] are investing our [that is, A’s] money in the expectation that we [that is, B] will get a nice return on our investment.” What could be wrong with our investing our own money in hopes of seeing a nice return on the investment? Why, nothing – if that were what we were actually doing. But it isn’t. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year's investments in clean energy — in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries, or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels. And I ask again: how many jobs were lost in the part of the economy that was taxed so that that North Carolina company and California business could get their subsidies? How much did we the taxpayer pay for those 2,200 jobs? What could we the private sector have done with that money besides make advanced batteries or solar cells with it? These are questions that Barack Obama will never ever answer, not in a million years.
But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. Two out of three I can agree with; which ain’t bad. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. Hey, he got that one right. Amen! I’m with you on this one, Mr. President. Only…what you mean is, it means removing the regulatory barriers and courtroom stalling tactics that have kept private companies from building these plants, right? You don’t mean that the taxpayers should pony up to pay the executive bonuses for whichever electric company donates the most money to the Democratic Party…right? Let’s hope not, and give you credit for getting something right. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. That’s two good points in a row. Again, kudos, Mr. President, I agree with you wholeheartedly. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. Uh-oh, that sounds like we’re back to taxpayer-funded “investment”… And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. Oh, !#$!#, here comes cap-and-trade. Listen, jackass, the only way cap-and-trade will make clean energy “profitable” is relatively speaking – you won’t make clean energy more profitable, you’ll just make old fashioned fossil-fuel energy WAY less profitable. In other words, you’re going to jack energy prices sky-high for American consumers across the board, at a devastating cost to the economy (including massive job losses), and then point at the relatively tiny number of jobs created in your pet energy bill and say, “Look, we created jobs!” Do you really think Americans are too stupid to see through that? (The frightening thing is, I fear you might be right.)
I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I'm eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.
I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. [laughing delightedly] AGW was an obvious scam even before the Climategate stuff broke, and even before the IPCC admitted that the Himalayan glaciers weren’t going anywhere, etc., etc.; but Barack still doesn’t know that we’re on the down side of the tulip mania, and he’s still buyin’. But here's the thing — even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future — because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.
I love that bit. It always, at least in my experience, comes down to this with progressives and climate change. They pull out their argumentum ad auctoritatem and say, “But ALL the scientists AGREE…” Then you start asking them tough questions and they start realizing that you actually know a helluva lot more about the topic than they do, and then you know it’s coming: “Well, it doesn’t really matter whether climate change is happening or not, because even if it isn’t we ought to go green anyway, because…” followed by the same tired old reasons that don’t convince anybody but progressives because those reasons depend entirely on progressive illusions about how the world works, which illusions the rest of us do not share. And progressives don’t see anything wrong with saying, “Well, it doesn’t matter if climate change is a horseshit scam because we ought to be doing all this anyway; so it does no harm for me to appeal to climate change as a reason for us to make these changes even if climate change is a great big ol’ fraud. So there’s no reason for me to do my homework on whether it’s a fraud or not.”
The validity of that logic is readily tested: take exactly the same logic, but apply it to a different topic. Imagine Dubya saying, in 1991, “Well, it doesn’t matter if the WMD intelligence is a horseshit scam because we have a bunch of other perfectly good reasons to take out Saddam anyway [as we did]; so it does no harm for me to appeal to WMD’s as a reason for us to invade even if the WMD intelligence is a great big ol’ fraud. So there’s no reason for me to do my homework on whether it’s a fraud or not.” What do you guys think, Gentle Readers? Would the sort of progressive who thinks that argument is a great argument when he’s using it to defend “climate change,” consider it to be a valid justification for Dubya’s WMD claims?
By the way, Barack, that bit about how “the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy” – what, exactly, is that claim based on? Did you get that from the same people who gave you your chart of “unemployment with the stimulus” versus “unemployment without the stimulus”? ‘Cause, you know, your people don’t seem very good at projecting the future three months ahead…why exactly should we trust them to know what the next ten to fifteen years are going to look like?
Third, we need to export more of our goods. Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America. Um, the economic fallacies in this argument got refuted, what, fifty years ago? [sigh] So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support 2 million jobs in America. To help meet this goal, we're launching a national export initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security. Actually, if what you want is to increase exports, by far the most effective way to do it is to devalue your currency. Come to think of it, that appears to be exactly Barack’s plan…
We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. And that's why we'll continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia. If the President is really going to enter into true free trade agreements, I’m all in favor of it. The devil’s in the details, of course…what exactly are those trade agreements going to say? They’d better not be treaties that try to slip in “and America will henceforth be bound to international law even where it is not compatible with the Constitution,” for one thing.
Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people.
Now, this year, we've broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. And the idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform — reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city. In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential. Barack, you need to make up your mind. If you want a nation with world-class-educated kids, then you’re going to have to accept a lot of variation in the quality of the education the kids get, one variable of which will be where they live. The only way to make sure everybody has the same education, is to make sure everybody is equally mediocre. And as far as “the best anti-poverty program around”…okay, we’ll take that as hyperbole not meant to be taken literally.
When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. As if that were a good thing. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. Actually, Barack, in your economy not even a Ph.D. guarantees a good job. That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.
To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. And let's tell another 1 million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years — and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college. Why the hell not? Decisions have consequences. If you set up your educational choices in such a way that your choice to go to college results in your bankruptcy, why should the taxpayer have to bear the consequences of your folly rather than you? This is an absolutely terrible idea.
And what is up with this attempt to bribe people to go work in the government? This is a lovely indicator of how divorced from reality Barack is. Our problem isn’t that not enough people work in the government – it’s that way too many do. A person who works in the government is a person who (a) is protected from being fired for incompetence to an absolutely shameless degree unheard of in the private sector, and who (b) gets paid no matter how terrible the service he provides to the “customer,” i.e., the taxpayer, because his salary is taken from the customer by force. I disagree with the morality of what a prostitute does, but at least she provides an honest service to customers who choose to patronize her of their own free will, and if she gets repeat customers then it’s because she provided satisfactory service, not because they knew they’d go to jail if she didn’t get her government-decreed cut of their paycheck that month. I don’t have a problem with soldiers and policemen and firemen; they provide a necessary and dangerous service and risk their lives for the rest of us. Then there are a lot of jobs that are currently done by people in government where there’s no good reason for them not to be done by the private sector – teaching is a great example – but the fact that they are done by government employees makes it grotesquely difficult to get rid of even the most outrageously incompetent teachers, as New York knows only too well. And then there are the jobs that only exist because the bureaucracy never shrinks, only grows – and here we find people who are, to put it bluntly, parasites on the American people. We need to drive people out of government jobs, not recruit them into it. At least when a prostitute screws you, it’s at your own request, and you can stop getting screwed whenever you want.
And by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs — because they, too, have a responsibility to help solve this problem.
This whole issue of college costs is a lovely example of a big-government-caused problem for which the progressive answer is…bigger government, in order to solve the problem. Years ago the federal government decided that college cost too much. Now, if something (say, health care) costs too much, then either too many people want it, or not enough people are providing it, or both at once. Any government solution that either increases demand or else reduces supply, makes the problem worse rather than better, because both result in an explosion in price. Any real solution will either reduce demand faster than it reduces supply, or increase supply faster than it increases demand, or (ideally) reduce demand while increasing supply. So, let’s see, giving people tax credits for college tuition? That would, um, increase demand – problem worse. More Pell Grants? Increases demand – problem worse. Telling potential college students that we’ll pay back their loans if they can’t? Increases demand – problem worse. Notice a theme here? Everything thing the government has done to “solve” the higher education problem, actually is guaranteed by the law of supply and demand to make the problem worse. Which is why only a politician or somebody equally ignorant of the most basic economic laws could possibly be surprised by the following chart:
In the meantime, when you flood the market with something, you devalue it. Note that earlier in the speech, the President said, “In this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job.” That wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the federal government has for a couple of generations deliberately distorted the marketplace to artificially heighten the number of college diplomas out there competing against high school diplomas, now, would it? Surely not.
Now, the price of college tuition is just one of the burdens facing the middle class. That's why last year I asked Vice President Biden to chair a task force on middle-class families. That's why we're nearly doubling the child-care tax credit, and making it easier to save for retirement by giving access to every worker a retirement account and expanding the tax credit for those who start a nest egg. That's why we're working to lift the value of a family's single largest investment — their home. The steps we took last year to shore up the housing market have allowed millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an average of $1,500 on mortgage payments. Which is not at all the same thing as re-inflating the housing bubble that caused the 2008 crash, oh, not, not the same thing at all.
This year, we will step up refinancing so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages. While we’re at it, why don’t we provide them with additional taxpayer funds with which to play the tulip market? And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle-class families that we still need health insurance reform. Yes, we do.
Before we go any further, let us remember the law of supply and demand, which we just applied to the cost of college. If middle-class families are suffering because health care costs too much, then we need to make sure that everything we do to “solve” the problem will either reduce demand faster than it reduces supply, or increase supply faster than it increases demand, or (ideally) reduce demand while increasing supply.
For example, malpractice tort reform, as proposed by the Republicans, would have an immediate and obvious effect of increasing supply; I think the market entry costs for doctors is a couple of hundred grand just for malpractice insurance premiums, which premiums are collected from those suffering middle-class families. Of course, trial lawyers don’t want their gravy train to end, and they donate a ton of money to the Democratic Party. So what do you think the chances are that Obama will support tort reform?
Again, in most states supply of health insurance is artificially restricted because you can’t buy health insurance from out-of-state companies, and the state health insurance regulatory agencies get lots of lobbying dollars spent on them by the entrenched companies that don’t want to have to deal with competition. So you could give middle-class Americans a big boost by just passing federal legislation to bar states from interfering with interstate commerce in health insurance. (Imagine that: using the Commerce Clause for something that actually has to do with interstate commerce. Now that would be real Change.) That’s a perfectly good Republican idea that the Democrats could easily incorporate, if they were actually serious about all this working-together-for-the-good-of-the-country, non-partisan rhetoric they spout right up until somebody else dares to disagree with them.
Again, supply is artificially restricted because the government imposes tax penalties on individuals who buy their own health care, or on people who try to form health care co-ops independently of employment. That’s easy to fix…but oddly, Barack doesn’t want that fix.
Go through everything Barack suggests in order to “solve” health care, and what you see is a federal government that is about to flood the health care system with massive amounts of new demand, while at the same time greatly increasing the burden on health care providers, many of whom will simply pack up and find something else to do (the way many hospitals are already walking away from the Medicare game). In other words, Barack’s health care solution greatly increases demand while significantly reducing supply…which, in his Leftist little mind, is somehow supposed to help the middle class by making health care cheaper.
Now, let's clear a few things up. Well, that’s not quite “let me be clear.” I’d say you can maybe lick the salt, but I’d say he deserves enough credit for avoiding his cliché that doing the full shot isn’t justified. I didn't choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics. [laughing uproariously] Well, it’s obvious that it wasn’t good politics. Do you really expect us to think, however, that you didn’t take on health care under the illusion that it was good politics? Conventional Washington wisdom is that you and Harry and Nancy all “learned your lessons” from 1994, except that instead of learning the lesson that “Americans aren’t socialists, and they expect Presidents who campaign as moderates to introduce moderate policies, and therefore we will not repeat Clinton’s catastrophic mistake of trying to push through nationalization of health care,” you apparently came to the jaw-dropping conclusion that Clinton’s mistake was not getting it passed, and therefore that it was politically necessary to get the thing passed by any means possible. Even you, with that remarkably dense cranium of yours, appear now finally to be realizing, “Actually, this turns out to have been a bad idea politically rather than a good one,” (though Nancy still apparently has her Cloud-Cuckoo-Land green card well up to date). But to try to say now, “Oh, I knew all along it wasn’t a good idea politically to try to pass health care, but it had to be done…” Jeez, you really do think we’re a gullible bunch, doncha? I took on health care because of the stories I've heard from Americans with pre-existing conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage, patients who've been denied coverage, families — even those with insurance — who are just one illness away from financial ruin.
“Yes, folks, I, Barack Obama, have tried to impose upon the American people by any means, fair or foul, a sweeping reform of one-sixth of the American economy that makes unprecedented inroads upon Americans’ liberty, that will cost trillions more than we can afford for as far into the future as the eye can see, that by any rational application of economic law will have exactly the opposite effect of the one I claim to be attempting to produce…but, hey, you can trust that I’m doing the right thing, because I am basing my policy on good-ol’, always-infallible Anecdotal Evidence.” I bow in awe before the Blazing Brainpower of The One.
After nearly a century of trying — Democratic administrations, Republican administrations — we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans. The approach we've taken would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry. It would give small businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market. It would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care. Econ 101, Barack. Don’t be afraid – take a course. You could learn something.
And by the way, I want to acknowledge our first lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity and make kids healthier. Thank you. She gets embarrassed. Hi, Michelle. I have no problem with this particular shout-out.
Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses. And according to the Congressional Budget Office — the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress — our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades. Buh-buh-buh-buuuullllll-SHIT!
Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. Because it’s not that I’m wrong; it’s that the American people are really really stupid and you have to explain things with really really short words. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans wondering, "What's in it for me?" Um, no. That’s what YOU and your fellow politicians would say. The process actually left most of us saying, “These people have neither conscience nor shame.” Oh, that, and also, “So I guess all that transparency stuff Barack was spouting during the campaign – turns out that was all a lie.”
But I also know this problem is not going away. By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans and neither should the people in this chamber. We won’t quit until, thanks to our reforms, the deficit explodes like a nuclear bomb, and Americans whose employers had provided their health insurance lose it or else have to pay exorbitant Cadillac taxes on it, and patients stand in lines as long as the lines Canadians stand in…because, you know, making all the existing problems an order of magnitude worse is way better than Doing Nothing At All.
So, as temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed. There's a reason why many doctors, nurses and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo. But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Let me know. Let me know. I'm eager to see it. Well, that would be a dramatic change. Considering that the Republicans have had exactly such a plan out there for months…is the problem that you’re a slow reader, or what?
Here's what I ask Congress, though: Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. Let's get it done. Let's get it done. In spite of the fact that 70% of the people we pretend to work for, say it’s time to throw the whole thing out and either leave the whole thing alone or else start over. In case you’re having trouble with the concept, Barry, this means that you are not close – not close, that is, to anything that the American people believe in.
Now, even as health care reform would reduce our deficit, I swear he acts like he thinks we’re stupid enough to believe this… it's not enough to dig us out of a massive fiscal hole in which we find ourselves. It's a challenge that makes all others that much harder to solve, and one that's been subject to a lot of political posturing. So let me start the discussion of government spending by setting the record straight.
I’ll finish up the fisking later on; I want to get this saved for now. So I’ll post as it is and come back later.
At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door.
Now — just stating the facts. Now, if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis. And our efforts to prevent a second depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt. That, too, is a fact.
I'm absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do. But families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the trillion dollars that it took to rescue the economy last year.
Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.
We will continue to go through the budget, line by line, page by page, to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To help working families, we'll extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, for investment fund managers and for those making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it.
Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we'll still face the massive deficit we had when I took office. More importantly, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will continue to skyrocket. That's why I've called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline.
Now, yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I'll issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans. And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason for why we had record surpluses in the 1990s.
Now, I know that some in my own party will argue that we can't address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting. And I agree — which is why this freeze won't take effect until next year — when the economy is stronger. That's how budgeting works. But understand — understand if we don't take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing and jeopardize our recovery — all of which would have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.
From some on the right, I expect we'll hear a different argument — that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts including those for the wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away. The problem is that's what we did for eight years. That's what helped us into this crisis. It's what helped lead to these deficits. We can't do it again.
Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new. Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let's meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let's try common sense. A novel concept.
To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust — deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — to end the outsized influence of lobbyists, to do our work openly, to give our people the government they deserve.
That's what I came to Washington to do. That's why — for the first time in history — my administration posts on our White House visitors online. That's why we've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs, or seats on federal boards and commissions.
But we can't stop there. It's time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or with Congress. It's time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office.
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.
I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. Democrats and Republicans. Democrats and Republicans. You've trimmed some of this spending, you've embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there's a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.
Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don't also reform how we work with one another. Now, I'm not naive. I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony — and some post-partisan era. I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they've been taking place for over 200 years. They're the very essence of our democracy.
But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side — a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of — I'm speaking to both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn't be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators.
Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But it's precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it's sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.
So, no, I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics. I know it's an election year. And after last week, it's clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern.
To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town — a supermajority — then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let's show the American people that we can do it together.
This week, I'll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. I'd like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can't wait.
Throughout our history, no issue has united this country more than our security. Sadly, some of the unity we felt after 9/11 has dissipated. We can argue all we want about who's to blame for this, but I'm not interested in relitigating the past. I know that all of us love this country. All of us are committed to its defense. So let's put aside the schoolyard taunts about who's tough. Let's reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let's leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future — for America and for the world.
That's the work we began last year. Since the day I took office, we've renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation. We've made substantial investments in our homeland security and disrupted plots that threatened to take American lives. We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security and swifter action on our intelligence. We've prohibited torture and strengthened partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula. And in the last year, hundreds of al-Qaida's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed — far more than in 2008.
And in Afghanistan, we're increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home. We will reward good governance, work to reduce corruption and support the rights of all Afghans — men and women alike. We're joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitments, and who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead. But I am absolutely confident we will succeed.
As we take the fight to al-Qaida, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as president. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government — we will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and we will continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.
Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform — in Iraq, in Afghanistan and around the world — they have to know that we — that they have our respect, our gratitude, our full support. And just as they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home. That's why we made the largest increase in investments for veterans in decades — last year. That's why we're building a 21st century VA. And that's why Michelle has joined with Jill Biden to forge a national commitment to support military families.
Now, even as we prosecute two wars, we're also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people — the threat of nuclear weapons. I've embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons and seeks a world without them. To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades. And at April's nuclear security summit, we will bring 44 nations together here in Washington, D.C., behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.
Now, these diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons. That's why North Korea now faces increased isolation and stronger sanctions — sanctions that are being vigorously enforced. That's why the international community is more united, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They, too, will face growing consequences. That is a promise.
That's the leadership that we are providing — engagement that advances the common security and prosperity of all people. We're working through the G-20 to sustain a lasting global recovery. We're working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science and education and innovation. We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change. We're helping developing countries to feed themselves and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS. And we are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bioterrorism or an infectious disease — a plan that will counter threats at home and strengthen public health abroad.
As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it because it is right. That's why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild. That's why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan, why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran, why we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. Always.
Abroad, America's greatest source of strength has always been our ideals. The same is true at home. We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we're all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it, if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.
We must continually renew this promise. My administration has a civil rights division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination. We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate. This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.
We're going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws — so that women get equal pay for an equal day's work. And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system — to secure our borders and enforce our laws and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.
In the end, it's our ideals, our values that built America — values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe, values that drive our citizens still. Every day, Americans meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers. Time and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country. They take pride in their labor and are generous in spirit. These aren't Republican values or Democratic values that they're living by, business values or labor values. They're American values.
Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions — our corporations, our media, and, yes, our government — still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people's doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.
No wonder there's so much cynicism out there. No wonder there's so much disappointment.
I campaigned on the promise of change — change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change — or that I can deliver it.
But remember this — I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone. Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is.
Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths and pointing fingers. We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high and get through the next election instead of doing what's best for the next generation.
But I also know this: If people had made that decision 50 years ago or 100 years ago or 200 years ago, we wouldn't be here tonight. The only reason we are here is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard, to do what was needed even when success was uncertain, to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and their grandchildren.
Our administration has had some political setbacks this year and some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year. And what keeps me going — what keeps me fighting — is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism, that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people, that lives on.
It lives on in the struggling small business owner who wrote to me of his company, "None of us," he said, "... are willing to consider, even slightly, that we might fail."
It lives on in the woman who said that even though she and her neighbors have felt the pain of recession, "We are strong. We are resilient. We are American."
It lives on in the 8-year-old boy in Louisiana, who just sent me his allowance and asked if I would give it to the people of Haiti.
And it lives on in all the Americans who've dropped everything to go someplace they've never been and pull people they've never known from the rubble, prompting chants of "USA! USA! USA!" when another life was saved.
The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people. We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment — to start anew, to carry the dream forward and to strengthen our union once more.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.