Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner
Minority Leader of the United States House of Representative Nancy Pelosi
United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Current)
United States Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Current)
Legislation to Create a Constitutional Amendment to Address the Supreme Court Ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Committee (FEC)
The purpose of this open memorandum is to give the addressed audience the background behind one of the Supreme Court’s most critical rulings in determining how political speech can and will be voiced in the United States, as well who will be afforded this microphone for such speech. It is important to know background behind the legislation that was created that led to this decision, the fallout in terms of the tremendous influx and rise of corporate and individual contributions to super PACs and the infinite rise of dark contributions that are without disclosure, identity, or known motive to become prevalent in today’s political marketplace.
The Supreme Court has afforded individual rights to corporations throughout its existence but it, nor the legislative branch of the Unites States government have taken steps to clearly outline and define legal rights that should be afforded to corporations and which rights are exclusively endowed to actual human citizens. A constitutional amendment is the most clear path to defining and finally making a clear distinction and protect the liberties of citizens by provide corporations with adequate legal recognition and protection. A constitutional amendment is not an act of small proportions and will take both sides of the isle to find common ground in order to find a solution to the removes the court’s interpretation of whom and what are covered under specific amendments. Though it will be tough, it is vital to the preservation of the individual citizen to make such distinctions and definitions clear and a permanent within the United States Constitution.
Background in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Committee
In 2002 the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) also known as the McCain Feingold Campaign Reform Act was signed into law by then President George W. Bush (BCRA, n.d.). The purpose of the bipartisan legislation was to address campaign financing in five main areas: soft money contributions and regulations, reform of electioneering communication from non-candidate organizations and individuals, the prohibiting of corporations and labor unions from using funds from their general treasuries to fund electioneering communications, the placement of an exemption for nonprofit organizations was implemented to allow these groups to use general treasuries to fund electioneering communications, and the final major subject addressed in the legislation is the placement of coordination restrictions and disclosure policies for advertising (BCRA, n.d.). The law almost immediately saw legal challenges spear headed by Senator Mitch McConnell and the National Rifle Association (NRA) whom both challenged the constitutionality of the legislation and ultimately the Supreme Court heard several challenges directed at specific sections of the act shortly after the bill became law and in all instances affirmed the legislation or pushed the argument back to be argued once the law is applied (BCRA, n.d).
Citizens United is nonprofit corporation that states is “dedicated to educating the American public about their rights and the government” and in the 2008 presidential election cycle produced a expressively conservative political ninety minute movie that attacked then Senator Hillary Clinton whom was running for the Democratic presidential nomination (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (Docket No. 08-205), 2009). As noted in the BCRA a ban on direct financing of electioneering communications and also required that such advertising have disclaimer and disclosure information provided to identify where the money for the advertising came from (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (Docket No. 08-205), 2009). Citizens United sought to have these provisions of the BCRA challenge and on March 24, 2009 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments challenging the BCRA and the court was faced then with four overarching questions in their decision: should electioneering communication as defined and restrictions imposed in the BCRA be upheld, are the disclosure requirements within the BCRA “overly burdensome and fail a strict scrutiny test as-applied to The Movie”, determination if The Movie fell into the category of a “clear plea for action to vote”, and whether or not The Movie was considered an advertisement which then would make it subject to regulations within the BCRA(Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (Docket No. 08-205), 2009).
In January 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that “the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections” (Liptak, 2010). The court was split five to four in their ruling with the majority stating that the government cannot and should not be permitted to limit political speech while the decent stated that this ruling will lead to the money pouring into political advertising and will ultimately undermine democracy in the United States (Liptak, 2010). This ruling not only struck down the key provisions within the BCRA (that had already been ruled and upheld by the court in 2003) it was constitutional to place restrictions on corporate and union spending for political advertising and also overruled a 1990 Supreme Court decisions that had found it constitutional to implementation restrictions on corporate spending in political campaigns (Liptak, 2010). Writing for the majority Justice Kennedy “When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought […] This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves” (Liptak, 2010). The court in the majority decision also gave a more subtle indication within their ruling that “independent contributions could not corrupt (Hasen, 2012). In part of a twenty minute decent from the bench Justice John Paul Stevens stated “the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings” (Liptak, 2010). The ruling fell across political lines with the five conservative justices backing Citizens United and the liberal justices descending leaving a huge loophole for political spending poured into the political spectrum and having a congress as divided as the courts resolution progress on creating a resolution to the action taken by the court seems unlikely.
Citizens United Ruling and the Rise of the Super PAC
Though in the 1976 Supreme Court ruling, the justices ruled that an individual could spend unlimited amounts of money to advertise for or against candidates, this money had to be used by the individual and could not be given to a political action committee or PAC (Hasen, 2012). Since the individuals would have to declare in the advertising that they had paid for it, few individuals chose to make individually funded advertising even though it was ruled to be legal (Hasen, 2012). Prior to the Citizens United ruling PACs had been limited to five thousand dollars in individual contributions and corporations and unions were forbidden from making any contributions to these groups (Hasen, 2012). Following the Citizens United ruling the 527 groups (named for the section of nonprofit tax standing under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code they fall under) claimed they could take unlimited funds from not only individuals but also corporations and unions as they were not considered PACs under the FEC’s definition of PACs and led to the rise of the super PAC that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money (Hasen, 2012).
Looking only at presidential elections since BCRA was enacted, so called super PACs had the following spending activities : 2004 – $14,193,530 / 2008: $37,509,249 / and following the Citizens United decision in 2010 the 2012 spending jumped to over a billion dollars with $308.7 million having no disclosure at all (Hasen, 2012) (Outside Spending, n.d.). In looking at this current year’s midterm election super PAC, 527 and 501C spending based on FEC daily updates through November 16, 2014 nearly five-hundred and sixty million dollars with only three-hundred and forty million having full disclosure, it should also be noted that the super PAC is by far and away the largest receiver of dollars and spending on electioneering communications (Outside Spending, n.d.). This kind of expansion of corporate personhood affording free speech to such entities only act to mute the individual voice that the First Amendment was designed to protect, not to mention the corruption that can only follow such unbridled spending.
Corporate Citizenship in the United States Supreme Court
Since the inception of the United States there have been at least nine Supreme Court decisions beyond the Citizens United case that have weighed in to classify companies and corporations individuals in the eyes of the law. The first rights to be decided by the court revolved around the citizen classification and jurisdictional questions. In 1809 in the Bank of the United States vs. Deveaux as federal and state jurisdictions were still being established, the defendant argued that since corporations are not people, they could not bring a case to federal court and the court agreed meaning that corporations could only have legal standing in federal courts if all shareholders or at least one of the opposing party lived in the same state (Park, 2014). In 1844, it had become apparent that the 1809 ruling had put corporations primarily out of reach of the federal court system and ruled in Louisville, Cincinnati, and Charleston Railroad vs. Letson that “corporations were “citizens” of the states where they incorporated” (Park, 2014). Marshall vs. Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the Supreme Court’s 1853 ruling further defined the corporations as citizens as applied to jurisdiction of the courts and outlined that corporations did not enjoy the same constitutional rights as real people thus making shareholders to be considered citizens of the companies home state making it easier for federal court proceedings to be brought by and against corporations (Park, 2014).
Following the United States Civil War and the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment the Southern Pacific Railroad in County of Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific Railroad stated that as corporations are citizens it was illegal for the county to enact a tax specific to the railroad (Park, 2014). Though the court never eluded to the railroad being protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, the court reporter did include in the published notes of the ruling that the rights afforded under the Fourteenth Amendment and this adage would be used later citing this case as grounds to uphold corporate protection under the Fourteenth Amendment in 1898’s Smyth vs. Ames decision which protected corporations from property seizure without due process (Park, 2014). Hale vs. Henkel in 1906 continued to uphold a corporation’s protection under the Fourteenth Amendment but drew a distinction that companies were not protected from self-incrimination afforded under the Fifth Amendment (Park, 2014).
The distinction in regards to the Fifth Amendment was then back tracked in the Russian Volunteer Fleet vs. United States stating that foreign corporations are also protected from illegal government seizure and had an equal right fair treatment in the legal system (Park, 2014). In 1977 the right to shield a corporations from double jeopardy was also upheld in United States vs. Martin Linen Supply Company (Park, 2014). Finally in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby that corporations are also legally protected by the First Amendment’s freedom of religion (Park, 2014). Reviewing the consistent rulings of the court it has been made clear that corporations have been afforded rights traditionally viewed as individual citizen rights under the constitutions the blurring of a reality what are actual individual rights for a physical individual to poses and which are the rights afforded to both individuals and corporations as a pseudo citizen.
It is clear that a corporation, though founded by individuals with shareholders whom are also people, in everyday life no one would mistake a corporation for an actual living breathing human being. It can be seen why the courts have been put into the position of needing to adapt certain provisions of the constitution to adequately protect and litigate corporations but the time has come to clearly define the limitations of the corporations protections afforded by the constitution and limit the influence and power that such organizations can wheeled within the United States political system, especially if the corporation is looking for anonymity from the scrutiny of disclosure. It is the responsibility of the legislative branch of the United States government to look at over two centuries of court rulings that have gradually created the corporate citizen and the ambiguity that that has fashioned to know that it is time for action that is much less open to interpretation.
Such a movement to create the Twenty-eighth Amendment due to the process of a constitutional amendment will require that it be designed to show the benefit for corporations, the individual citizen, as well move above political partisanship that has created gridlock and division not only in Washington D.C. but across towns, families, and states over the past several decades. Compromise and partnership were the cornerstones of what this democracy were built on and must be rekindled in order to save the union from its own apathy in the face of critical problems. A bipartisan recognition of the problem that exist needs to be made as a first step, though the reasons for such an identification do not need to be the same, the recognition of a problem must be a vital step in creating an understanding.
The writing of the legislation must also take bipartisan roots and impute should be actively solicited through congressional hearing from civil liberties organizations, as well, from corporate leadership and organization. By using congressional hearing as an avenue to create transparency around the process, any lobbyist for or against such an amendment should also be given the opportunity to present their case under oath in congressional hearings. Though there is no way legally to stop lobbyists from inserting pressure from their backers it would be admirable for all members of congress to take a pledge to only take official testimony from lobbyists if only on this one issue. By doing this the air of unofficial influence can be remediated in the process and deciding factors within the legislation can have known origins.
It would be best to use the tradition of starting a constitutional by providing a two thirds majority in both the United States House and Senate and then look to two thirds of the states for ratification. But if the gridlock that has prevented major legislation from moving through both chambers of congress cannot be overcome and in a time of instant information sharing and given the critical nature of this legislation, citizens should coordinate and call on their state legislatures to act in calling a constitutional convention which can be demanded with such passage by two thirds of the states in the union (Constitutional Amendment Process, n.d.). This subject has the potential to unify America in the address a problem that has been growing through the existence of the country and must be dealt with from the legislatures within this country instead of deferral to the courts whom are not elected or accountable to a constituency.
Here is a little voting help this midterm election. These are all issues that the political realm has debated over the last couple years. The information is out there, but if you haven’t been able to keep up on the insanity of American politics, this little cheat sheet should help.
Ask yourself these yes or no questions and tally up your yes versus no at the end.
Do you make less than a million dollars a year?
Do you have a business that makes less than a million dollars a year?
Do you respect women?
Think women are equal to men?
Do you think men and women can make their own healthcare choices?
Do you believe in freedom of religion?
Do you want money out of politics?
Do you want access to health care?
Do you want to pay reasonable prices for medicine?
Do you want to pay reasonable prices for health care?
Do you like to breathe clean air?
Do you like to drink clean water?
Do you want to keep poison out of your food?
Do you want to stop banks from gambling away America’s future?
Do you want to hold those accountable for the Great Recession?
Do you want to have decent roads to drive on?
Do you want reliable electricity?
Do you want the police to police?
Do you want to stop the spread of Ebola?
Do you want a government that actually functions?
Do you want this America to progress in the world?
Do you want the American Dream?
Do you want a reasonable education?
Do you want decent schools for your children?
Do you want scientific advances to continue?
Do you want medical advances to continue?
Do you want a choice in broadband internet?
Do you like Free Speech?
Do you want a democracy?
Do you want good American jobs?
Do you want American jobs to stay in America?
Do you want renewable energy?
Do you want a sustainable future?
Do you want to slow climate change?
Do you have or want beachfront property?
Do you like any place that is currently on a beach?
Do you want to earn what you are worth?
Do you want to be able to vote without having to pay for it?
Do you think 40,000 lives are more valuable than 40?
Do you want to know what is in your food?
Do you want to be sure your house is not going to collapse on you?
Do you think people should be able to marry who they love?
Do you think that all people deserve to eat?
Do you think we should take care of our veterans?
Do you think we should be the best educated society in the world?
Do you want to be part of the best country in the world?
Do you want to help make this the best country in the world again?
Do you care about the quality of your life?
Do you want a better life?
Do you want to make a difference?
One or More ‘Yes’ on Political Survey
If you answered any of these questions then you definitely need to make sure you vote!
If you answered yes to any these questions than you need to make sure that you vote Democrat or Independent. It is simple as that.
Unless of course you like the government quagmire and enjoy the plummeting quality of life for Americans, then vote Republican.
If you want a better America, if you answered YES to any of the above questions vote anyone other than a Republican. Doing so will help to move the government back to being influenced by the people. It might not be the perfect solution, but at least we should be able to get the slow government machine moving again and working for the people of America.
Get educated and go vote. Thank you for participating in your government, it needs you!
Over the last couple of years the Supreme Court of the United States of America has destroyed protections that have been in place for a hundred years or more. In several short but brutal strokes, the Supreme Court has made meaningless the suffering of countless Americans who fought back against discrimination, lack of representation, and persecution. The recent appalling decisions of the Supreme Court defy logic, fairness, and have strayed far from what America is supposed to be.
Citizens United and Private Contributions
We have known. K N O W N. That money is an absolutely corrupting and destructive influence in politics and governments. I’m not saying we have figured this out in the last couple years. We have known this for thousands, yes, THOUSANDS of years. This practice of plutocracy has destroyed countries, nations, and entire empires of humans. That is why we have had laws to limit and highly regulate what money gets funneled into politics. These limitations have been fairly effective over the last hundred years. We have, for the most part, truly had a democracy where the average American people mattered in politics. But the Supreme Court ruled that corporations may contribute to political campaigns, basically ruling that corporations have the same rights as people in regard to free speech, and more chillingly, giving corporations the go-ahead to buy politicians, and thus, elections. This decision has got to be one of the most destructive to American democracy.
How can the Supreme Court of America come to such a terrible and obviously flawed decision?
And instead of learning from the consequences of their ruling, they made another ruling to make sure the country is run by the rich and that democracy will no longer be decided by individuals, ruling to lift the limit that individuals can donate in politics. In fact, this changes America from a democracy, to a plutocracy.
Democracy: A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.
Plutocracy: A country or society governed by the wealthy.
First, racism is alive and well in this country. It is far from being gone. If anyone fails to see racism, it is because they are actively ignoring it.
Second, many proposed voting laws have been struck down by these voter protections. These laws were not drafted 20 years ago. They were struck down in the very same year as being obviously and overtly intended to make it harder for certain races to vote. On tape, at press conferences, and speeches around the country, republicans ACTUALLY stated their intent to keep certain voters from the polls. Here is a great article showing many cases of voter discrimination. It is worth the time to read.
One of the most notable pieces of evidence that this Supreme Court decision was a grave mistake was that as soon as the decision was announced, the state of Texas ‘immediately put into effect’ the very voting right laws that had previously been blocked by the Voting Rights Act for racial targeting.
Supreme Court Strikes down the Separation of Church and State
And indeed, this separation has been important for fairness and inclusiveness. When the government stays out of religious organizations and vice versa, there is one less agenda involved. This most recent ruling is chilling, as is Justice Anthony Kennedy’s answer that if you don’t like it, you can just leave the room: “Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy” This is such a juvenile and ignorant response to come from a Supreme Court Justice, and Justice Elena Kagan pointed that out, but much more eloquently.
Regardless of whether you are a Christian or not, prayers have no business in a government meeting, where people of all faiths or none should be recognized as equal contributors to the democratic process, and all should feel welcome. The core of democracy is a government of people, not of religion.
It seems such a simple concept to empathize with another and their point of view. This is a perfect example of this Supreme Court’s inability to do that. If the five majority justices are unable to empathize with people who are unlike themselves, it is obvious they are terribly underqualified for their jobs, since empathy is the primary trait one needs to judge fairly. How might they feel if they were the one Jew, Muslim, atheist, or other non-Christian person that was effectively being ostracized at one of these meetings?
Supreme Court Supremely Dysfunctional
The Supreme Court is no longer fulfilling the purpose of being unbiased judges. The Supreme Court is no longer the moderators of what is morally right, fair, and lawful.
Either they are so out of touch they no longer possess the skills to accurately see and judge the REAL America we live in, or they are so blatantly partisan and pushing an agenda it is sickening.
I almost want to think they are ignorant, because maybe they would have an excuse and could be educated. Unfortunately, I know this isn’t the case. You do not become a judge, let alone a Supreme Court judge, by being an ignoramus.
How to Regain a Just and Fair Supreme Court
These Supreme Court Justices are obviously and overtly pushing a right wing agenda. This is terrifying. I come to this conclusion because America is so polarized right now the choices of a “side” are obvious. The choices of Supreme Court judges should NOT be obvious. In fact, in this time of extreme polarization the Supreme Court Judges should be a mystery. They should surprise us with every decision finding the middle ground. Sadly, this is not the case.
But what can we do? Seeing the corruption all the way up and including Supreme Court members tells us that the problem with America is systemic. With systemic problems we must change the system.
The first step would be to open the mystery of the Supreme Court by allowing cameras in the court. This should not be set up like a frantic press conference of a Hollywood star having an affair. Instead, it should be a CSPAN-like feed with static, always on, cameras that show us, the people, how the Supreme Court comes to its decisions. This would help us understand the how and whys behind their decisions. We could also uncover possible issues that could be corrected and the court enhanced to be more fair, moral, and efficient.
Next, lifetime appointments need to be eliminated. This is the ridiculous way that political parties “rig the system” in their favor. The effects of these appointments last for years and do terrible harm to our country. Terms should overlap major elections so no matter who is on the benches they will be judging and ruling for what is right and constitutional, not along party lines.
Finally, I would like to see more and more people take an interest in what the Supreme Court does. Many of us find it hard to keep informed and up to date on some of the most important decisions that affect us. Once more are staying informed on what the Supreme Court is doing, then those can take better educated actions to make sure that their votes, their conversations, and their lives are influenced by being better informed.
Ultimately I think that the people of America still have enough power to make the changes to America that truly benefits our society. If we do not exercise this right, we will be surprised to find that we have given up our rights, without a peep, while the people we trusted with our rights give them away.
The 2014 State of the Union Address was a good one where President Obama pointed out the many hard fought improvements during the previous year of his administration. Many of which fell short of the original promise, but there was progress to be had. Progress was made in spite of efforts of the GOP, which has stuck to their hard line mantra of opposing President Obama and democrats no matter what the particular issue of the day is. President Obama’s displeasure with the lack of cooperation and compromise rose up a few times during the State of the Union address. To this President Obama boldly said that he will no longer wait for the cooperation and compromise from the GOP if there were not obvious signs they would support an initiative. It has become painfully obvious to everyone that the core of Republicans still have no intention of changing. In a response to the GOP’s obstructionism President Obama said he will now take executive actions when and where he is able.
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I think it would be great to get our lagging nation the much needed boost it needs. Real action to rekindle the hopes of prosperity in this country through wage increases, pay equality, increasing jobs, paths to citizenship, and the overall fair and equal treatment of all Americans. Since the GOP has one goal, to obstruct the Obama Administration whenever possible, Executive Actions will be nice to see better progress and fair treatment of people in America.
On the other hand it both horrifies and sickens me that our government is so broken that it has to come to Executive Actions to accomplish some of the most basic and simple functions of our government. President George W Bush really brought Executive Actions to the fore front. Now President Obama feels he has to use these to accomplish the things that this country needs. However, I don’t think two wrongs make a right. But I do understand that the GOP has left the President little choice.
Unfortunately there is little sign that the degradation of our government is slowing. So until many more Americans get involved and invested in our government there is little hope of it changing for the better to actually serve the American people.
A great place to start learning and investing in the US Government that will dictate the quality of our lives is the State of the Union Address. It is a summary of the last year and an action plan for the year ahead. It is similar to a compass you need to use to navigate the wilderness. Use the State of the Union Address to help you get a direction of what and where our government hopes to go in the coming year. Then follow the direction in which it goes. Then participate, stay informed through multiple sources, discuss with others, and most importantly vote at the end of the year to help our government continue moving down the path of making America better.
Here’s to another year of trying to make America and all of it’s people better!
2014 State of the Union Full Length Video
Full Transcript of the 2014 State of the Union Address
Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much.
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 levels 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 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years. (Applause.)
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. (Applause.) A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities all 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. (Applause.)
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. (Applause.)
And here are the results of your efforts: the lowest unemployment rate in over five years; a rebounding housing market — (applause) — a manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s — (applause) — more oil produced — more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years — (applause) — our deficits cut by more than half; and for the first time — (applause) — 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.
(Cheers, applause.) 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. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, as president, I’m committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. And I believe most of you are, too. Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans,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.
And in the coming months — (applause) — 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 in America. (Applause.)
Now, 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 to get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.
So 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. (Applause.) 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. (Cheers, applause.)
As usual, our first lady sets a good example. Michelle’s — (applause) — well. (Chuckles.) (Cheers, applause.) Yeah. Michelle’s Let’s Move! partnership with schools, businesses, local leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in thirty years, and that’s an achievement — (applause) — 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. (Applause.)
Taking a page from that playbook, the White House just organized a College Opportunity Summit, where already 150 universities, businesses, nonprofits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education and to help every hardworking kid go to college and succeed when they get to campus.
And across the country — (applause) — 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 — (applause) — how the son of a barkeeper is speaker of the House — (cheers, applause) — how the son of a single mom can be president of the greatest nation on Earth. (Cheers, applause.)
Now — (sustained cheers and applause) — opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation must be 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. (Applause.)
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 right here at home. (Cheers, applause.)
Moreover, we can take the money we save from 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 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. (Cheers, applause.) That can happen.
But — but I’ll 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. (Applause.)
We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. And my administration’s launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Youngstown, Ohio, 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. (Applause.)
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 98 percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create even 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.” (Applause.)
Listen, China and Europe aren’t standing on the sidelines; and neither — 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. And 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. (Cheers, applause.)
There are entire industries to be built based on 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 and needless litigation. (Applause.)
Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The “all the above” energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades. (Applause.)
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. (Applause.) Businesses plan to invest almost a hundred billion dollars in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work, 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. (Applause.)
Meanwhile, my administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and jobs growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations. (Applause.)
Now, 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 we can invest more in fuels of the future that do. (Cheers, applause.)
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.
And 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. (Applause.)
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 — (applause) — the shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require some tough choices along the way.
But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. (Applause.) 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. (Cheers, applause.)
Finally, if we’re serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement — and fix our broken immigration system. (Cheers, applause.) Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted, and 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, contribute to our culture — they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let’s get immigration reform done this year. (Cheers, applause.) Let’s get it done. It’s time.
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 those parts. 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 a better job. She was flooded with new workers, and today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees. And 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. (Cheers, applause.) 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. (Cheers, applause.)
Let me tell you why.
Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She’d been steadily employed since she was a teenager, put herself through college. She’d never collected unemployment benefits, but she’s been paying taxes.
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’m 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. (Cheers, applause.) Give them that chance. Give them the chance. They need our help right now, 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 new jobs, a new chance to support their families. And in fact, 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 do the same because we are stronger when America fields a full team. (Applause.)
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. (Applause.)
Estiven Rodriguez couldn’t speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age 9. 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. (Applause.)
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 the skills for the new economy — problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, math.
Now, 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 is worth it — and it is working.
The problem is we’re still not reaching enough kids, and we’re not reaching them in time, and 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. (Applause.) Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old. And as a parent as well as a president, I repeat that request tonight.
But in the meantime, 30 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 that they need. (Applause.) It is right for America. We need to get this done.
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 20 million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit. (Cheers, applause.)
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 10 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. (Applause.)
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 especially 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 also do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.
You know, 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.
Women deserve equal pay for equal work. (Cheers, applause.)
You know, she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. (Cheers, applause.) A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. (Applause.) And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) This year let’s all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity she deserves, because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds. (Cheers, applause.)
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 money than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. That’s what America’s all about. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. (Applause.)
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 today with his boss, John Soranno. John’s an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the dough. (Laughter.) Only now he makes more of it. (Laughter.) John just gave his employees a raise to 10 bucks an hour, and that’s a decision that has eased their financial stress and boosted their morale.
Tonight I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead. Do what you can to raise your employees’ wages. (Applause.) It’s good for the economy; it’s good for America. (Sustained applause.)
To every mayor, governor, 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 — (cheers, applause) — our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty. (Sustained applause.)
Of course, to reach millions more, Congress does need to get on board.
Today the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. And Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. It’s easy to remember: 10.10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It does not involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise. (Cheers, applause.) Give ’em 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. Think about that. It helps about half of all parents in America at some point in their lives.
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, 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 401(k)s. 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 — 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 or nothing for middle-class Americans, offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everybody 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 home ownership alive for future generations. (Applause.)
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. (Scattered laughter, applause.)
Now — a pre-existing condition used to mean that someone like Amanda Shelley, a physician’s assistant and single mom from Arizona, couldn’t get health insurance. But on January 1st, she got covered. (Applause.) 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 3 million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans. (Applause.)
More than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage — 9 million. (Applause.)
And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American, none, zero, can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a pre-existing condition like asthma or back pain or cancer. (Cheers, applause.) No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. (Cheers, applause.) 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 do not expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. (Laughter.) (Chuckles.) (Laughter.) But I know that the American people are not interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice, tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. (Applause.) But let’s not have another 40- something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans like Amanda.
(Cheers, applause.) The first 40 were plenty. 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. Now, Kentucky’s not the most liberal part of the country. That’s not where I got my highest vote totals. (Laughter.) But he’s like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth’s families. They’re our neighbors and our friends, he said. They’re people we shop and go to church with — farmers out on the tractor, grocery clerks. They’re 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. Help them get covered. (Applause.) Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It’ll give her some peace of mind, and plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you. (Laughter.)
After all, that — 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. (Applause.) 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, chaired by my campaign lawyer and Governor Romney’s campaign lawyer, came together and have 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. (Cheers, applause.)
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 and our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook. (Applause.)
Citizenship demands a sense of common purpose; 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. (Extended applause.) Thank you.
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. (Applause.)
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-Qaida. For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country. (Applause.)
The fact is that danger remains. While we’ve put al-Qaida’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al-Qaida affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, 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. (Applause.)
We have to remain vigilant.
But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our outstanding 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 is truly necessary, nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles — (applause) — 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 actively and 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. (Applause.) 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 privacy of ordinary people is not being violated. (Applause.) 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 — (applause) — 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, our leadership depends on all elements of our power — including strong and principled diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than 50 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. (Applause.) 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 the 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. (Applause.)
And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program — and rolled back parts of that program — 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’s 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. (Applause.)
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 we’re clear about the mistrust between our nations, mistrust that cannot be wished away. But these negotiations don’t 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. (Applause.)
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. (Applause.) For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.
(Applause.) 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 — and we’ll know soon enough — 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.
And 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 to 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’re 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. (Cheers, applause.)
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. (Applause.) We’ll keep working to help all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs here at home, and we will 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, the ceremony. He was a strong, impressive young man, had an easy manner. He was sharp as a tack. And we joked around, and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.
A few months later, on his 10th 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. And 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, 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. (Cheers, applause.) Cory. (Extended cheers and applause.)
My fellow Americans — 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, the way Cory summoned what is best in him, 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. (Cheers, applause.)
One of the biggest stories going on right now with the rough beginning of Obamacare is the news that hundreds of thousands, and in the coming years, millions of Americans are going to have their healthcare insurance canceled. On the surface, this seems like a huge blow to those that thought that Obamacare was going to help them. The irony is, these cancellations do help them. Here’s how:
A large portion of these healthcare insurance cancellations are due to the fact that the healthcare policies that these people have are now illegal under Obamacare. They do not meet the minimum coverage guidelines set by Obamacare, the Affordable Healthcare Act. In fact these people should probably be happy about Obamacare because the new regulations stop these policies from being issued which do not cover what insured Americans think they cover. In fact, these policies were one of the targets of the new regulation because Americans had these policies, got sick or hurt, and then discovered they were not covered. They would end up responsible for the ridiculously high medical bills when they thought they were covered. Now with the new Obamacare regulations on minimum coverage, the aim is to make sure these healthcare insurance policies actually cover treatment.
Before Obamacare became law, your insurance policy could be canceled if you cost the insurance company too much money. You could then be denied coverage by other insurance companies. If you were lucky enough to find a company that would insure a pre-existing condition, then the healthcare policy would be hugely expensive, effectively forcing you to risk it all, including your own life, that things would be OK. This is not a risk anyone should have to take. Now with Obamacare being law, health insurance companies cannot deny you coverage. And since healthcare insurance is now required by law, that means there will be tens of millions more people in these exchanges keeping costs down for everyone.
It was a major failing of President Obama to be so staunch in his reassurance that everyone could keep the healthcare coverage they already had. President Obama knew that millions of healthcare policies would be canceled. This is a huge disappointment and goes against his promise of transparency. Unfortunately they made the choice to keep it as quiet as possible and decide to deal with the blow back once Obamacare was law. Instead of playing the “branding” game with Republicans he should have prepared America for some of the changes that would inevitably come. So in this sense, the outrage is real and earned. However, this should be tempered by the fact that now millions of Americans are not being actively deceived about the bogus healthcare coverage they had.
The real outrage should be focused at the health insurance companies that sold policies that really didn’t cover people. The outrage should be focused at the lifetime payout caps that we once faced. The real outrage should be focused on the broken healthcare system in this country. Does Obamacare fix our healthcare system? No it certainly doesn’t. Does Obamacare help make our broken healthcare system a little bit better? Yes it does.
My hope is through these trials and tribulations we as Americans can finally realize just how far behind we are rest of the first world in healthcare. Our healthcare is based off of making profits off the sick and injured, and ignoring the healthy. With Obamacare each one of us is going to pay a little less overall to the healthcare companies. With Obamacare we can let many of our worries go that it is no longer guaranteed to be personal and financial ruin if you get sick or hurt.
However, we as Americans have to realize that our personal health and the prosperity of our entire nation are dependent on how healthy and secure we are as a people. We must realize that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. That cannot happen until healthcare becomes the national defense priority it should be. Only then will we see that socialized medicine is the only sustainable path into a strong future and healthy America.
The Republicans and the GOP Leadership are using the government shutdown to take America hostage against the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare. This can be made no clearer by this document that was sent through the house Republicans. They signed it, and made it their plan, their goal, to shut down the government. The GOP is responsible for the government shutdown, plain and simple.
They want to negotiate something that they have already lost, a long time ago.
They lost several elections to health care reform.
They have failed to stop it with 41 separate votes in Congress.
The Supreme Court of the United States of America has upheld Obamacare.
This guise of the GOP compromising and sitting down to discuss Obamacare happened years ago, and Obamacare is the compromise they got. We would have a single payer system if “health care was rammed down their throat”.
This piecemeal idea to funding government subverts the democratic process we have used to create these programs in the first place. They are simply taking the lives and well beings of America and Americans hostage.
There is a “clean bill” that has passed the senate that will start the government immediately. It will fund everything “as is”. Just like it was before the government shutdown began. There are enough votes and support in Congress to pass this “clean bill” to get everything up and running again. John Boehner simply has to call an up or down vote and this shutdown would be over. However, he is bowing to the minority right wing tea party extremists.
Eighty Republican members of Congress signed a letter which has created the government shutdown. Though they blame the Democrats and President Obama for the shutdown, it is so obvious that the blame for this extortion lies squarely with the GOP. The Democrats want to pass a budget and get the government working again, but the Republicans are trying to take advantage of the situation. This clip from the Daily Show with John Stewart explains the letter the Republicans signed.
If you would like to skip right to it, start watching at the 5:20 mark. However, I encourage everyone to watch the entire episode. It is fantastic.
It’s OK for Republicans to disagree with Obamacare. It’s OK for them to have the opinion that other government programs and legislation are bad.
It is NOT ok for them to take us all hostage because of their beliefs. In a democratic society you must take the majority opinion over the minority. That is the whole point. If they want to change or modify existing programs or laws they should be drafting legislation to do so. They should NOT be threatening the lives of millions of Americans or the future prosperity of America.
Stop the shutdown immediately! Call a vote on the “clean bill” now.
Please post your thoughts and opinions below as well as on any and all social media that you are involved with so we can get the message out that taking America hostage is WRONG.
Whether you are a lover or a hater of Obamacare, the Health Care Insurance Marketplaces opened up today. Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act, is a law that was signed by President Parack Obama on March 23, 2010.
The ACA aims to increase the quality and affordability of Health insurance, lower the uninsured rate by expanding public and private insurance coverage, and reduce the cost of healthcare for individuals and the government.
Few measures of Obamacare have been put into place yet, but the biggest step in getting the ACA up and running went into effect today, the Open Healthcare Insurance Marketplace.
The Open Health Care Insurance Marketplace is the main way in which Obamacare hopes to tackle many of these stated goals.
With it all being so new and people from all walks of life already shouting it will save us all or ruin us all it is really too early to tell how it will change American health care.
However, the first and most important thing we must all do is learn about the ACA, Obamacare, and how it can and will affect us. To this end, they have set up a few websites to help Americans learn about the changes.
It is far too early to know if this will truly be a good or bad thing for America but the only way we will know is if we learn and educate ourselves along with these changes. This way we have the best understanding as possible. This is a responsibility each and every one of us voting Americans has and should not be taken lightly. So please take some time and look into Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act, and learn how the new Health Care Insurance Marketplace will affect you and your family.
Please share your experiences in the comments below so we can get a feel for how people are being affected and using the Open Health Care Insurance Marketplace.
Today we look back 50 years to the inspirational leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He had a dream that we should all share this country and this world equally, without racial, social, economic, or religious bias or bigotry. This country is a far greater America than it was back then. Dr. Martin Luther King’s courage and dedication to what he knew was right made this country, and this world better by far.
However, his dream of equality is far from fully realized. There has been talk amongst the media and pundits that racism is over and is no longer a problem in America, especially after the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Dr. Martin Luther King was instrumental in making the Act a reality and many in this country see it as one of the most important pieces of legislation in American History.
The idea that racism no longer exists is far from true.
Racial, economic, social, and religious bigotry still plague us in America as well as worldwide. Examples of this inequality and prejudice are everywhere. As if to illustrate how important this legislation was to protecting people’s rights, Texas, within hours of the ruling, reintroduced a voter ID law that a panel of federal judges ruled last year would impose “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor”. It is clear; we still have very far to go, and there are still those who seek to restrict the rights of certain segments of society in order to further their own agendas.
Looking back 50 years to when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech and comparing that America with today’s America, I find myself sharing that same dream. It is easy to get lost and hopeless in the quagmire that is today’s American politics. However, with the broader view of the last 50 years I can see that we can make progress, we can grow as a nation and as a people.
So I implore you today to take a few minutes and watch or read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s amazing “I Have a Dream” speech. It amazes me just how meaningful it was then, and is now. Take his words to heart and think about what you can do as an American to further the dream of a better future.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream Speech Video
August 28, 1963. Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream Speech Transcription
August 28, 1963. Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beckoning light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later the Negro is still languishing in the comers of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.
We all have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to change racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice ring out for all of God’s children.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted citizenship rights.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
And the marvelous new militarism which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers have evidenced by their presence here today that they have come to realize that their destiny is part of our destiny.
So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and before the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the mount with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the genuine discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together; to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom forever, mowing that we will be free one day.
And I say to you today my friends, let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only there; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”
This week’s Presidential Weekly address changes focus onto America’s energy policies and the push for more energy stability and independence. This is definitely a political topic that has not gotten the attention it deserves. It is good to see President Obama putting more focus on this urgent political issue.
President Obama discusses the need to harness American energy in order to reduce our dependence on oil and make the United States a magnet for new jobs. He highlights his all-of-the-above approach to American energy — including a proposal to establish an Energy Security Trust, which invests in research that will help shift our cars and trucks off of oil.
Weekly Presidential YouTube Address for March 16, 2013
Here is Marco Rubio’s State of the Union YouTube Video Response to President Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address. If you missed the State of the Union Address first watch this enhanced YouTube video that adds some more information along with the President Barack Obama’s speech.
This is not one of the strongest responses the GOP has delivered to the State of the Union Addresses. Marco Rubio doesn’t deliver a terribly well prepared response as he contradicts himself on several important points. Knowing what the talking points are going to be it should be expected to have a better and more organized response. Sticking to the regular stump speech points is a little lazy for a response to the State of the Union.
Marco Rubio’s State of the Union YouTube Video Response