PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS: WE DON’T GIVE UP AND WE DON’T QUIT!!
By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
You know, if I weren't more sophisticated, worldly and politically savvy, I would definitely have done a "happy dance" and flipped an "in your face" symbol to all the right wingers -- media, repugnantcans (oops, I mean Republicans), and religious fanatics of that ilk -- last night when President Obama wound up his first State of the Union Address. And I would not have been alone. I can just see millions of Americans who supported Obama, but who had had some trepidation about his standing, owing to the poisonous media coverage of late, and how he would be received on this most auspicious occasion.
Apparently, we need not have worried. For despite their best efforts to distort his image, to make him seem uncaring and out of touch; to even come up with some bogus popularity poll (by the way, they didn’t call me, did they call you?) that had him somewhere below 50% for the first time, President Barack Obama showed he was not only the same person we elected as president of these United States, but he was even better than ever!
Even Katie Couric on CBS announced that a poll they had gathered immediately after the speech had President Obama with a 70% approval rating! And after watching Charlie Rose's gathering of pundits, I realized that no one had actually checked in with us as to what our response to President Obama's State of the Union Address was. So allow me: IT WAS GREAT! FANTANSTIC, WONDERFUL, INSPIRATIONAL, MOTIVATIONAL, AND EMPHATIC!!!
Did you hear him? Did you absorb the information he delivered, practically without pencil or paper -- genius that he is -- as he stood before the joint House and Senate (Republicans and Democrats). The brother was brilliant!!! He was erudite!!! He was creative!!! He was candid!!! He was humorous!!! He was courageous!!! He was effective!!! And he was perfectly clear when he said: We Don’t Give Up and We Don’t Quit!!
Even thoughthere were some political missteps and mistakes in the recent past (i.e the Kennedy's lost Massachuetts), he didn’t roll over and play dead, he didn’t compromise, he didn’t pull out the political expediency card -- he was clear about what the country needed when he was elected, and that necessity has not changed. The time to get it done is now. He put Congress on notice that turning their backs on the American people because of a few minor setbacks was not an option. He pointed out that having a majority of Democrats in office for the first time in 40 years is supposed to mean something -- laws are supposed to get passed -- not people running for the hills, concerned about their next election to such an extent that they forsake their responsibility to their constituents. He made it plain that he expected the Democrats to do their jobs. Not waffle. Wow!!!
By the way, if anyone was wondering whether or not the Health Care Bill was DOA (dead on arrival), guess again -- it’s been needed for 40 years, it was needed yesterday, it's needed today, and will be needed tomorrow. Millions will lose their insurance by the time he ended the speech, he quipped, so it is still needed. It’s time to get it done. If you got a better plan, bring it, he’ll look at it, but if not, stop shortchanging the populace, and pass the bill. (One wonders what would they do if one of their family members was directly affected by the bill?).
Individuals already insured can keep their current insurance plan and their doctor; there would be a reduction in costs and premiums for millions of families; and it would bring the deficit down by over $1 trillion over the next two decades. The President observed that the longer the House and Senate harangued over the Health Care bill, with their incessant posturing to please the pharmaceutical lobbyists and private interest groups, the more confused Americans become as to what the health bill would do and who would benefit.
While he blamed himself for part of the confusion, stating that he should have better explained the program, I beg to differ. In point of fact, President Obama’s original proposal was perfectly clear! The only distortion was in mainstream, right wing-run media, who took particular pleasure in distorting the facts and throwing scare tactics into their distorted, and obviously slanted reports.
“Still,” he stated, “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. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans wondering, "What's in it for me?" 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. “
The President’s aggressive program for bringing jobs back to America, the same one he articulated when he was running for President, was passed by the House a week ago, and is awaiting passage in the Senate. And woe betide the senator who does not step up to the plate with the whole world watching. In addition to green jobs, job training, and educational programs, there are major tax incentives to companies that bring the jobs back from overseas also on the table. There should be no quibbling on the part of the legislators who claim to stand for their constituents best interests. It puts the issue squarely where it belongs: are you for your constituents or for the foreign dollars.
Speaking of which, the President stated that it is time that the US become more competitive in the foreign trade markets, developing goods and services that can be sold overseas. This further expands opportunities for small businesses to present their products to a broader market base.
“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“.
For those with convenient amnesia, Obama briefly recounted the condition the government was in when he took office: Ten years ago, in 2000, there was a surplus from the Clinton Administration of $200 billion dollars; by the time the Bush administration finished in 2008, America was $3 trillion in the hole. And the gap was getting wider and wider by the day. If he had not supported the proposed bail out package at the time, American would most likely have been thrust into deep depression.
“So I supported the last administration's efforts to create the financial rescue program. 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. Most but not all. To recover the rest, I've proposed a fee on the biggest banks. (YAAY!!!) 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. 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.”
Just for the record, it’s obvious that Republicans aren’t the only ones who know how to cut taxes-- so let’s disabuse ourselves from that myth now and forever. Tax cuts are not just in the province of the Republicans.
“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. I'm also proposing a new small business tax credit- one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. 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. Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. 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.”
Does that sound like a man who is out of touch with his fellow Americans, or who has no concern for the middle class’ economic well being or viability? Does that sound like a person who is prone to political expediency?
I’m sure Wall Street did not like the fact that the President has now put the whole world on notice that there will be no more days when they are treated like royalty while Main Street gets treated like cannon fodder. Stating that they can no longer play Russian roulet with American funds, the President outlined a financial integrity bill that must be passed, and not watered down. If it does not do what it is supposed to do, he has threatened/promised to send it back until they “get it right!”
Rather than the "sloganese" that leaves people feeling that you’re doing something while actually just the opposite is the case, President Obama focused on education and failing schools, stating, “we've broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. 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. When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job.”
He further p;roposed a bill to revitalize community colleges, make college more affordable. Gone will be the tax breaks for banks that make student loans. Instead there will be a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and an increase in Pell Grants. “And let's tell another one 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”
My only reaction to this was GREAT!!! I just wish this had happened when I was struggling as a single parent to put my three through college by hook or crook. The Bush Administration definitely did not make it easy. Like many parents, I became good at the art of finagle -- so much so that I tell everyone now that I have absolutely no credit, but have absolutely fabulous investments in my three beautiful children, all of whom have graduated from college. Obama plan would have greatly added to my sanity, if not to my savings. So for those of you who don’t get the magnitude of what he is trying to do, figure that a college education now costs between $14,000 and $40,000 per year. Like he said, “you should not have to go into permanent debt trying to get an education.”
He is also working to lift the value of single family homes, by allowing them to refinance their homes at lower interest rates, and save an average of $1500 month on mortgages. “This year, we will step up refinancing so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages.”
Then came the moment everyone had been waiting for. There had been bets by pundits that the Health Care Bill was dead in the water. That Coakley’s defeat in Boston had sealed the deal. The salacious were licking their chops waiting for some sign of frustration, contrition, defeat. But not our President. With that wry smile of his, he continued, “And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle-class families that we still need health insurance reform. Yes, we do. Now, let's clear a few things up. 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.“
Ah, yes. That wonderful sardonic wit, for which he is so famous, came through once again: “I took on health care because of the stories I've heard from Americans with preexisting 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. 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.”
Adding to the charisma that is Obama, he announced that First Lady, Michelle Obama, is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity, and make kids healthier. Ms. Obama, who was sitting in the audience, stunning in a burgundy tafeta and knit dress, waived and smiled beautifully at the camera.
To further emphasize his determination to make a change in the way things get done in Washington, President Obama issued and executive order to establish a bipartisan fiscal commissin to provide a specific set of solutions dealing with line items in the budget that needed to be discontinued, thereby saving billions of dollars to the American taxpayer. This wil restore the pay-as-you-go-law which made it possible for the surpluses that came about under the Clinton Administration.
He further announced a freeze on government spending beginning in 2011, giving sufficient time for some of his proposed measures to take effect. Using his signature humor, he indicated that the right may suggest that they should “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.”
Further proof that President Barack Obama is a cut above his predecessors, he wisely noted that the discontent in American was not just about jobs, health care or education, but also a deficit of trust that permeates the country. “…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 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.”
He likewise cited the fact that a Republican packed 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.” Anyone who knows the definition of a corporation knows that it cannot be considered on the same par with human beings. A corporation lasts for ever, and therefore should not be accorded the same rights as an individual -- wonder who’s bankrolling the supreme court judges. Remember that little travesty of 2000 that gave us George Bush as President, in light of a recount that would most likely have proven Al Gore had actually won. Hmmmmm?)
To provide further transparency, President Obama has also asked Congress to continue earmark reform by posting all earmarks on a single website so the public can view them, and track the dollars and the votes as they proceed. While earmarks have been given a bad name, depending on whose side you sit on, they can actually be of significant importance to making sure that funds are allocated appropriately for key programs in different districts. (More on earmarks and what they mean to us in an upcoming article)
“Now, I'm not naïve. I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony -- (laughter) -- 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…” While I totally applaud President Obama’s efforts to take the high ground and appeal to both Democrats and Republicans to cease the lies, back biting, b.s. filibustering and political one gunmanship, the kind of stuff that makes Americans believe that neither side means them any good, I want to caution him against staking his Administration on it actually happening. In the past, as in the present, the Republicans seem to represent viciousness, ultra conservatism, trickery, lies, war mongering and deceit -- to put it mildly. It’s a very Machiavellian attitude at which they will stop at nothing to undermine his authority and his progress. So while he cautions that: “We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most
"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" (unfortunately, this is exactly how the Republicans operate)." Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn't be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators." (once again, this is their stock in trade -- opposition for the sake of opposition). 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 (the bigger wedge they can drive between the people and the government, the happier they are -- it‘s a fact of life, and the very fiber of their existence. Blind opposition, greed, inhumane treatment).
This is not to say don’t try; just don’t stop the process of doing what needs to be done to bring them along, particularly if you are in the driver’s seat with your foot on the gas, and they have theirs on the brakes.)
The President also promised equal pay for equal work for women; jobs in green technology, bringing the troops home from Iraq by August of this year; a new and improved Veterans Administration for returning troops; a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination; and strongerlaws to protect against crimes driven by hate.
Summing it up he stated, “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. (Applause.) Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.”
Now, I was tempted to post the entire transcript of President Obama’s speech on the blog. I may still do it, but you can really go online and download it for yourself.
I think each and every teacher in each and every school in the US should provide a copy of this speech for the students, who, in turn, should study his speeches for content and context. This is the stuff that history and heroes re made of, from Elementary school children through college level. Adults especially should be read this speech, because the President is going to need each and every one of us to help implement his plans. He's working for us, we need to do our part. There are 300 million of us in the US. That should be enough to make sure that Obama succeeds in giving us what we need to be the greatest nation ever. We cannot be ambivalent about issues concerning us while he's doing all he can to make the changes he promised a reality. We have to step up and be involved.
Like President Barack Obama, we don't give up and we don't quit until they get it right for all of us.
Stay Blessed &