Onion is not a typo. It seems that the Union is like an onion because the more layers of corruption you peel off, the more it brings tears to your eyes. And at the very heart of the onion, the smell of corruption is so potent you cry as if you’d been pepper-sprayed. Need I say more? Yes.
Some queries on President Obama’s recent State of the Union address. It was like a direct response commercial, in which the announcer speaks very fast, enumerating endless product selling points, promising to polish your floor or ease your back pain or both quicker and more sufficiently than ever. Yes, we can!
Top of the laundry list, the president said, “Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought—and several thousand gave their lives.”
He neglects to mention this was an illegal and pointless war which he originally called “dumb,” but continued with for another two and a half years. After withdrawal of all troops, a religious civil war broke out and our remaining force of mercenaries has been left to deal with it, protect the Green Zone and the rest of the country. Next came . . .
“We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.”
As to Osama’s murder, we the public have no concrete pictorial evidence of it, only the claim he was dropped in the ocean against all practices of the Muslim faith. Also, the Taliban continues to ravage Afghanistan at will and slaughter our soldiers. As to America being more respected, the more appropriate words would be “feared and loathed” given the intrusions into Pakistan with random drone-killings, the NATO air strikes that killed 60,000 Libyans and the subsequent sacking of the country’s oil, gold, water, and other precious minerals, leaving a force of CIA soldiers of fortune, not true anti-Gaddafi rebels. Similar forces now show up in Syria to topple Assad, the current leader, so the brutality and random violence continues similarly.
According to the president, “These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness, and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.”
Yes, but their suicide rate does exceed their killed-in-combat rate by far. Of course, they work together. They have no option. As to their expectations, I would imagine their chief one would be to get the hell out of Afghanistan, go home, and try to regain their sanity as fast as they can, if they can.
In another broad-stroke whitewash, the president adds, “Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.”
I don’t know which America he’s speaking of, but it’s difficult to imagine anything in the land of chaos we currently reside in. Where is the new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs? We are now a service economy dependent on foreign oil, unsafe nuclear reactors and dirty coal. Our security and prosperity, particularly financial, are tied to China largely, which holds the lion’s share of our nearly $15 billion national debt.
Our economy, once built to last, is worn to the bone. Not only is our physical infrastructure crumbling, but our legal infrastructure has too. The financial industry is operating with more and bolder criminality every day. Witness Jon Corzine, CEO of Global MF, who threw the president a $30,000 a plate dinner in his New York mansion recently, shortly before he stole a billion plus dollars from the company’s investors, comingling their investment cash with his losses.
Additionally, Bill Moyers and Michael Winship report that the big banks got bigger in Obama’s two and a half years than they did in Bush’s eight years. They add the fact that Jack Lew, the president’s new chief of staff from Citibank, is replacing his old chief, Bill Daley, who worked his magic at JPMorgan Chase. Moreover Jack Lew ran hedge funds and private equity there, making him a bona fide member of the Wall Street Mafia. Yet the president seems to ignore this business as usual corruption . . .
Instead he says, “We can do this [what?]. I know we can, because we’ve done it before. At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known. My grandfather, a veteran of Patton’s Army, got the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. My grandmother, who worked on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best products on Earth.”
To the best of my knowledge, grandma also worked for the CIA, money-laundering funds in a Hawaii bank for NGO fronts. Obama’s mother Ann also worked for a number of CIA-NGO fronts.
Yet Obama claims, “The two of them shared the optimism of a nation that had triumphed over a depression and fascism. They understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share—the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.”
In the words of Tony Soprano, I would say “fuhgeddaboudit,” unless there’s some radical change in the way we live and do business.
In fact, why did Obama let the Bush tax cuts for the rich continue? And why in the last two and a half years wasn’t the Commodities Exchange Commission reconstructed to avoid its limitless speculation that has affected world food, oil, and gold and other supplies’ prices? Why did he let the Chicago Mercantile Exchange get away with not punishing Corzine? Why did he not put the Glass-Steagall firewall back between investment and savings banks? Why did he let the investment banks socialize their losses and let them give away their profits in outrageous salaries and bonuses?
But the great rhetorician adds, “Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.” No kidding. Businesses not only saw it, they encouraged it.
Ask Michael Moore, who so eloquently describes the destruction of his home town, Flint Michigan, as GM’s Chief Roger Smith fired 30,000 workers from the auto industry and sent those jobs via Clinton’s NAFTA agreement, south to Mexico. According to the New York Times, reviewing the film Dismantling Detroit, “Detroit lost 25 percent of its population between 2000 and 2008, and now, broke, finds itself on the verge of a possible state takeover. Yet visual reminders of a better time both haunt and anoint the residents here. The past is achingly present in Detroit, and the way its citizens interact with the hulking, physical remnants of yesterday is striking . . .”
Seemingly sympathetic to the condition of the poor made poorer by government and finance, Obama says, “In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money. Regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior.” Bad behavior? That’s the understatement of the century.
He adds the obvious, “It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and left innocent, hard-working Americans holding the bag. In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four million before our policies were in full effect.”
Again, I say, no kidding, President Obama. That was due largely to lax laws regarding outsourcing of jobs. As with Flint Michigan, industrial communities throughout the nation slashed labor’s power to bargain collectively. Right now, The New York Times reports, More Lockouts as Companies Battle Unions. From sports to tires to American Crystal Sugar, labor is being hammered into submission by being locked out of their jobs so as to seriously weaken their demands. To this, the president says . . .
“Those are the facts. But so are these. In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we’ve put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that never happens again.
The facts, according to PolitiFact.com are, “We checked Obama’s claim by using data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal agency responsible for compiling employment data. We found that the U.S. economy has seen 22 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, beginning in Feb. 2010. During that 22-month period, the number of jobs grew by almost 3.16 million, or about 143,000 per month.
“We should note that there has also been a job-growth streak for all jobs in the economy—not just in the private sector—but this run of positive jobs numbers has been shorter since job losses in the government sector have offset gains in the private sector for much of that time. (Itals mine) If you include both private sector and government jobs, the economy has seen increases in total jobs for 15 straight months, not 22. But since this isn’t what Obama said, we won’t consider this in our ruling.” So he’s skating around the truth like a hole in the ice.
Obama goes on to say, “The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we’ve come too far to turn back now. As long as I’m president, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.”
Is he serious? Both the Democrats and the Republicans are locked in a dysfunctional antagonistic gridlock. They could barely pass the bill to raise the national debt in order to pay our bills to the world and stay in business and alive. There is a frightening skimming over of reality here. Another for instance . . .
“No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last—an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.” Okay, here we go with the selling points . . .
“On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.”
I will yield to the president on that success story, but the condition of Detroit and a ravaged Michigan remains the same: lousy. Not to mention the fact that despite GM’s success, my $10,000 in lost GM bonds has never been paid back. Some credits towards stock purchases were provided, but otherwise, zippo. So I don’t have a lot of heart for their financial success at the expense of bondholders, written off as last not first to receive repayment.
“We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.” Yes, and on the backs of investors and taxpayers.
As to job creation, according to the AFL-CIO in American jobs are going, going . . . ”The U.S. economy has 3.2 million fewer jobs today than it did when President George W. Bush took office, including 2.5 million fewer manufacturing jobs. Bush appears headed for the dubious distinction of being the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a decline in total employment during his term in office.
“In the past three years, nearly one in five U.S. workers was laid off from the job, according to “The Disposable Worker: Living in a Job-Loss Economy,” a Rutgers University of Connecticut report released in late July. Among workers laid off from full-time work, roughly one-fourth were earning less than $40,000 annually, the report finds.
“In July, a total of 15 million U.S. workers were either unemployed, underemployed, or too discouraged to job hunt, according to the Labor Department.” So, everyone seems to have their facts. And some other facts seem to be hollow.” Yet the president says . . .
“So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.” Okay, let’s hear . . .
“We should start with our tax code. Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it.”
“So let’s change it. First, if you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it. That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decided to bring jobs home.”
Is the president aware that Jeffrey Immelt, CEO, of General Electric, took his entire company to China, offering some 10,000 jobs to the Chinese for starters to save on labor and taxes? That’s more like the future, it would seem, than Master Lock.
Obama adds, “Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here.”
I would love to see that day, but unfortunately I don’t have another lifetime, especially when the Walton family, with a net worth of $95 billion, doesn’t even want to pay their inheritance tax let alone the workers a decent wage. That’s not in the nature of the beasts. But Obama goes on . . . and on . . .
“Third, if you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut. If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making products here. And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers.”
We can’t get financing to build a new bridge out of the deadbeat Republicans, let alone an entire country’s manufacturing. This is magical thinking, campaign rhetoric that sounds great on the trail and brings many rounds of applause, but when push comes to shove, it gets shoved off the agenda by the 1%, which have been constantly increasing their wealth as the 99% get poorer. And on he goes . . .
“My message is simple. It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I’ll sign them right away.”
Why didn’t he sign them two and a half years ago? He wasn’t aware then of the problem of off-shoring that has been going on for decades?
Obama says, “We’re also making it easier for American businesses to sell products all over the world. Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years. With the bipartisan trade agreements I signed into law, we are on track to meet that goal—ahead of schedule. Soon, there will be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. Soon, there will be new cars on the streets of Seoul imported from Detroit, and Toledo, and Chicago.”
Yes, and most probably with better prices, technology and financing terms.
In his zeal, the president says, “I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products. And I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules. We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration—and it’s made a difference. Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires. But we need to do more. It’s not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated. It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.”
A thousand out of the hundreds of millions of Americans are a speck in the labor force. And is he putting in another plug for A PIP? You never know.
He says, “Tonight, I’m announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China. There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders. And this Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing finance or new markets like Russia. Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you—America will always win.”
Is this man living on another planet? China and Russia are making deals with the Stans, Middle-Eastern and European countries for partnering. Not as the dominant military force but as a good business partner, and without the prospect of NATO settling an agreement.
Obama adds, “I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that—openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work.”
He adds, “That’s inexcusable. And we know how to fix it.”
I’ll bet. Plus, we can’t even pay for schools for our children, teen-agers and college students in this country. College credit card debt stands at an all-time high of over $3 trillion. Is this man kidding? And on he promises, singling out a woman in the audience . . .
“Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College. The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie’s tuition then hired her to help operate their plant.”
I would say that’s a one in a million case. Manufacturing workers are getting hammered as you can read in the AFL-CIO piece earlier. And we expect corporations to partner with colleges to train its employees? Nice try. But President Obama rebounds . . .
“I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did. Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. My Administration has already lined up more companies that want to help. Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges, in places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers—places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.”
Show me the list, Mr. President. And remember, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Also, “ . . . I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people like Jackie have one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help they need. It’s time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work.”
Confusing training programs? Either a worker gets it or he or she is gone? That’s the reality.
“ . . . For less than one percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning—the first time that’s happened in a generation.”
Does that go for Wisconsin and Scott Walker and all the states wanting to privatize education and municpal works, funded by hundreds of millions from the nefarious Koch brothers et. al?
“But challenges remain. And we know how to solve them.”
They certainly do arise. But in two and a half years of talk Obama hasn’t solved them. And then we move on to education . . .
Obama says, “At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced States to lay off thousands of teachers. We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies—just to make a difference.”
Tell that to Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, who wants to keep the angst of teachers up by threatening to fire them for not performing, when in fact they are the ones on the front lines of education, dealing with students, parents and the prospect of privatization.
Yet Obama says, “Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”
Again, the president should let Mayor Bloomberg know he feels. But then Bloomberg is a billionaire Independent and might want to help him—or run for Obama’s job.
Obama goes on, “We also know that when students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen.”
And what does the school system do to the no-shows? Incarcerate them to expand the prison industry? Does the Board of Ed provide an enforcement arm? I mean this is sheer spit-balling ideas around a conference table to write a speech. And then . . .
‘When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. [Doubling?] Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars. And give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.”
I’ve already mentioned the $3 trillion credit card debt of college students. And now, banks are threatening to make it higher?
“Of course,” Obama says, “it’s not enough for us to increase student aid. We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down. Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who’ve done just that. Some schools redesign courses to help students finish more quickly. Some use better technology. The point is it’s possible. So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can’t be a luxury—it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”
The states’ budgets are bankrupted like the national budget. In the private colleges and universities, tell that to the mountain of academics who are expanding incomes and campuses. Columbia University and New York University are New York City’s two largest real estate owners. How did that happen? And what should been done about it? Seize their assets and reduce tuition?
Then, veering towards another issue, Obama says, “Let’s also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren’t yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else.
“That doesn’t make sense.”
And he adds, “I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That’s why my Administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.”
Since we are such a great distance from Bush’s phony “No child left behind,” due to underfunding, thank you, then where will all the money come from to educate foreign students as well. Are we in the same world as you, Mr. President? Or do you have a direct line to Mr. Bernanke’s printing press?
“The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now. But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away.”
A law to earn their citizenship, staff our labs, start new businesses? We have alien hunters at the borders of this great land, ready to pop-off intruders at a moment’s notice. The governor of Arizona already gave Obama a talking to.
“You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country. That means women should earn equal pay for equal work. It means we should support everyone who’s willing to work; and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs.”
According to many who knew him, maybe we don’t need another Steve Jobs. But I get the drift.
As Obama says, “After all, innovation is what America has always been about. Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses. So let’s pass an agenda that helps them succeed. Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow. Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs. Both parties agree on these ideas. So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year.”
From your mouth to God’s ear, Mr. President as we fly past proposals, like riders on a bullet train. Here comes the next station.
“Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don’t gut these investments in our budget. Don’t let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.”
Yes, and we have a technology which will end all wrinkles and illness and death itself. Show me the money, show me the money to do it! Now comes a real stop at energy-land . . .
“Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration [great], and tonight, I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources [wonderful]. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right—eight years. Not only that—last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.”
Yes, and we also had the BP oil spill, which poured millions of gallons into the Gulf of Mexico, killing marine life, despoiling beaches, poisoning the water. Yet not a single executive went to jail, despite their use of lowest-bid, second-rate platforms.
As to natural gas exploration, President Obama is tip-toeing around hydraulic fracturing, which is already documented as a deadly form of energy extraction, due its extraction process called “fracking.” In fracking, many toxic chemicals and trillions of gallons of water, have been hammered into the earth and through rock to reach pockets of natural gas. Unfortunately, the toxic chemicals and gas mingle with the water supply, and make the water toxic, undrinkable, even flammable when a match is held to it. Where “fracking” has been used, communities have been destroyed. Don’t you read the papers, sir? Go online? Wake up? People in 38 states have been badly affected by this noxious source of energy extraction. Yet the president goes on . . .
“But with only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy—a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.”
Right, including the toxic derived natural gas, and next, the toxic tar sands oil of Canada, which bill you’ve temporarily restrained though I know, as do millions of savvy Americans, it will be coming back, reshaped, resold in a new improved aluminum pipeline.
“We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.” The last figure I heard was 6,000 jobs.
Also, disclosing the chemicals won’t stop these brutes from using them. I can send you a long list of them in an article I wrote called Welcome to Gasland: It can kill you. This is a review of the original HBO documentary made by Josh Fox called Gasland. It will make your head spin as it does to anyone near it.
Yet, the president insists, “The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock—reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.” Big oil has gotten to him.
“What’s true for natural gas is true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.”
Batteries, yup, that should do it. How about getting Congress to believe in global warming, or the dangers of nuclear energy à la Fukushima, or the scarred lungs of coal workers. Try wind, solar, wave, and internal earth energy.
There more, folks. Sorry, I don’t write this stuff. “When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it’s hiring workers like Bryan, who said, “I’m proud to be working in the industry of the future.”
Okay, score one for air turbines.
“Our experience with shale gas shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away. Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away from workers like Bryan. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs.”
China is the most mucked-up country in the world. Why use them as a paradigm?
“We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven’t acted. Well tonight, I will. I’m directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history—with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.”
You do mean, President Obama, that the DOD is the biggest gas-guzzler on the planet. No news to anyone who knows the news. It goes with their also being the world’s largest destroyers of human life in warfare, also through the use of depleted uranium, which maims as well as kills those soldiers you love so much. Read all about it.
“Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here’s another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, and more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs.”
You’re asking working people to help manufacturers eliminate energy waste? Why don’t the owners of the plant to do it themselves or else you close them down?
“Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy. An incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.”
Start with the other side of D.C., where many minority folk live. It’s good to do things next to home. A high-speed broadband network would be excellent for rural America if it were affordable and sold properly.
“During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected our States with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today.”
That was long before the Military-Industrial Complex took over our money, along with the Fed and the DOD. And Roosevelt was a man of true grit, vision, and indomitable courage. Are you up to it? He was, and in the middle of the Great Depression, also created by the banks.
“In the next few weeks, I will sign an Executive Order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”
These guys couldn’t get a bill to raise the national debt limit to pay all our bills or go out of business, and you’re dropping projects like gumdrops to the fairy princess’s house. Get real. Deal with the bums you’ve got.
“There’s never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest-hit when the housing bubble burst. Of course, construction workers weren’t the only ones hurt. So were millions of innocent Americans who’ve seen their home values decline. And while Government can’t fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners shouldn’t have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief.”
And you were there to pass out the easements, bailouts and, as you put it, “cop-outs.”
“That’s why I’m sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low interest rates. No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks. A small fee on the largest financial institutions will ensure that it won’t add to the deficit, and will give banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust.”
It’ll be a cold day in hell when your friend Lloyd Blankfein and buddies let this happen. Why even mention it and bring people’s hopes up.
“Let’s never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a Government and a financial system that do the same. It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.”
That’s the first major true thing you said. No, call up all the investment banks and tell them. Honest people, working people, don’t come up with ideas like Collateral Debt Obligations, derivatives, and other FWMD.
“We’ve all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them. That’s why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior. Rules to prevent financial fraud, or toxic dumping, or faulty medical devices, don’t destroy the free market. They make the free market work better.”
You’ve had two and a half years for smart regulations and nada. The Commodities Exchange Commission is a mess. No Glass-Steagall. No making the big banks small enough to fail. Break them up. Recreate the State Bank. Forget national banks altogether. A bank should serve the community of their state. Period.
“There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly. In fact, I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his. I’ve ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense. We’ve already announced over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years. We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill—because milk was somehow classified as an oil. With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.”
This is too bogus even to answer. You’ve seen sitting on your golf cart too long.
“I’m confident a farmer can contain a milk spill without a federal agency looking over his shoulder. But I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago. I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean. I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women differently from men.”
If it wasn’t for you, BP would have never gotten away with the spill, and not a person or executive going to jail, as in the stock market.
“And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules. The new rules we passed restore what should be any financial system’s core purpose: Getting funding to entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and getting loans to responsible families who want to buy a home, start a business, or send a kid to college.”
We’ve heard that song before.
“So if you’re a big bank or financial institution, you are no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits. You’re required to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail—because the rest of us aren’t bailing you out ever again. And if you’re a mortgage lender or a payday lender or a credit card company, the days of signing people up for products they can’t afford with confusing forms and deceptive practices are over. Today, American consumers finally have a watchdog in Richard Cordray with one job: To look out for them.”
I’m sure Blankfein and Jamie Dimon are shaking in their boots. You’re going to send your one-man watch-dog to see them and straighten out their Mafia ways.
“We will also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people’s investments. Some financial firms violate major anti-fraud laws because there’s no real penalty for being a repeat offender. That’s bad for consumers, and it’s bad for the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals who do the right thing. So pass legislation that makes the penalties for fraud count.”
How about a financial crimes army with an indefinite detention proviso, including no need for proof, judge, court, or lawyer necessary. Give them something to blink at like you did to the American people bu signing NDAA.
“And tonight, I am asking my attorney general to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.”
Is that the same attorney general who was going after torture to eliminate it?
“A return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help us protect our people and our economy. But it should also guide us as we look to pay down our debt and invest in our future.”
“Right now, our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is still fragile. People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year. There are plenty of ways to get this done. So let’s agree right here, right now: No side issues. No drama. Pass the payroll tax cut without delay.”
By stopping a tax hike, you’re stopping the 2% you took off the FICA tax for Social Security. You said you didn’t want to balance the budget on the backs of seniors. Stopping the tax hike does just that. The working people who pay it will get it back at the end of their working lives and be happy they paid in.
“When it comes to the deficit, we’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings. But we need to do more, and that means making choices. Right now, we’re poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.”
Let me indulge in a little fantasy, too. Stop all the wars, the making of new ones, the continuance of old ones. Stop poking our American Exceptionalism noses into everybody’s business on earth. We’re not God. We’re just a country that got lucky and let’s thank God for it. With all the trillions you save on war, weaponry, et al, you could balance the moon on your nose. We don’t need to be an empire. Every empire in history fell into the dust.
“Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else—like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both.”
No, of course we, the working people, don’t want tax cuts for the rich. We want a progressive tax, like the one George Bush buried in his backyard with Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. We want a tax that says, the more you make, the more you pay. It’s not punishment. It’s a giveback to your government to perpetuate the prosperity for more people, as it was in the post-WWII era.
“The American people know what the right choice is. So do I. As I told the Speaker this summer, I’m prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors.”
What a great guy, despite the tortured piece of language above. You’re going to rein in long term costs of Medicare and Medicaid by reforming costs that will guaranty Social Security. You mean you’re willing to cut Medicare and Medicaid in part or whole, just like Social Security, if push comes to shove, or to cut a deal with the Republicans.
“But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up. You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You’re the ones who need relief.”
I’ll settle for a progressive tax. Roosevelt had millionaires paying 63% of their income in taxes in 1933. That’s the era and man you refer to so glowingly. It was only because he was encouraged by advisors to lower taxes that we had a second depress in 1937. Then the war came and we were running smoothly with our greatest debt in history that produced a golden age of prosperity for all in the post-war period, i.e., consumers had money to spend thanks to jobs.
As the president says, ‘We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference—like a senior on a fixed income; or a student trying to get through school; or a family trying to make ends meet. That’s not right. Americans know it’s not right. They know that this generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to their country’s future, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility. That’s how we’ll reduce our deficit. That’s an America built to last.”
We don’t begrudge success but we do begrudge the 1% pushing their success in our faces, with the Blankfein bonuses, the elitist life, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and other inane insanities. A bit of humility and charity would be more than welcome from the rich and uber rich.
“I recognize that people watching tonight have differing views about taxes and debt; energy and health care. But no matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right now: Nothing will get done this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken . . .”
Well, it is a known fact that due to Citizens United and Corporations having “Personage,” they have the power to use their money for political speech, thereby undermining the entire democratic process of our voting system. Everyone’s on the take.
“I’ve talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad—and it seems to get worse every year.”
“Some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of money in politics. So together, let’s take some steps to fix that. Send me a bill that bans insider trading by Members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow. Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact. Let’s make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress, and vice versa—an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.”
It has gotten worst every year and the worst of the worst this year.
“Some of what’s broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days. A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything—even routine business—passed through the Senate. Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it. For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.”
What’s gotten worse is that greed has totally possessed their souls, their intellect, their political missions, their life styles, everything about them. They’re owned like slaves to their paymasters.
“The executive branch also needs to change. Too often, it’s inefficient, outdated and remote. That’s why I’ve asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy so that our Government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.”
Does that translate to cutting more jobs while trying to provide more?
“Finally, none of these reforms can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town. We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common sense ideas.”
The Republicans have gotten it into their sad minds that being rich is the most important thing in life. Not life itself, god, or country, love or compassion. They operate like cash registers. And now, at last, the Piece de Resistance . . .
“I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more. That’s why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and States. That’s why we’re getting rid of regulations that don’t work. That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”
Be careful here. You need a wise government that makes necessary regulations to protect us from internal enemies like financial predators. Just as we need some military presence to protect us from foreign incursions. If necessary regulation is tantamount to a reformed private market, fine. If not, think again.
“On the other hand, even my Republican friends who complain the most about government spending have supported federally-financed roads, and clean energy projects, and federal offices for the folks back home.”
How large of them. They’ll be driving on those roads, reaping the benefits of clean energy, and working comfortably in the federal offices back home.
“The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective government. And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest philosophical differences this year, we can make real progress. With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow. But I can do a whole lot more with your help. Because when we act together, there is nothing the United States of America can’t achieve.
“That is the lesson we’ve learned from our actions abroad over the last few years.”
The lesson we’ve learned is not to trust the financial industry, the war industry, or the Fed, easing and wasting our money around the world. If we didn’t learn that, we’ll still be in trouble.
“Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can’t escape the reach of the United States of America.”
I don’t know that al Qaeda was ever the boogeyman the CIA made it to be. It became a household name for terror. As to the Taliban, they are not defeated, but now that’s Afghanistan’s problem to deal with.
“As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; from Sana’a to Tripoli. A year ago, Qadhafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators—a murderer with American blood on his hands. Today, he is gone. And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied.”
What you, Mr. president, and NATO did to Gaddafi was disgraceful. You and NATO murdered the head of a sovereign nation. Whether or not he had American blood on his hands is debatable. He did do many good things for his people over the years, including free healthcare, schooling, living quarters. He also built a multi-billion dollar underground aquifer that brought water from the north to the south. Additionally, he had a gold based currency and his people received financial stipends on oil revenues.
“How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we have a huge stake in the outcome. And while it is ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well. We will stand against violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings—men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews. We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.”
Quite frankly, Mr. President, this won’t be a reality until you put Israel in a box and stop its shouting for nuking Iran because it has a nuclear energy plant. Israel has 400 nuclear warheads in the leaky Dimona plant in the Negev. So, it’s the pot calling the kettle black. And whether by history or nature, the Israelis have a very dark side to them and could start a third world war.
If you keep harping on attacking Iran, it will be another Iraq. Only far worse because you’re dealing with 80 million people, not a relatively small nation. Diplomacy, if that world still exists in America, would be a better option. And let Israel sit on its murderous history.
“The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to the Americas are deeper. Our iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history. We’ve made it clear that America is a Pacific power, and a new beginning in Burma has lit a new hope. From the coalitions we’ve built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we’ve led against hunger and disease; from the blows we’ve dealt to our enemies; to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back.”
Why this thirst for hegemony? Why this sense of exceptionalism, when the only thing exceptional about us to the world is our power to destroy people?
“Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That’s not the message we get from leaders around the world, all of whom are eager to work with us. That’s not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than they’ve been in years. Yes, the world is changing; no, we can’t control every event. But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs—and as long as I’m president, I intend to keep it that way.”
We have declined. It’s a reality. The world fears us. Face it.
“That’s why, working with our military leaders, I have proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget. To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I have already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing danger of cyber-threats.”
Are we back to spying some more on people? Not good. Police state.
“Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it. As they come home, we must serve them as well as they served us. That includes giving them the care and benefits they have earned—which is why we’ve increased annual VA spending every year I’ve been president. And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our Nation.”
It would have been better had we never started the Afghanistan war without proof of bin Laden as The Man. Or if we hadn’t swerved to Iraq and tried to prove Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction. It turned out he didn’t. All this life, blood, money, lost, for what? Just think about it when you talk about all those soldiers who lost their lives on both sides.
“With the bipartisan support of this Congress, we are providing new tax credits to companies that hire vets. Michelle and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families. And tonight, I’m proposing a Veterans Job Corps that will help our communities hire veterans as cops and firefighters, so that America is as strong as those who defend her.”
Be careful we don’t build a police state. Let them be unionized. A Vet Job Corps is an excellent idea.
“Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.”
Please let’s not glorify killing, either to ourselves or our children. It does no one any good. I don’t want us to be like the killing SEAL team either. And there’s no proof positive to the average American that Osama was killed.
“One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates—a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary; and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.
“All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job—the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other—because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s someone behind you, watching your back.”
Well, let’s keep the military rhetoric out of the speech here, Mr. President. I know it wins votes, but it loses people’s children. Let’s think of life. What we can do that’s positive to bring people together.
This nation is great because people know they can have a decent life here, freer from oppression, poverty, and lack of justice or liberty than most nations. Let’s keep that in mind. And bless the rest of the world to find peace with our brothers and sisters. In fact, are those tears in your eyes or just the fumes from the state of the onion?
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at email@example.com.