Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Statin' The Union

A lot of you didn't watch last night's presidential address. It's the TV equivalent of "Too long; didn't read." Tell you what: let's break things down and insert a few reality checks among the lofty speechifying. Be forewarned: some of these may teeter on the edge of snarkiness, but there's a a point to this, I promise you...
Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?
Yeah, if it gets people elected.
Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet? Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another — or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?
See above.
Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.
Unless Congress overrides that.
That’s what middle-class economics is — the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success — we want everyone to contribute to our success.
Unless you make the rules -- then you exempt yourself from the rules.
To give working families a fair shot, we’ll still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company’s long-term interest. We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice. But things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage  -- these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families. That is a fact.
This is also a fact: fairness to a politician and fairness to normal people are two different things.
By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future.
Unless they join the military, like many parents of the youngest, brightest, and strivingest Americans are secretly hoping.
Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America. Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home. Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford. And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college. We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.
...so said tax code can be promptly loused up again to benefit those whom we need to vote for us.
When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military — then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. That’s what our enemies want us to do.
Let's make sure the only thing they'll want after we get finished with them is mercy.
And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.
Because saying we're going to kill them like Raid is so passe.
That’s how America leads — not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.
Coulda fooled me.
The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security.
And the people in the northeast are saying, "We're still freezin' our tushes off!"
You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America  --  but a United States of America. I said this because I had seen it in my own life...
And you weren't working in Washington at that time.
Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws  -- of which there are many  --  but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and na├»ve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it. I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.
And they still think you're wrong, too. Fair enough.
There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision. Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.
Oh you can imagine a lot... but doing? Meh.
A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.
Yeah, but that doesn't win elections! And it's not as much fun!
A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of building America.
Until those young people figure out they're being hustled and decided to stay as far away as they can from Washington.
I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol — to do what I believe is best for America. If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.
Until two years from now, when the candidates will tell you how much it bites.
We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter  --  together  --  and let’s start the work right now.
Yes! We need fodder for all the 2016 dark money ads!

And now the promised point: I have very low expectations of any major change towards making government work more efficiently, more civilly, and more frugally. As I have said before, Congress could do a lot simply by giving the president a line-item veto and nuking all filibusters. It won't. President Obama can talk a good game about how we need to be servant leaders, but in Washington, nice guys finish last.

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