DES MOINES—Before the Republican presidential candidates take the debate stage Thursday night for another display of failed policies and school-yard name calling, IDP Chair Dr. Andy McGuire and supporters from the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders will stand united against the hate and division of the Republican field during a press conferences tomorrow, Wednesday, January 27, at 1:45 p.m. CST in the State Capitol.
As the three Democratic candidates demonstrated Monday night during the CNN/IDP/Drake Town Hall, all of our candidates are committed to addressing the issues that matter to working Iowa families and to building an economy where all Iowans have the chance to succeed. Our candidates showed that we can have spirited disagreements without resorting to name-calling, fear-mongering, and hateful rhetoric.
Press Conference: Clinton, O’Malley & Sanders Supporters Stand United Against GOP Field
Who: IDP Chair Dr. Andy McGuire, supporters from the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders
When: Wednesday, January 27; 1:45 p.m. CST
Where: State Capitol, Room. 116
How: RSVP To email@example.com
During the 2015 legislative session, Iowa lawmakers agreed to give Iowa schools $56 million in urgently needed funding. Iowa school leaders say this will help prevent larger class sizes, fewer teachers, and higher property taxes.
On July 2nd, Governor Terry Branstad vetoed this school funding compromise.
A special session of the Iowa Legislature is the only way to overturn this veto and help our local schools. For a special session to occur, two-thirds of Iowa lawmakers (67 in the House/34 in the Senate) must formally request one.
Sign this petition to encourage your state representative and state senator to join the call for a special session.
You know what to do.
This article make it clear that our U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, has no interest in working to clean up Iowa’s water. She and her fellow GOP cronies are more worried about power and posturing. Following President Obama’s veto of her proposal to block new federal regulations to protect our drinking water, she said the new rule is “complex, burdensome and overreaching” and “this rule is not about clean water. Rather, it is about how much authority the federal government and unelected bureaucrats should have to regulate what is done on private land.”
No Senator Ernst, the rule is in fact about clean water. And yes, if someone is poisoning the water supply, I want my government to do something about it.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Joni Ernst, stymied by a presidential veto, said she would explore other ways to stop a White House rule regulating small bodies of water that she says will hurt Iowa and other states.
Late Tuesday, President Barack Obama vetoed a congressional resolution that Ernst sponsored in the Senate and would have blocked the new federal “waters of the United States” regulations.
Obama told members of Congress the new rule “is critical to our efforts to protect the nation’s waters and keep them clean.” The president said he could not support Ernst’s resolution because it blocks progress and denies businesses and communities “the regulatory certainty and clarity needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water.”
Ernst said the rule is “complex, burdensome and overreaching” and she would look for other ways to scrap it. She did not outline what other options are available.
“We all want clean water — that is not disputable,” Ernst said. “However, this rule is not about clean water. Rather, it is about how much authority the federal government and unelected bureaucrats should have to regulate what is done on private land.”
The Iowa Republican said the rule gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate water on 97 percent of land in Iowa, which could threaten the livelihood of people across the state.
Republicans and farm groups have said the rule gives the government too much power to regulate their land and potentially subject ditches, stream beds and self-made ponds to new oversight. Farmers worry they would have to pay for costly environmental assessments and apply for more permits.
The administration has said the Clean Water Rule is needed to clarify the Clean Water Act by specifying the types of bodies of water regulated by the 1972 measure.
Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation, said a veto was the right decision to protect the nation’s waterways.”Every American who hunts, fishes, swims or kayaks — or who just wants to drink clean water from the tap — will benefit from this rule,” he said.
From the Rob Hogg for U.S. Senate campaign –
Rob Hogg Reports Over $120,000 Raised in First Six Months for U.S. Senate Race
CEDAR RAPIDS – Rob Hogg, a state senator from Cedar Rapids and a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate, announced today he is reporting over $120,000 raised from contributions and in-kind contributions for his campaign in a filing with the Secretary of the U.S. Senate.
“I was excited to raise the first $100,000 to support my candidacy, but campaigns are about people, not money, so I am even more excited to report that over 650 people have now made individual contributions to my campaign committee,” Hogg said. “This shows broad support for my candidacy and a strong desire to make Congress work again for our people, our country, and our future.”
Earlier this month, Hogg opened a campaign office in the Higley Building, 118 Third Avenue SE, in downtown Cedar Rapids.
“We believe that by opening a campaign office and by raising over $100,000, we have shown that this is a serious candidacy,” said Ann Poe, Hogg’s campaign manager. “Iowans are ready for change to get Congress to work again.”
Hogg, age 48, is a state senator from Cedar Rapids, serving his third term after two terms in the Iowa House. He has won five elections in a row, twice replacing Republicans in the Iowa Legislature, first in 2002 when he was elected to the Iowa House, and then in 2006 when he was elected to the Iowa Senate.
In the Iowa Senate, he has served as chair of the Senate Rebuild Iowa Committee (2009-10) and the Senate Judiciary Committee (2013-14), and is currently chair of the Senate Government Oversight Committee. In addition to serving in the Legislature, Hogg is an attorney in private practice in Cedar Rapids. He and his wife, Kate, have three children, two in college and one in high school.
After forming an exploratory committee last July, Hogg announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on September 22 in Callender, Iowa, where his grandmother was born in 1902. Since July, he has visited with Iowans in 70 counties.
Hogg will appear Saturday, January 23, 6:00 PM at the Scott County Democrats’ Red, White, and Blue Dinner at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, Starlight Ballroom, 2815 W. Locust, in Davenport and Sunday, January 24, at the Warren County Democrats Annual Soup Supper at the Kent Center at Simpson College in Indianola. The event starts at 5:30 p.m.
For more information, please visit http://www.robhogg.org.
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack recently introduced legislation to incentivize the integration of primary and behavioral healthcare. The Behavioral Health Care Integration Act (H.R. 4388) would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to award competitive grants to merged practices that offer both mental health services and primary care within the same shared space in the same facility.
Physical and behavioral health issues often go hand in hand. Tragically, individuals with mental health or substance use disorders die at a young age at higher rates than the average American, often due to chronic medical illnesses that go untreated. Further, behavioral health conditions complicate the treatment of physical illnesses. We can work to improve the overall health and wellbeing of these patients by providing access to a team of providers who have experience in addressing all of their needs.
“If we want to really make a difference in the overall health and wellbeing of Iowans, we need to recognize that the brain is part of the body and treated as such. Patients deserve to have access to the same level of care for their mental health or substance use disorders as they do for their diabetes or chronic heart disease,” said Loebsack. “Further, integrated practices lead to reduced costs as a result of the improved medication adherence, reduced hospitalizations and other positive patient outcomes. That is why I am pleased to introduce legislation to incentivize the development of more integrated behavioral and primary care practices to better address a person’s overall health care needs.”
The text of Congressman Loebsack’s legislation can be found here.
If Wall Street’s attitude and its political giving are any indication, financiers themselves believe that any Democrat, Mrs. Clinton very much included, would be serious about policing their industry’s excesses. And that’s why they’re doing all they can to elect a Republican.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had an argument about financial regulation during Tuesday’s debate — but it wasn’t about whether to crack down on banks. Instead, it was about whose plan was tougher. The contrast with Republicans like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, who have pledged to reverse even the moderate financial reforms enacted in 2010, couldn’t be stronger.
If a Democrat does win, does it matter much which one it is? Probably not. Any Democrat is likely to retain the financial reforms of 2010, and seek to stiffen them where possible. But major new reforms will be blocked until and unless Democrats regain control of both houses of Congress, which isn’t likely to happen for a long time.
For what it’s worth, Mrs. Clinton had the better case. Mr. Sanders has been focused on restoring Glass-Steagall, the rule that separated deposit-taking banks from riskier wheeling and dealing. And repealing Glass-Steagall was indeed a mistake. But it’s not what caused the financial crisis, which arose instead from “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers, which don’t take deposits but can nonetheless wreak havoc when they fail. Mrs. Clinton has laid out a plan to rein in shadow banks; so far, Mr. Sanders hasn’t.
Read the entire article here.
Many events are planned for Monday’s national MLK Day of Service and observance of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
SERVICE: The website www.allforgood.org includes a database of formal projects planned for Monday, including several in the Des Moines area. Several organizations are soliciting donations of clothing, food and personal items.
This is a selection of Des Moines-area donation sites and other holiday events:
AMES: Birthday celebration, 6:30 p.m., Ames Middle School, 3915 Mortensen Road. Cake and a program commemorating King’s life and service.
DES MOINES: MLK prayer breakfast, 7:30-9:30 a.m., Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center at Veterans Memorial, 833 Fifth Ave. $30. Proceeds benefit the Grubb Annual Campaign. Includes breakfast and a keynote address by Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Registration required at http://midwestix.securemytix.com/event/3910600.
DES MOINES: Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, 4 p.m., Forest Avenue Library, 1326 Forest Ave. Program honors King’s legacy.
DES MOINES: Speech by Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr. and pastoral associate for Priests for Life. 6-7:30 p.m., North High School auditorium, 501 Holcomb Ave. Free. Hosted by Concerned Women for America of Iowa. A $25 breakfast follows at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at Airport Holiday Inn and Conference Center, 6111 Fleur Drive in Des Moines.
DES MOINES: Donation collection for families in need, Iowa College Student Aid Commission, 430 E. Grand Ave., floor 3. Bring toilet paper, diapers sizes 3, 4 and 5, baby formula, wipes, personal hygiene goods, toothbrushes, shampoo and conditioner. Call 818-471-2198 for information.
URBANDALE: Imagine Enough for Everyone, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Urbandale Public Library, 3520 86th St. Bring new personal care items, scarves and hats, and food items. You can also knit and color on site and pledge action against hunger. www.ImagineEnough.com.
African American Museum of Iowa
Monday: 3 p.m., “The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” Museum educator Krystal Gladden will put King’s work into the context of the opposition to desegregation, especially in the South. 3:45 p.m., “The Children’s March.” Film detailing events leading up to the Birmingham March on May 2, 1963, when hundreds of children faced police dogs, fire hoses and arrest to march against segregation. Details: 55 12th Ave. SE; admission by donation; programs appropriate for ages 10 and up, parental guidance recommended; (319) 862-2101 or Blackiowa.org
Monday: “A Day On, Not A Day Off,” morning speeches and music open to the public, afternoon service activities by Coe community. 9:30 a.m., Welcome by Coe President Dave McInally; 9:45 a.m., music by gospel singers; 10 a.m., keynote address by Brie Swenson-Arnold, Coe associate professor of history; 10:45 a.m., speeches and slam poetry by Coe students; 11:45 a.m., closing remarks by community leader Stacey Walker, with more gospel music. Details: Kesler Lecture Hall in Hickok Hall, 1220 First Ave. SE; free; Coe.edu/aboutcoe/coenews
MOUNT MERCY UNIVERSITY
Monday: Discussion on King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, 3:50 to 5 p.m., Betty Cherry Heritage Hall; student service projects during the day. Details: 1330 Elmhurst Dr. NE, Mtmercy.edu
ST. PAUL’S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Sunday: DeAmon Harges, community builder and social innovator, preaching at 8:15 a.m. in the chapel, 9 a.m. in the sanctuary, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. in the Wesley Center; he also leads a workshop from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in the Wesley Center. Monday: 7 p.m., sanctuary, 26th Annual Community Observation Celebration, with Harges speaking about asset-based community development and presentation of the Dr. Percy & Lileah Harris “Who Is My Neighbor?” award. Details: 1340 Third Ave. SE; Stpaulsumc.org
Monday: Community project, 9 to 11 a.m.; awards ceremony, 11 a.m., highlighting area youth, plus entertainment; community project, 2 to 4 p.m. Sponsors: Neighborhood Center of Johnson County, Black Voices Project, AmeriCorps, United Action for Youth, Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, Iowa Legal Aid, and Johnson County Social Services. Details: 1030 Crosspark Ave.
University of Iowa
MLK Celebration week includes a student service day Monday, followed by speakers and special programs, all free and open to the public. Mlk.uiowa.edu/#events
Monday; Day of Service for UI community; public food/item drive for the Shelter House and Crisis Center, at local Hy-Vee food stores (need list at Mlk.uiowa.edu/#events)
Tuesday: 7:30 p.m., speaker Jamilah Lemieux of Brooklyn, N.Y., digital news and lifestyle editor for Ebony magazine; Main Lounge, Iowa Memorial Union, 125 N. Madison St.
Wednesday): Noon to 1 p.m., Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Lecture by Paul Farmer, Kolokotrones University professor of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School; Room 1110A, UI Medical Education Research Facility, 375 Newton Rd.; 5 to 6:30 p.m., Chief Diversity Office’s 2016 Update on Diversity and Inclusion, Iowa Theater, Iowa Memorial Union, 125 N. Madison St.
Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., “White Privilege: Racism, White Denial, and the Cost of Inequality” film screening and reception, Ellig Classroom (N120) College of Public Health Building, 145 N. Riverside Dr.; noon to 12:50 p.m., speaker Dr. Chris Buresh, Room 1117, Medical Education Research Facility, 375 Newton Rd.
Feb. 19: Noon to 2 p.m., Martin Luther King Jr. Research Symposium, Jones Commons, N300 Lindquist Center, 240 S. Madison St.
Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum
Monday: 2 p.m., “Selma” screening. The 2015 movie chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965 when King led a campaign to secure equal voting rights. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Details: Figge Auditorium, 210 Parkside Dr.; free with paid museum admission, free to $10; Hoover.archives.gov
Events celebrating Martin Luther King Junior Day will not only recognize the civil rights leader’s birthday, but also look to the future. Monday, residents in the area will have several chances to remember the national holiday.
United Neighbors in Davenport will hold its annual King Day Celebration from 10:30 am until noon. Ida Johnson, a member of Women’s Connection and a past recipient of the Iowa MLK Lifetime Achievement Award, will be the guest speaker.
In Rock Island, the King Center will hold its 33rd annual Memorial Service and Awards Celebration, from 10:30 am until noon. The guest speaker will be Reverend P. Wonder Harris, who will talk about breaking the “silence of injustice.”
In Galesburg, Knox College will present its Martin Luther King Convocation at 11 am. Three faculty members will speak, on issues like protesting, and the college’s choir will perform.
Paul Deaton passed this on from InZaneTimes: Seeking zanity in an inzane world
by Arnie Alpert
I wrote this one for AFSC’s “Acting in Faith” blog.
Next time you hear the National Rifle Association referred to as a “gun owners” group, ask yourself if the news would have a different impact if the NRA were called a “gun sellers” group. Or next time you read a story in which the NRA is called a “gun rights” group or “second amendment defenders,” consider what the impact would be if it were labeled a “lobby for firearms manufacturers.” The fact that makers and peddlers of firearms are big dollar supporters of the NRA ought to be part of the story.
According to the Violence Policy Center’s 2013 report, Blood Money II: How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA, the NRA’s “Corporate Partners Program” generates between $19.3 million and $60.2 million a year for the organization. Included in the figure, the report says, are eight gun industry ‘corporate partners’ who have donate a million dollars or more a year.
“The NRA’s so-called ‘corporate partners’ in the gun industry are the nation’s top-selling manufacturers of firearms and accessories. One of the companies that has donated a million dollars or more to the NRA is Remington Outdoor Company (formerly Freedom Group), manufacturer of the Bushmaster assault rifle used at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut,” according to VPC.
The big donors, in the million-dollar-plus category, are Midway USA, Beretta, Brownells, Freedom Group, Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, Springfield Armory, Smith & Wesson, and Strum Ruger. Several firearm retailers (Cabella’s, Davidson’s, and Greg Martin Auctions) are in the $250,000 to $500,000 range.
“They are our voice” was how Smith & Wesson’s CEO, James Debney, put it in an NRA video.
“In its early days, the National Rifle Association was a grassroots social club that prided itself on independence from corporate influence,” writes Walter Hickey in Business Insider. Those days are gone.
“The bulk of the group’s money now comes in the form of contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources,” he writes, and adds, “The NRA also made $20.9 million — about 10 percent of its revenue — from selling advertising to industry companies marketing products in its many publications in 2010, according to the IRS Form 990.”
“Some companies donate portions of sales directly to the NRA,” Jarret Murphy reported several years ago on Alternet. “Crimson Trace, which makes laser sights, donates 10 percent of each sale to the NRA. Taurus buys an NRA membership for everyone who buys one of their guns. Sturm Ruger gives $1 to the NRA for each gun sold, which amounts to millions. The NRA’s revenues are intrinsically linked to the success of the gun business.”
That the NRA’s own website is notably lacking in details about the organization’s finances and governance does make it hard to understand the powerful organization’s inner workings. CNN Money says the organization’s revenue grew to $350 million in the year after the Sandy Hook mass killings, with about half coming from the members.
The NRA still provides marksmanship training and sponsors educational programs, but its reputation is based on its political role, including more than $3 million a year in federal lobbying expenses and nearly $30 million in election-related projects during the last campaign cycle. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, “the NRA’s influence is felt not only through campaign contributions, but through millions of dollars in off-the-books spending on issue ads.” Its lobbying targets include members of Congress, but also the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
The Center for Public Integrity puts it this way: “The power of the gun lobby is rooted in multiple factors, among them the pure passion and single-mindedness of many gun owners, the NRA’s demonstrated ability to motivate its most fervent members to swarm their elected representatives, and the lobby’s ability to get out the vote on election day. But there’s little doubt that money, the political power it represents, and the fear of that power and money, which the NRA deftly exploits, have a lot to do with the group’s ability to repeatedly control the national debate about guns.”
The NRA is perhaps the key place where the culture of fear and the money-drenched political system have their closest correlation. Fear of crime, which often carries a racial tinge. Fear of immigrants, likewise. Fear of government officials taking or outlawing guns. Stoke those fears, and too many Americans rush to the local or online arms market for more guns and send money to the NRA. The manufacturers and peddlers of firearms add to the NRA’s cache of cash. The NRA uses its millions to stoke more fear and the cycle goes on.
And that’s what I’m afraid of.
Monday, in honor of the opening day of the 2016 Iowa legislative session, BFIA posted about the State Policy Network, a web of so-called think tanks, apparently founded by ALEC, that push a right-wing agenda in every state across the country, yes, including Iowa http://stinktanks.org/what-stinks/.
The so-called Public Interest Institute, so-named to disguise the fact that it is anything but interested in the public interest, is located in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa on the Iowa Wesleyan campus and is a member of the State Policy Network. The information here about this creepy anti-science, anti-union, pro-climate change denial, organization is from the Center for Media and Democracy’s publication, SourceWatch, but you can also visit their website and see for yourself.
The Public Interest Institute (PII) is a “non-profit, non-partisan, public policy research organization located on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.” The PII researches issues “such as limiting government spending and privatization of government services” as well as “principles and methods to promote and encourage human rights, economic freedom, economic growth, and the creation of jobs… in Iowa.” PII is a member of the State Policy Network
In 2009 the institute was a co-sponsor of the Heartland Institute’s 2009 conference for climate change skeptics.
Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
The Public Interest Institute has hosted writers from the ALEC-connected Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which screens potential reporters on their “free market” views as part of the job application process. The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states. Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias. On its website, the Franklin Center claims it “provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide.”[8
Franklin Center Funding
Franklin Center Director of Communications Michael Moroney told the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in 2013 that the source of the Franklin Center’s funding “is 100 percent anonymous.” But 95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large “donor-advised fund,” cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin’s Internal Revenue Service records). Mother Jones called DonorsTrust “the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement” in a February 2013 article. Franklin received DonorTrust’s second-largest donation in 2011.
The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a conservative grant-making organization.
The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network, which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation. SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
PII has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC) through Richard Vedder, a member of their advisory board. Mr. Vedder is listed as a “scholar” at the American Legislative Exchange Council and is the recipient of ALEC’s Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award.
Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Board of Directors
David M. Stanley, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Robert H. Solt, Vice-Chairman and Treasurer
Dr. Donald P. Racheter, President
Andrea S. Failor, Secretary
Charles C. Espy, Jr.
Stanley M. Howe, Director Emeritus
Academic Advisory Board
Dr. Richard Wagner – George Mason University, chair
Dr. Robert Bish – University of Victoria
Dr. Edgar Browning – Texas A&M
Dr. Richard McKenzie – University of California at Irvine
Dr. William Peirce – Case Western Reserve University
Dr. Randy Simmons – Utah State University
Dr. Eugenia Toma – University of Kentucky
Dr. Gordon Tullock – George Mason University
Dr. Richard Vedder – Ohio University
Dr. Bruce Yandle – Clemson University
Total Revenue: $1,119,463
Total Expenses: $510,401
Net Assets: $7,198,734
Total Revenue: $1,661,139
Total Expenses: $530,950
Net Assets: $6,589,672
600 North Jackson Street
Mount Pleasant, IA 52641
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:
Tonight marks the eighth year I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union. And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.
I also understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we’ll achieve this year are low. Still, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families. So I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse. We just might surprise the cynics again.
But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients. And I’ll keep pushing for progress on the work that still needs doing. Fixing a broken immigration system. Protecting our kids from gun violence. Equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage. All these things still matter to hardworking families; they are still the right thing to do; and I will not let up until they get done.
But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to talk just about the next year. I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond.
I want to focus on our future.
We live in a time of extraordinary change – change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.
America has been through big changes before – wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did – because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril – we emerged stronger and better than before.
What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation – our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery and innovation, our diversity and commitment to the rule of law – these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.
In fact, it’s that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible. It’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations. It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.
But such progress is not inevitable. It is the result of choices we make together. And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?
So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that we as a country have to answer – regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.
First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?
Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us – especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?
Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?
And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?
Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s; an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.
Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction. What is true – and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious – is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit and haven’t let up. Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.
All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing. It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to. And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.
For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works better for everybody. We’ve made progress. But we need to make more. And despite all the political arguments we’ve had these past few years, there are some areas where Americans broadly agree.
We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job. The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering. In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.
And we have to make college affordable for every American. Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We’ve already reduced student loan payments to ten percent of a borrower’s income. Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.
Of course, a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security. After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber. For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher. Americans understand that at some point in their careers, they may have to retool and retrain. But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build.
That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them. And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today. That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about. It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when we lose a job, or go back to school, or start that new business, we’ll still have coverage. Nearly eighteen million have gained coverage so far. Health care inflation has slowed. And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.
Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon. But there should be other ways both parties can improve economic security. Say a hardworking American loses his job – we shouldn’t just make sure he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him. If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills. And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him. That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everyone.
I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty. America is about giving everybody willing to work a hand up, and I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers without kids.
But there are other areas where it’s been more difficult to find agreement over the last seven years – namely what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations. And here, the American people have a choice to make.
I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut. But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts. In this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should work for them. And this year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers ends up being good for their shareholders, their customers, and their communities, so that we can spread those best practices across America.
In fact, many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative. This brings me to the second big question we have to answer as a country: how do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?
Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon.
That spirit of discovery is in our DNA. We’re Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. We’re Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. We’re every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better world. And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.
We’ve protected an open internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online. We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.
But we can do so much more. Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.
Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.
Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.
But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record – until 2015 turned out even hotter – why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?
Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal – in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy – something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.
Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.
Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future – especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.
None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve – that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.
Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world. And that’s why the third big question we have to answer is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.
I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead – they call us.
As someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time. But that’s not because of diminished American strength or some looming superpower. In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia. Economic headwinds blow from a Chinese economy in transition. Even as their economy contracts, Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine and Syria – states they see slipping away from their orbit. And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.
It’s up to us to help remake that system. And that means we have to set priorities.
Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies.
But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. That’s the story ISIL wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are – killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.
That’s exactly what we are doing. For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons. We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.
If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote. But the American people should know that with or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment – or mine – to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell. When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit.
Our foreign policy must be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there. For even without ISIL, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world – in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks; others will fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees. The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.
We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq – and we should have learned it by now.
Fortunately, there’s a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.
That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.
That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.
That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Our military, our doctors, and our development workers set up the platform that allowed other countries to join us in stamping out that epidemic.
That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products Made in America, and supports more good jobs. With TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do. You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.
Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, setting us back in Latin America. That’s why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and commerce, and positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people. You want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere? Recognize that the Cold War is over. Lift the embargo.
American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world – except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity. When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change – that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our children. When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend upon. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick, that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria – something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.
That’s strength. That’s leadership. And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example. That is why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo: it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.
That’s why we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith. His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.” When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.
“We the People.” Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together. That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight.
The future we want – opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids – all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.
It will only happen if we fix our politics.
A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.
But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.
Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency – that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.
But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task – or any President’s – alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.
We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections – and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution. We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do.
But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process – in not just who gets elected but how they get elected – that will only happen when the American people demand it. It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.
What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure. As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.
We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.
So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day.
It won’t be easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen – inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word – voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.
They’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.
I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you. I know you’re there. You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future. Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time.
I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board.
I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.
I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over – and the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.
I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ‘til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.
It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.
I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.
That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.