Economic Blogs

Deflation Bonanza! And the Fool's Mission to Stop It

The Market Oracle - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 10:14
Of all the widely believed but patently false economic beliefs is the absurd notion that falling consumer prices are bad for the economy and something must be done about them. The recent move in the Swiss franc puts a spotlight on the issue. For example, on Sunday, in Swiss Peg Removal: Did Anyone Win? I commented ... One widely recognized "big loser" is the tourism industry. For sure, hotel prices in Switzerland rose as much as 40% overnight compared to prices elsewhere. But Swiss grocery shoppers buying food imports from France, Spain, and the rest of Europe benefit mightily.
Categories: Economic Blogs

The Only Road Out Of Davos

The Market Oracle - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 10:08
After 6+ (BIG +) years of deepening poverty and rising stock markets, of creative accounting, of QE and ultralow interest rates, of extend and pretend and outright propaganda and of what have you, all of which have led us to where we are today, facing yet more rounds of stumbling from crisis into multiple crises, it would seem clear that the model, if not the mold, is broken. In order to fix it, let alone replace it altogether, we need to understand to what extent it is broken. And to do that, we first need to know what exactly the model is.
Categories: Economic Blogs

Solar Power is at a Tipping Point (The Upshot is Massive Profits)

The Market Oracle - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 10:04
Dr. Kent Moors writes: I have spent years tracking dozens of promising renewable energy companies. And while the potential of these groundbreaking companies has always been tempting, there have always been limitations holding them back. New projects require intensive amounts of working capital to make them fully compatible with traditional methods of generating power, and there’s the widely held assumption that renewables can’t survive absent government subsidies and benefits.
Categories: Economic Blogs

Messin' With My Financial Brain

The Market Oracle - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 09:37
Why is it that unlike anything else we purchase in our daily life, our brains are naturally hardwired to believe that when investment prices move higher, we must make purchases or hold on rather than start selling and reducing our position? The higher price go, the stronger the belief they will continue rising.
Categories: Economic Blogs

U.S. Consumer Sentiment Surges to an Eleven-Year High

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

The Preliminary University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment for January came in at 98.1, a strong surge from last month's final reading of 93.6. This is the highest level of sentiment in eleven years. Today's sentiment level...

Categories: Economic Blogs

The Death of the Euro and a Potential Dow Theory Sell Signal

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

I believe the decision yesterday by the Swiss Central Bank to end its pegged link to the Euro and change its interest rate to a negative .75% is as a seismic event in the history of European monetary integration.

Categories: Economic Blogs

Switzerland, Contagion, and Credibility

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

In the wake of Switzerland’s removing the cap on the Swiss franc’s value against the euro, debt owed by non-Swiss agents has become an emerging issue. That debt, denominated in either Swiss francs or in euros, is secured by...

Categories: Economic Blogs

Gold Rally Has Technical and Fundamental Support

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

Gold plunged 48% from its record high above $1,900 an ounce in 2011, to its low late last year. That was a sizable bear market move. Shorter-term, it was one of last year’s worst performers, down 15% for the year.

Categories: Economic Blogs

Weekday Wrap-Up: $40 Oil, Massive Volatility, 2015 Market Peak, and Why Jeff Rubin Saw It Coming

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

Kevin Kerr of Kerr Commodities Watch says oil can go to $40/barrel or lower; Rick Santelli tells listeners to expect major volatility; John Butler thinks stocks will peak in 2015; and Jeff Rubin explains how he predicted...

Categories: Economic Blogs

Grand Experiment Failure; Bankers Prefer Bubbles; Europe is not USA; Final Epitaph

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

Saxo Bank CIO and chief economist Steen Jakobsen made a few comments the other day that hit me in the face like a bucket of ice water. Here they are again, taken from Steen Jakobsen Warns "Euro is Not a Good Idea and...

Categories: Economic Blogs

Making Sense of SNB's Bombshell

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

The market is still trying to make sense of yesterday's bombshell by the Swiss National Bank to abandon its franc cap, which affirmed as an integral part of the central bank's monetary policy a few short days ago.

Categories: Economic Blogs

What Policymakers Miss

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

What the PHD club have forgotten or intentionally overlooked in all their learned theories, is the below chart. The bonanza of babies born after the Second World War in all the world’s most advanced, wealthiest economies...

Categories: Economic Blogs

China’s Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect Fails to Deliver

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

At the moment, mainland investors need to have a portfolio of 500,000 yuan, or just over $80,000, to participate in the scheme. This regulation excludes a lot of investors and traders. Lowering this minimum portfolio would allow for...

Categories: Economic Blogs

Why Are Investors Rushing Into Bonds?

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

Inflation is a major driver of the long end of the yield curve. Investors typically don't lend money at rates at which there is a high likelihood that the proceeds, once repaid, will have less purchasing power than the initial money lent.

Categories: Economic Blogs

Europe Rediscovers Nationalism

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

Europe traditionally has been a cradle for nationalism. From the romantic nationalism of the 19th century to the totalitarianism of the 20th century, Europeans have long defined themselves by a strong...

Categories: Economic Blogs

Swiss Franc Goes Off Euro

Financial Sense - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 06:00

So far, early Q4 2014 earnings season is being eclipsed by bigger headlines elsewhere. This morning, the Swiss National Bank has made the surprise decision to remove its long-standing exchange rate of 1.20 Swiss francs to 1 euro.

Categories: Economic Blogs

12 Reasons Why Here and not There

Zero Hedge - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 04:42

By: Chris at www.CapitalistExploits.at

New Zealanders are like the residue of Weet-Bix left in a cereal bowl for a couple of weeks: tough!

Let me give you an example. When James Grant was attacked by a shark while spearfishing his response was pretty typical of the Kiwis I know here: "Bugger, now I have to get this thing off my leg."

After fighting off the shark with his knife, he then proceeded to tack the 5 cm long wounds on his leg together with a needle from his first aid kit for his pig hunting dogs. What did he then do? Why, he went to the pub for a pint, of course.

I like that about Kiwis. Typically they don't expect others to solve their problems. They rely on themselves and their communities to get things done. Practical to a fault.

I like the fact that the men don't use "product" in their hair. Having lived in cities in Western Europe and the US, I reckon blokes spend far too much time worrying about their hair. It's as if everyone wants to look like a real estate agent or the weather man. Not healthy, I tell you.

Having lived in both third and first world countries, and traveled to many more I'm fortunate enough to now be able to choose where in the world I want to live without any real constraints. My wife and I have spent a long time determining what it means for us and this naturally impacts where we locate ourselves.

People have asked me why we spend so much time in New Zealand. It's a good question so let me provide a sprinkling of reasons which follow on from Mark's recent comments and his reasons for making New Zealand home.

  1. Aside from the fact that people are really unpretentious, I enjoy speaking my mother tongue of English. I know it's being a bit lazy but it's true. Kiwis don't actually speak English but the dialect resembling it can be understood. It's not as bad as Scottish or Australian which are of course both languages parsed from aliens.
  2. I'm not a city guy. Cities are great to travel to when needed but they make you soft and I don't like chewing my air before swallowing. I prefer it fresh. Also city folk don't beat off a shark with their knife, stitch themselves back together and head to the pub. They bleed, cry, scream for help, followed by counseling and antidepressants. So New Zealand is great for this because there aren't any cities... Not if, like Mark and I, you spend any time in Asia. No, they have large villages which are really pretty and that brings me to my next point.
  3. Stunning. Breathtaking in every way. No really, you have no idea. I've seen a lot of countries and this place is really exceptional.
  4. New Zealand? Where is that? Exactly why I like it. New Zealand, unlike large western powers, has never pissed on others doorsteps and as a result have no enemies to speak of. It's remote but not backward and it's very safe. You'll want for nothing in terms of the technology and amenities found in any modern wealthy western country. I use the term wealthy loosely as most western countries are broke and Europe in particular is falling apart at the seams.
  5. Corruption here is pretty much unheard of. The country ranks as the least corrupt country in the world second only to Denmark.
  6. Its cities offer some of the highest standards of living in the world with Auckland ranking 3rd in the Mercer Quality of Living Index.
  7. The Heritage Foundation rank New Zealand at #5 for Economic freedom. Streets ahead of Europe or North America.
  8. It comes in at second place behind Singapore in securing the title for "ease of doing business."
  9. Freedom House publish a report on freedom in the world. It makes for very interesting reading and you can read it here. New Zealand rank at the top of the scales.
  10. While we're dealing with statistical rankings - according to the Social Progress Index of 2014 New Zealand is the most socially advanced nation in the world.
  11. Freedom of the press is extremely high with the country ranking consistently in the top ten for press freedom.

What else? Well, I like the fact that children rarely wear shoes to school, and play outdoors in a clean healthy environment. I'd say that Kiwi kids are amongst the most active kids in the world.

Before I leave you, below is some New Zealand eye candy...

To me choosing to live in New Zealand is like deliberately sleeping with the bubbly, flirtatious and gorgeous German backpacker rather than her rather plain boring English friend, who, lets' face it, is a bit on the plump side. It's just better and you know it when you experience it.

- Chris

 

"New Zealand is not a small country but a large village." - Peter Jackson








Categories: Economic Blogs

The Road To The Welfare State: Why 50% Of "Exceptional" America Gets Checks From Uncle Sam

Zero Hedge - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 03:40

Submitted by Nicholas Eberstadt via National Affairs,

If social policy were medicine, and countries were the patients, the United States today would be a post-surgical charge under observation after an ambitious and previously untested transplant operation. Surgeons have grafted a foreign organ?—?the European welfare state?—?into the American body. The transplanted organ has thrived?—?in fact, it has grown immensely. The condition of the patient, however, is another question altogether. The patient's vital signs have not responded entirely positively to this social surgery; in fact, by some important metrics, the patient's post-operative behavior appears to be impaired. And, like many other transplant patients, this one seems to have effected a disturbing change in mood, even personality, as a consequence of the operation.

The modern welfare state has a distinctly European pedigree. Naturally enough, the architecture of the welfare state was designed and developed with European realities in mind, the most important of which were European beliefs about poverty. Thanks to their history of Old World feudalism, with its centuries of rigid class barriers and attendant lack of opportunity for mobility based on merit, Europeans held a powerful, continentally pervasive belief that ordinary people who found themselves in poverty or need were effectively stuck in it?—?and, no less important, that they were stuck through no fault of their own, but rather by an accident of birth. (Whether this belief was entirely accurate is another story, though beside the point: This was what people perceived and believed, and at the end of the day those perceptions shaped the formation and development of Europe's welfare states.) The state provision of old-age pensions, unemployment benefits, and health services?—?along with official family support and other household-income guarantees?—?served a multiplicity of purposes for European political economies, not the least of which was to assuage voters' discontent with the perceived shortcomings of their countries' social structures through a highly visible and explicitly political mechanism for broadly based and compensatory income redistribution.

But America's historical experience has been rather different from Europe's, and from the earliest days of the great American experiment, people in the United States exhibited strikingly different views from their trans-Atlantic cousins on the questions of poverty and social welfare. These differences were noted both by Americans themselves and by foreign visitors, not least among them Alexis de Tocqueville, whose conception of American exceptionalism was heavily influenced by the distinctive American worldview on such matters. Because America had no feudal past and no lingering aristocracy, poverty was not viewed as the result of an unalterable accident of birth but instead as a temporary challenge that could be overcome with determination and character?—?with enterprise, hard work, and grit. Rightly or wrongly, Americans viewed themselves as masters of their own fate, intensely proud because they were self-reliant.

To the American mind, poverty could never be regarded as a permanent condition for anyone in any stratum of society because of the country's boundless possibilities for individual self-advancement. Self-reliance and personal initiative were, in this way of thinking, the critical factors in staying out of need. Generosity, too, was very much a part of that American ethos; the American impulse to lend a hand (sometimes a very generous hand) to neighbors in need of help was ingrained in the immigrant and settler traditions. But thanks to a strong underlying streak of Puritanism, Americans reflexively parsed the needy into two categories: what came to be called the deserving and the undeserving poor. To assist the former, the American prescription was community-based charity from its famously vibrant "voluntary associations." The latter?—?men and women judged responsible for their own dire circumstances due to laziness, or drinking problems, or other behavior associated with flawed character?—?were seen as mainly needing assistance in "changing their ways." In either case, charitable aid was typically envisioned as a temporary intervention to help good people get through a bad spell and back on their feet. Long-term dependence upon handouts was "pauperism," an odious condition no self-respecting American would readily accept.

The American mythos, in short, offered less than fertile soil for cultivating a modern welfare state. This is not to say that the American myth of unlimited opportunity for the rugged individualist always conformed to the facts on the ground. That myth rang hollow for many Americans?—?most especially for African-Americans, who first suffered for generations under slavery and thereafter endured a full century of officially enforced discrimination, as well as other barriers to self-advancement. Though the facts certainly did not always fit the ideal, the American myth was so generally accepted that the nation displayed an enduring aversion to all the trappings of the welfare state, and put up prolonged resistance to their establishment on our shores.

Over the past several decades, however, something fundamental has changed. The American welfare state today transfers over 14% of the nation's GDP to the recipients of its many programs, and over a third of the population now accepts "need-based" benefits from the government. This is not the America that Tocqueville encountered. To begin to appreciate the differences, we need to understand how Americans' relationship to the welfare state has changed, and with it, the American character itself.

AN AMERICAN REVOLUTION

The road to our modern welfare state traces its way through northern Europe, most notably through Bismarck's social-insurance legislation in late 19th-century Germany, Sweden's pioneering "social democracy" policies during the interwar period, and Britain's 1942 "Beveridge Report," which offered the embattled nation a vision of far-reaching and generous social-welfare guarantees after victory.

Over the first three decades of the 20th century, while welfare programs were blossoming in Europe, in the United States the share of the national output devoted to public-welfare spending (pensions, unemployment, health, and all the rest) not only failed to rise but apparently declined. The ratio of government social outlays to GDP looks actually to have been lower in 1930 than it was in 1890, due in part to the death of Civil War veterans (of the Union army) and their dependents who had been receiving pensions. Thirty-six European and Latin American countries?—?many of which lagged far behind the U.S. in terms of educational attainment and socioeconomic development?—?already had put in place nationwide "social insurance" systems for old-age pensions by the time the United States passed the Social Security Act in 1935, establishing our first federal legislation committing Washington to providing public benefits for the general population.

Suffice it to say, the United States arrived late to the 20th century's entitlement party, and the hesitance to embrace the welfare state lingered on well after the Depression. As recently as the early 1960s, the "footprint" left on America's GDP by the welfare state was not dramatically larger than it had been under Franklin Roosevelt?—?or Herbert Hoover, for that matter. In 1961, at the start of the Kennedy Administration, total government entitlement transfers to individual recipients accounted for a little less than 5% of GDP, as opposed to 2.5% of GDP in 1931 just before the New Deal. In 1963?—?the year of Kennedy's assassination?—?these entitlement transfers accounted for about 6% of total personal income in America, as against a bit less than 4% in 1936.

During the 1960s, however, America's traditional aversion to the welfare state and all its works largely collapsed. President Johnson's "War on Poverty" (declared in 1964) and his "Great Society" pledge of the same year ushered in a new era for America, in which Washington finally commenced in earnest the construction of a massive welfare state. In the decades that followed, America not only markedly expanded provision for current or past workers who qualified for benefits under existing "social insurance" arrangements (retirement, unemployment, and disability), it also inaugurated a panoply of nationwide programs for "income maintenance" (food stamps, housing subsidies, Supplemental Social Security Insurance, and the like) where eligibility turned not on work history but on officially designated "poverty" status. The government also added health-care guarantees for retirees and the officially poor, with Medicare, Medicaid, and their accompaniments. In other words, Americans could claim, and obtain, an increasing trove of economic benefits from the government simply by dint of being a citizen; they were now incontestably entitled under law to some measure of transferred public bounty, thanks to our new "entitlement state."

The expansion of the American welfare state remains very much a work in progress; the latest addition to that edifice is, of course, the Affordable Care Act. Despite its recent decades of rapid growth, the American welfare state may still look modest in scope and scale compared to some of its European counterparts. Nonetheless, over the past two generations, the remarkable growth of the entitlement state has radically transformed both the American government and the American way of life itself. It is not too much to call those changes revolutionary.

The impact on the federal government has been revolutionary in the literal meaning of the term, in that the structure of state spending has been completely overturned within living memory. Over the past half-century, social-welfare-program payments and subventions have mutated from a familiar but nonetheless decidedly limited item on the federal ledger into its dominant and indeed most distinguishing feature. The metamorphosis is underscored by estimates from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the unit in the federal government that calculates GDP and other elements of our national accounts. According to BEA figures, official transfers of money, goods, and services to individual recipients through social-welfare programs accounted for less than one federal dollar in four (24%) in 1963. (And, to go by BEA data, that share was not much higher than what it had been in 1929.) But by 2013, roughly three out of every five federal dollars (59%) were going to social-entitlement transfers. The still-shrinking residual?—?barely two budgetary dollars in five, at this writing?—?is now left to apply to all the remaining purposes of the federal government, including the considerable bureaucratic costs of overseeing the various transfer programs under consideration themselves.

Thus did the great experiment begun in the Constitution devolve into an entitlements machine?—?at least, so far as daily operations, budgetary priorities, and administrative emphases are concerned. Federal politics, correspondingly, are now in the main the politics of entitlement programs?—?activities never mentioned in the Constitution or its amendments.

THE ROAD TO WELFARE

Scarcely less revolutionary has been the remolding of daily life for ordinary Americans under the shadow of the entitlement state. Over the half-century between 1963 and 2013, entitlement transfers were the fastest growing source of personal income in America?—?expanding at twice the rate for real per capita personal income from all other sources, in fact. Relentless, exponential growth of entitlement payments recast the American family budget over the course of just two generations. In 1963, these transfers accounted for less than one out of every 15 dollars of overall personal income; by 2013, they accounted for more than one dollar out of every six.

The explosive growth of entitlement outlays, of course, was accompanied by a corresponding surge in the number of Americans who would routinely apply for, and accept, such government benefits. Despite episodic attempts to limit the growth of the welfare state or occasional assurances from Washington that "the era of big government is over," the pool of entitlement beneficiaries has apparently grown almost ceaselessly. The qualifier "apparently" is necessary because, curiously enough, the government did not actually begin systematically tracking the demographics of America's "program participation" until a generation ago. Such data as are available, however, depict a sea change over the past 30 years.

By 2012, the most recent year for such figures at this writing, Census Bureau estimates indicated that more than 150 million Americans, or a little more than 49% of the population, lived in households that received at least one entitlement benefit. Since under-reporting of government transfers is characteristic for survey respondents, and since administrative records suggest the Census Bureau's own adjustments and corrections do not completely compensate for the under-reporting problem, this likely means that America has already passed the symbolic threshold where a majority of the population is asking for, and accepting, welfare-state transfers.

Between 1983 and 2012, by Census Bureau estimates, the percentage of Americans "participating" in entitlement programs jumped by nearly 20 percentage points. One might at first assume that the upsurge was largely due to the graying of the population and the consequent increase in the number of beneficiaries of Social Security and Medicare, entitlement programs designed to help the elderly. But that is not the case. Over the period in question, the share of Americans receiving Social Security payments increased by less than three percentage points?—?and by less than four points for those availing themselves of Medicare. Less than one-fifth of that 20-percentage-point jump can be attributed to increased reliance on these two "old age" programs.

Overwhelmingly, the growth in claimants of entitlement benefits has stemmed from an extraordinary rise in "means-tested" entitlements. (These entitlements are often called "anti-poverty programs," since the criterion for eligibility is an income below some designated multiple of the officially calculated poverty threshold.) By late 2012, more than 109 million Americans lived in households that obtained one or more such benefits?—?over twice as many as received Social Security or Medicare. The population of what we might call "means-tested America" was more than two-and-a-half times as large in 2012 as it had been in 1983. Over those intervening years, there was population growth to be sure, but not enough to explain the huge increase in the share of the population receiving anti-poverty benefits. The total U.S. population grew by almost 83 million, while the number of people accepting means-tested benefits rose by 67 million?—?an astonishing trajectory, implying a growth of the means-tested population of 80 persons for each 100-person increase in national population over that interval.

In the mid-1990s, during the Clinton era, Congress famously passed legislation to rein in one notorious entitlement program: Aid for Families with Dependent Children. Established under a different name as part of the 1935 Social Security Act, AFDC was a Social Security program portal originally intended to support the orphaned children of deceased workers; it was subsequently diverted to supporting children from broken homes and eventually the children of unwed mothers. By the 1980s, the great majority of children born to never-married mothers were AFDC recipients, and almost half of AFDC recipients were the children of never-married mothers. The program's design seemed to create incentives against marriage and against work, and it was ultimately determined by bipartisan political consensus that such an arrangement must not continue. So with the welfare reforms of the 1990s, AFDC was changed to TANF?—?Temporary Aid to Needy Families?—?and eligibility for benefits was indeed restricted. By 2012, the fraction of Americans in homes obtaining AFDC/TANF aid was less than half of what it had been in 1983.

The story of AFDC/TANF, however, is a one-off, a major exception to the general trend. Over the same three decades, the rolls of claimants receiving food stamps (a program that was officially rebranded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in 2008 because of the stigma the phrase had acquired) jumped from 19 million to 51 million. By 2012 almost one American in six lived in a home enrolled in the SNAP program. The ranks of Medicaid, the means-tested national health-care program, increased by over 65 million between 1983 and 2012, and now include over one in four Americans. And while the door to means-tested cash benefits from the Social Security program through AFDC/TANF had been partly (though not entirely) closed, a much larger window for such benefits was simultaneously thrown open in the form of Supplemental Security Income, a program intended to provide income for the disabled poor. Between 1983 and 2012, the number of Americans in households receiving Federal SSI more than sextupled; by 2012, over 20 million people were counted as dependents of the program.

All told, more than 35% of Americans were taking home at least some benefits from means-tested programs by 2012?—?nearly twice the share in 1983. Some may be tempted to blame such an increase on increasingly widespread material hardship. It is true that the American economy in 2012 was still recovering from the huge global crash of 2008, and unemployment levels were still painfully high: 8.1% for the year as a whole. But 1983 was a recovery year for the U.S. economy, too; the recession of 1981 and 1982 was the most severe in postwar American history up to that point, and the unemployment rate in 1983 was 9.6%, even higher than in 2012.

By the same token, although the official poverty rate was almost identical for the two years?—?the total population estimated to be below the official poverty line was 15.2% in 1983 and 15.0% in 2012?—?the proportion of Americans drawing means-tested benefits was dramatically higher in 2012. By 2012, there was no longer any readily observable correspondence between the officially designated condition of poverty and the recipience of "anti-poverty" entitlements. In that year, the number of people taking home means-tested benefits was more than twice the number of those living below the poverty line?—?meaning a decisive majority of recipients of such aid were the non-poor. In fact, by 2012 roughly one in four Americans above the poverty line was receiving at least one means-tested benefit.

How could this be? America today is almost certainly the richest society in history, anywhere at any time. And it is certainly more prosperous and productive now (and in 2012) than it was three decades ago. Yet paradoxically, our entitlement state behaves as if Americans have never been more "needy." The paradox is easily explained: Means-tested entitlement transfers are no longer an instrument strictly for addressing absolute poverty, but instead a device for a more general redistribution of resources. And the fact that so many are willing to accept need-based aid signals a fundamental change in the American character.

THE MORAL FABRIC

Asking for, and accepting, purportedly need-based government welfare benefits has become a fact of life for a significant and still growing minority of our population: Every decade, a higher proportion of Americans appear to be habituated to the practice. If the trajectory continues, the coming generation could see the emergence in the United States of means-tested beneficiaries becoming the majority of the population. This notion may seem absurd, but it is not as fanciful as it sounds. In recent years, after all, nearly half of all children under 18 years of age received means-tested benefits (or lived in homes that did). For this rising cohort of young Americans, reliance on public, need-based entitlement programs is already the norm?—?here and now.

It risks belaboring the obvious to observe that today's real existing American entitlement state, and the habits?—?including habits of mind?—?that it engenders, do not coexist easily with the values and principles, or with the traditions, culture, and styles of life, subsumed under the shorthand of "American exceptionalism." Especially subversive of that ethos, we might argue, are essentially unconditional and indefinite guarantees of means-tested public largesse.

Some components of the welfare state look distinctly less objectionable to that traditional sensibility than others. Given proper design, for example, an old-age benefit programs such as Social Security could more or less function as the social-insurance program it claims to be. With the right structure and internal incentives, it is possible to imagine a publicly administered retirement program entirely self-financed by the eventual recipients of these benefits over the course of their working lives. The United States is very far from achieving a self-funded Social Security program, of course, but if such a schema could be put in place, it would not in itself do violence to the conceptions of self-reliance, personal responsibility, and self-advancement that sit at the heart of the traditional American mythos. (Much the same could likewise be said of publicly funded education.) Moral hazard is inherent, and inescapable, in all public social-welfare projects?—?but it is easiest to minimize or contain in efforts like these. By contrast, the moral hazard in ostensibly need-based programs is epidemic, contagious, and essentially uncontrollable. Mass public provision of means-tested entitlements perforce invites long-term consumption of those entitlements.

The corrosive nature of mass dependence on entitlements is evident from the nature of the pathologies so closely associated with its spread. Two of the most pernicious of them are so tightly intertwined as to be inseparable: the breakdown of the pre-existing American family structure and the dramatic decrease in participation in work among working-age men.

When the "War on Poverty" was launched in 1964, 7% of children were born outside of marriage; by 2012, that number had grown to an astounding 41%, and nearly a quarter of all American children under the age of 18 were living with a single mother. (In the interest of brevity, let us merely say much, much more data could be adduced on this score, almost all of it depressing.)

As for men of parenting age, a steadily rising share has been opting out of the labor force altogether. Between 1964 and early 2014, the fraction of civilian men between the ages of 25 and 34 who were neither working nor looking for work roughly quadrupled, from less than 3% to more than 11%. In 1965, fewer than 5% of American men between 45 and 54 years of age were totally out of the work force; by early 2014, the fraction was almost 15%. To judge by mortality statistics, American men in the prime of life have never been healthier than they are today?—?yet they are less committed to working, or to attempting to find work, than at any previous point in our nation's history.

No one can prove (or disprove) that the entitlement state is responsible for this rending of the national fabric. But it is clear that the rise of the entitlement state has coincided with these disheartening developments; that it has abetted these developments; and that, at the end of the day, its interventions have served to finance and underwrite these developments. For a great many women and children in America, and a perhaps surprisingly large number of working-age men as well, the entitlement state is now the breadwinner of the household.

ENTITLEMENTS AND EXCEPTIONALISM

Changes in popular mores and norms are less easily and precisely tracked than changes in behavior, but here as well modern America has witnessed immense shifts under the shadow of the entitlement state. Difficult as these shifts may be to quantify, we may nevertheless dare to identify, and at least impressionistically describe, some of the ways the entitlements revolution may be shaping the contemporary American mind and fundamentally changing the American character.

To begin, the rise of long-term entitlement dependence?—?with the concomitant "mainstreaming" of inter-generational welfare de-pendence?—?self-evidently delivers a heavy blow against general belief in the notion that everyone can succeed in America, no matter their station at birth. Perhaps less obvious is what increasing acceptance of entitlements means for American exceptionalism. The burning personal ambition and hunger for success that both domestic and foreign observers have long taken to be distinctively American traits are being undermined and supplanted by the character challenges posed by the entitlement state. The incentive structure of our means-based welfare state invites citizens to accept benefits by showing need, making the criterion for receiving grants demonstrated personal or familial financial failure, which used to be a source of shame.

Unlike all American governance before it, our new means-tested arrangements enforce a poverty policy that must function as blind to any broad differentiation between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor. That basic Puritan conception is dying today in America, except perhaps in the circles and reaches where it was already dead. More broadly, the politics surrounding the entitlement system tends to undermine?—?by and large deliberately?—?the legitimacy of utilizing stigma and opprobrium to condition the behavior of beneficiaries, even when the behavior in question is irresponsible or plainly destructive. For a growing number of Americans, especially younger Americans, the very notion of "shaming" entitlement recipients for their personal behavior is regarded as completely inappropriate, if not offensive. This is a strikingly new point of view in American political culture. A "judgment-free" attitude toward the official provision of social support, one that takes personal responsibility out of the discussion, marks a fundamental break with the past on this basic American precept about civic life and civic duty.

The entitlement state appears to be degrading standards of citizenship in other ways as well. For example, mass gaming of the welfare system appears to be a fact of modern American life. The country's ballooning "disability" claims attest to this. Disability awards are a key source of financial support for non-working men now, and disability judgments also serve as a gateway to qualifying for a whole assortment of subsidiary welfare benefits. Successful claims by working-age adults against the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program rose almost six-fold between 1970 and 2012?—?and that number does not include claims against other major government disability programs, such as SSI. There has never been a serious official effort to audit SSDI?—?or, for that matter, virtually any of the country's current entitlement programs.

The late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once wrote, "It cannot too often be stated that the issue of welfare is not what it costs those who provide it, but what it costs those who receive it." The full tally of those costs must now include the loss of public honesty occasioned by chronic deception to extract unwarranted entitlement benefits from our government?—?and by the tolerance of such deception by the family members and friends of those who commit it.

Finally, there is the relation between entitlements and the middle-class mentality. An important aspect of the American national myth is that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can gain entry to the country's middle class, regardless of their income or background. Yet while low incomes, limited educational attainment, and other material constraints manifestly have not prevented successive generations of Americans from aspiring to the middle-class or even entering it, the same cannot be said of constraints emanating from the mind. Being part of the American middle class is not just an income distinction?—?it is a mentality, a self-conception. To be middle class is to be hard-working and self-sufficient, with self-respect rooted in providing a good life for oneself and one's family. Can members in good standing of the American middle class really maintain that self-conception while simultaneously taking need-based government benefits that symbolically brand them and their family as wards of the state?

It is no secret that the American middle class is under great pressure these days. Most commentary and analysis on this question has focused on "structural," material reasons for this phenomenon: globalization, the faltering American jobs machine, widening economic differences in society, difficulties in keeping up the pace of mobility, and many others. Conspicuously absent from this discussion have been the consequences of enrolling a sizable and still-growing share of the populace in welfare programs intended for the helpless and needy. With more than 35% of America receiving means-tested benefits, should it really be surprising that over a third of the country no longer considers itself "middle class"?

THE END OF EXCEPTIONALISM

The worldwide spread and growth of the social-welfare state seems strongly to suggest that there is a universal demand today for such services and guarantees in affluent, democratic societies. Given the disproportionate growth almost everywhere of entitlements in relation to increases in national income, it would seem that voters in modern democracies the world over regard such benefits as "luxury goods." In one sense, we might therefore say there is nothing particularly special about the recent American experience with the entitlement state. But as we have also seen, there is good reason to think that the entitlement state may be especially poorly suited for a nation with America's particular political culture, sensibilities, and tradition.

The qualities celebrated under the banner of "American exceptionalism" are perhaps in poorer repair than at any time in our nation's history. There can be little doubt (to return to our medical metaphor) that the grafting of a social-welfare system onto our body public is in no small part responsible for this state of affairs.

And there is little reason to believe that the transplant will be rejected any time soon. To date the American voter's appetite for entitlement transfers appears to be scarcely less insatiable than those of voters anywhere else. Our political leadership, for its part, has no stomach for taking the lead in weaning the nation from entitlement dependence. Despite tactical, rhetorical opposition to further expansion of the entitlement state by many voices in Washington, and firm resistance by an honorable and principled few, collusive bipartisan support for an ever-larger welfare state is the central fact of politics in our nation's capital today, as it has been for decades.

Until and unless America undergoes some sort of awakening that turns the public against its blandishments, or some sort of forcing financial crisis that suddenly restricts the resources available to it, continued growth of the entitlement state looks very likely in the years immediately ahead. And in at least that respect, America today does not look exceptional at all.








Categories: Economic Blogs

'Everything Is Awesome' SOTU Post-Mortem: "It's Not Government's Job To Make Everybody Rich"

Zero Hedge - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 03:11

The only thing we did not get from tonight's State of The Union speech was a "Mission Accomplished" flag... oddly some of the 6,493 words (the lowest word-count of his Presidency) were not entirely 'factual'...

SOTU ran 59 mins 56 seconds. Applause count per @JillianBHughes was 87.

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) January 21, 2015

  Don't Forget...  

"Make A New America"

 

The Atlantic has an excellent interactive chart for diving into the details of SOTUs...

*  *  *

Some color...

"The shadow of crisis has passed" - so why are Treasury yields at record lows and why does The Fed have ZIRP and keep threatening QE on every 5% drop in stocks?

 

"the stock market has doubled"

Somewhere Ben Bernanke is offended Obama took credit for the stock market's gains

— GreekFire23 (@GreekFire23) January 21, 2015

 

"our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999"

About the whole jobs thing #SOTU pic.twitter.com/YJiHjUSh54

— Tim Backshall (@credittrader) January 21, 2015

Watiers/Bartenders vs Manufacturing workers pic.twitter.com/Y4OfJJ6VN9

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015

"Wages are finally starting to rise again." - well hope is...

 

 

Obama "Wages are finally starting to rise" pic.twitter.com/9Xnox1EJYq

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015

 

"These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government." - indeed only the 'already rich' get rich...

 

"The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate"

The world's billionaires fighting climate change in Davos pic.twitter.com/tcH08wrfnU

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015

"Middle Class Economics" - How's that working out?

% of global wealth held by the middle class pic.twitter.com/O2CWE7zwYy

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015

 

As WSJ notes, no one is even clear what the Middle-Class is...

"Cost of community college for all will be zero" - yeah that didn't work out so well did it...

For the first time in history, a majority of jobless workers 25 and over have attended some college pic.twitter.com/HhGg4peqE2

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015

Free community college pic.twitter.com/C6W2U1ETpn

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015

Student Debt pic.twitter.com/idH1g1DjcL

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015

 

"As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties?" - not so much Germans... or North Koreans

U.S. Spies Tapped North Korean Computers Before Sony Hack http://t.co/PYKgZDx3Lo

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015

 

"Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters."

Obama in China pic.twitter.com/7Qe0u2McXP

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015

Countries that have "isolated" Russia shown in blue pic.twitter.com/tvbn1pIJkd

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015

 

And finally... "That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve."

Obama: Congress should come together Obama: I will veto anything I disagree with

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015

*  *  *

Bloomberg headline summary...

  • *OBAMA SAYS `THE SHADOW OF CRISIS HAS PASSED'
  • *OBAMA SAYS BUDGET WILL BE PRACTICAL, NOT PARTISAN
  • *OBAMA SAYS HE WILL VETO ATTEMPTS TO KILL OBAMACARE, DODD-FRANK
  • *OBAMA CALLS ON CONGRESS TO EXPAND PAID SICK LEAVE
  • *OBAMA SAYS HE'S SENDING CONGRESS PLAN FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGE
  • *OBAMA SAYS COST OF COMMUNITY COLLEGE WILL BE ZERO UNDER PLAN
  • *OBAMA REITERATES CALL FOR TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY
  • *OBAMA SAYS HE'S LAUNCHING INITIATIVE FOR CURING DISEASES
  • *OBAMA CALLS ON CONGRESS TO HELP HIM CLOSE TAX LOOPHOLES
  • *OBAMA REITERATES HE WANTS `FREE AND OPEN' INTERNET
  • *OBAMA: U.S. HAS LEARNED `COSTLY LESSONS' IN FOREIGN POLICY
  • *OBAMA SAYS RUSSIA IS ISOLATED, `ITS ECONOMY IN TATTERS'
  • *OBAMA: IRAN SANCTIONS ALL BUT GUARANTEE NUKE TALKS WILL FAIL
  • *OBAMA SAYS HE WILL VETO ANY NEW IRAN SANCTIONS BILL
  • *OBAMA: NOTHING IS GREATER THREAT TO FUTURE THAN CLIMATE CHANGE

*  *  *

The White House has released the entire State of The Union speech...

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page.

Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.

America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:

The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.

At this moment?—?with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production?—?we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

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?

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?

In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan. And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas.

So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.

It begins with our economy.

Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. She waited tables. He worked construction. Their first child, Jack, was on the way.

They were young and in love in America, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

“If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time. Rebekah took out student loans, enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed for each other. And slowly, it paid off. They bought their first home. They had a second son, Henry. Rebekah got a better job, and then a raise. Ben is back in construction?—?and home for dinner every night.

“It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.

America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story. They represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled. You are the reason I ran for this office. You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.

We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.

At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.

So the verdict is clear. 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.

Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007. But here’s the thing?—?those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making. We need to do more than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.

Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help. She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota. Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.

In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet?—?tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.

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.

So what does middle-class economics require in our time?

First?—?middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement?—?and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.

Here’s one example. During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority?—?so this country provided universal childcare. In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have?—?it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America?—?by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.

Here’s another example. Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave. Forty-three million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.

Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.

These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government. 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. And that’s what all of us?—?Republicans and Democrats alike?—?were sent here to do.

Second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.

America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world. But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more.

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.

That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college?—?to zero.

Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt. Understand, you’ve got to earn it?—?you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today. And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.

Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics. Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships?—?opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.

And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend. Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care. We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs. Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs. So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran.

Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.

Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined. Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming. But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago?—?jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.

So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America. That’s why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.

21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure?—?modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.

21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.

Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. But ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.

21st century businesses will rely on American science, technology, research and development. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine?—?one that delivers the right treatment at the right time. In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable. Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes?—?and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.

I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.

I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs?—?converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain?—?and make sure to Instagram it.

Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber. Members of both parties have told me so. Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments. As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight. They’ve riddled it with giveaways the superrich don’t need, denying a break to middle class families who do.

This year, we have an opportunity to change that. 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.

Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy. Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go. I believe it’s where the American people want to go. It will make our economy stronger a year from now, fifteen years from now, and deep into the century ahead.

Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores.

My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how. 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.

I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now?—?and around the globe, it is making a difference.

First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists?—?from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.

At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last thirteen years.

Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition. Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America. In Iraq and Syria, American leadership?—?including our military power?—?is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. 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.

Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small?—?by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.

That’s how America leads?—?not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.

In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new. Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba. And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan.

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies?—?including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails?—?alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.

Third, we’re looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming century.

No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.

In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back Ebola?—?saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease. I couldn’t be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts. But the job is not yet done?—?and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.

In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules?—?in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. And no challenge?—?no challenge?—?poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does?—?14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what?—?I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. 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. We should act like it.

That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement?—?the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

There’s one last pillar to our leadership?—?and that’s the example of our values.

As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims?—?the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.

As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice?—?so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half. Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It’s not who we are.

As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties?—?and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.

Looking to the future instead of the past. Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely. Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading?—?always?—?with the example of our values. That’s what makes us exceptional. That’s what keeps us strong. And that’s why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards?—?our own.

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, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home?—?a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.

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 naïve, 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.

I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long. I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California; and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and New London. I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown; in Boston, West, Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains; from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.

So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper. And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. 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.

Understand?—?a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.

A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.

A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.

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.

If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments?—?but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.

We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.

Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.

We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.

That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve.

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.

Because I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth?—?that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, and help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.

I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.

I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen?—?man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.

I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.

I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom like Rebekah can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story to sum up these past six years:

“It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. 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.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

*  *  *

Summing it all up...

More Socialism is the answer pic.twitter.com/cvV1uMeia8

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 21, 2015








Categories: Economic Blogs

Presenting The 2015 "Shadow Of Crisis Has Passed" State Of The Union - Live Webcast & Full Speech

Zero Hedge - Wed, 21/01/2015 - 01:50

By now it is well known that The State of The Union tonight will be about President Obama's Robin-Hood Agenda. Furthermore, it is entirely clear that his proposals have no chance of becoming law. As WaPo's Marc Thiessen notes, Obama is not delusional, his move is completely and transparently political... And just as Eric Cantor suggests will merely serve to inflame the GOP. From taxes to cyber security and from community college to housing... in 50-65 minutes, all will be clear...

 

 

President Obama is due to start The State Of The Union at 9pm ET...

 

But this year, much of Mr. Obama's policy wish list and broad themes will be well-known when he walks onto the House floor tonight. Here is what the president is widely expected to focus on in his address...

Taxes: Mr. Obama will propose using revenue generated from tax increases on investment gains and inherited property to pay for tax breaks aimed at low- and middle-income households. The initiatives, previewed Saturday by administration officials, include tripling the child-care tax credit to $3,000 and creating a new $500 credit for families in which both spouses work. Under the plan, the top capital-gains rate would rise to 28% from 23.8% and more inherited assets would be subject to capital-gains taxes.

 

The Economy: One of the biggest themes of Mr. Obama's speech will be the strengthening economic recovery. With the stock market up, GDP growing and unemployment at new lows, Mr. Obama has began talking up the economy -- a bit of legacy building from a president entering his final two years in office.

 

"In my speech, I'm going to focus on how we can build on the progress we've already made and help more Americans feel that resurgence in their daily lives, with higher wages, and rising incomes and growing our middle class," Mr. Obama said in remarks last week previewing his address.

 

Cybersecurity: Mr. Obama is expected to give hacking and cybersecurity a prominent mention in the speech, in the aftermath of several high profile incidents including data breaches at top retailers, the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. and the breach of a U.S. military Twitter account. Mr. Obama will call on Congress to take up cybersecurity legislation, and he is working on an executive order on the issue. He'll also call for new protections in the event that consumer credit card data gets stolen or compromised.

 

Free Community College: Mr. Obama has proposed spending $60 billion over 10 years to ensure cost-free access to community college for students, with the hope of making two years of college as universal as high school is today. Students would need to be halftime students, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and be working toward completing their degrees.

 

Government-owned broadband networks: The president has also called for overturning state laws that keep local governments from investing in municipally-owned broadband networks. The Obama administration says the move would encourage competition and increase the availability of high-speed broadband Internet access, especially in rural areas.

 

Paid sick, parental and family leave: The president will also urge Congress to vote on the Healthy Families Act, which would mandate up to seven days of paid sick leave for workers every year. He is also likely to tout a recently signed executive order that guarantees federal workers at least six weeks of parental leave for the birth of a child. And he'll call for Congress to overhaul federal  workforce policies for parents.

 

Housing: The president is expected to talk about a new push to jump-start the sluggish housing market. Mr. Obama recently ordered the Federal Housing Administration to reduce annual mortgage insurance premiums from 1.35% to 0.85% -- with the aim of making home ownership more affordable.

 

Manufacturing hubs: The president will spend some time discussing the revival of manufacturing in the U.S., including his efforts to establish "manufacturing hubs." Those are regional public-private partnerships aimed at developing new manufacturing technologies. Mr. Obama visited the Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Advanced Composites in Knoxville, Tenn., this month in advance of the speech.

 

Other possibilities: Foreign policy, trade and infrastructure: Mr. Obama hasn't yet outlined all of the themes of the speech, but with ongoing concerns about Islamic State, al Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups, the president is likely to mention foreign policy themes and ideas in the address.

 

He's also likely to focus on some policy areas where he believes Republicans and Democrats can work together in the closing years of his administration -- including on trade and infrastructure.

*  *  *

  • *OBAMA SAYS `THE SHADOW OF CRISIS HAS PASSED'
  • *OBAMA SAYS BUDGET WILL BE PRACTICAL, NOT PARTISAN
  • *OBAMA SAYS HE WILL VETO ATTEMPTS TO KILL OBAMACARE, DODD-FRANK
  • *OBAMA CALLS ON CONGRESS TO EXPAND PAID SICK LEAVE
  • *OBAMA SAYS HE'S SENDING CONGRESS PLAN FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGE
  • *OBAMA SAYS COST OF COMMUNITY COLLEGE WILL BE ZERO UNDER PLAN
  • *OBAMA REITERATES CALL FOR TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY
  • *OBAMA SAYS HE'S LAUNCHING INITIATIVE FOR CURING DISEASES
  • *OBAMA CALLS ON CONGRESS TO HELP HIM CLOSE TAX LOOPHOLES
  • *OBAMA REITERATES HE WANTS `FREE AND OPEN' INTERNET
  • *OBAMA: U.S. HAS LEARNED `COSTLY LESSONS' IN FOREIGN POLICY
  • *OBAMA SAYS RUSSIA IS ISOLATED, `ITS ECONOMY IN TATTERS'
  • *OBAMA: IRAN SANCTIONS ALL BUT GUARANTEE NUKE TALKS WILL FAIL
  • *OBAMA SAYS HE WILL VETO ANY NEW IRAN SANCTIONS BILL
  • *OBAMA: NOTHING IS GREATER THREAT TO FUTURE THAN CLIMATE CHANGE

*  *  *

The White House has released the entire State of The Union speech...

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page.

Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.

America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:

The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.

At this moment?—?with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production?—?we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

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?

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?

In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan. And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas.

So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.

It begins with our economy.

Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. She waited tables. He worked construction. Their first child, Jack, was on the way.

They were young and in love in America, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

“If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time. Rebekah took out student loans, enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed for each other. And slowly, it paid off. They bought their first home. They had a second son, Henry. Rebekah got a better job, and then a raise. Ben is back in construction?—?and home for dinner every night.

“It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.

America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story. They represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled. You are the reason I ran for this office. You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.

We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.

At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.

So the verdict is clear. 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.

Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007. But here’s the thing?—?those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making. We need to do more than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.

Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help. She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota. Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.

In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet?—?tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.

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.

So what does middle-class economics require in our time?

First?—?middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement?—?and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.

Here’s one example. During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority?—?so this country provided universal childcare. In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have?—?it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America?—?by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.

Here’s another example. Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave. Forty-three million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.

Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.

These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government. 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. And that’s what all of us?—?Republicans and Democrats alike?—?were sent here to do.

Second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.

America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world. But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more.

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.

That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college?—?to zero.

Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt. Understand, you’ve got to earn it?—?you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today. And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.

Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics. Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships?—?opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.

And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend. Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care. We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs. Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs. So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran.

Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.

Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined. Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming. But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago?—?jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.

So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America. That’s why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.

21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure?—?modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.

21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.

Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. But ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.

21st century businesses will rely on American science, technology, research and development. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine?—?one that delivers the right treatment at the right time. In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable. Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes?—?and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.

I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.

I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs?—?converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain?—?and make sure to Instagram it.

Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber. Members of both parties have told me so. Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments. As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight. They’ve riddled it with giveaways the superrich don’t need, denying a break to middle class families who do.

This year, we have an opportunity to change that. 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.

Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy. Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go. I believe it’s where the American people want to go. It will make our economy stronger a year from now, fifteen years from now, and deep into the century ahead.

Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores.

My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how. 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.

I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now?—?and around the globe, it is making a difference.

First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists?—?from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.

At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last thirteen years.

Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition. Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America. In Iraq and Syria, American leadership?—?including our military power?—?is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. 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.

Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small?—?by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.

That’s how America leads?—?not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.

In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new. Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba. And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan.

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies?—?including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails?—?alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.

Third, we’re looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming century.

No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.

In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back Ebola?—?saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease. I couldn’t be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts. But the job is not yet done?—?and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.

In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules?—?in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. And no challenge?—?no challenge?—?poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does?—?14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what?—?I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. 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. We should act like it.

That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement?—?the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

There’s one last pillar to our leadership?—?and that’s the example of our values.

As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims?—?the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.

As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice?—?so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half. Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It’s not who we are.

As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties?—?and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.

Looking to the future instead of the past. Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely. Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading?—?always?—?with the example of our values. That’s what makes us exceptional. That’s what keeps us strong. And that’s why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards?—?our own.

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, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home?—?a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.

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 naïve, 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.

I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long. I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California; and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and New London. I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown; in Boston, West, Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains; from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.

So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper. And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. 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.

Understand?—?a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.

A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.

A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.

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.

If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments?—?but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.

We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.

Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.

We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.

That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve.

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.

Because I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth?—?that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, and help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.

I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.

I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen?—?man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.

I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.

I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom like Rebekah can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story to sum up these past six years:

“It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. 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.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.








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