Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Consequences of Romney's Florida Win

I was actually going to write out a big thing about what I thought Romney's win meant.  But while I'd add that Romney had to spend $16 million to keep where he was at in the polls 2 months ago, Chris Matthews not only captured my feeling on what this means for the race going forward, but does it while sounding Sorkinesque so I'll let him speak for me instead:

New Trailer for HBO's Game Change

Realizing how excited watching this trailer makes me reminds me of what a complete and utter politics nerd I am:

Voting Rights Violators: Citizens United, Loopholes, and Foxes Guarding the Hen House

In 40 weeks we go to the polls again to reelect President Obama. Republicans know that they aren't going to gain the support of the American people, so instead they're going to strip them of the right to vote:
  • Kentucky Republicans have voted to approve a redistricting map that, due to the state's residency requirements, will bar the Democratic State Senator currently representing Lexington from running for reelection, and will replace her with a Republican who currently lives 200 miles outside the city.
  • How terrible is Ohio Governor John Kasich's new anti-voter law that strips people of the right to vote absentee?  So terrible that Ohio's Republican Secretary of State is calling for it to be repealed.  And while it's nice to know that there's one Republican who takes being his state's election monitor seriously, Indiana's Republican Secretary of State just had his own trial for committing voter fraud start.  Is the Republicans obsession with "voter fraud" really as simple as them assuming that everyone else commits it as much as they do?

Hostess Snack Break: Spider-Man vs. the Chairman!

Everyone needs a break sometimes, so why don't you enjoy this one with one of your favorite superheroes and one of your favorite Hostess snack treats:

I can't even begin to imagine what kind of drugs would be necessary to be able to dream something like this up.

Terrific Tuesday Tidings: Weddings, Refunds, and Just Desserts

It's Tuesday and that means it's time for my ongoing quest to become a more positive person. Here are the news stories that made me happy this week:
  • In the wake of their original redistricting map being thrown out by the Supreme Court for it's racist gerrymander, the state of Texas wanted to violate federal election law and potentially strip overseas military personnel of their right to vote in an effort to keep an earlier primary date and potential affect the race for the Republican nomination.  And once again, the Department of Justice has stepped in to preserve the right to vote and said no.
Have a good week!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Romney Teaches Us How Not to Make an Attack Ad

Mitt Romney is desperately trying to destroy Newt Gingrich.  Ads like this aren't going to help him:

Here's the thing, Newt Gingrich IS incredibly vulnerable to attacks on his ethics violations while Speaker.  And the best way to neuter that line of attack is to turn it into a literal "He Said, She Said" between Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi.  The Republican base which already prefers Gingrich to Romney already hates her with the burning passion of a thousand fiery suns.  Couching this attack as coming from Nancy Pelosi not only weakens the impact on the intended audience, but also positions Romney as being on the same side as Pelosi, which is probably not what the "closet liberal governor of Taxassuchetts" needs right now to win over his Party's conservative base.

Which Supervillains Best Embody the Republican Presidential Candidates?

Given my interests and the dual focus of this blog, this post was probably inevitable.  But that doesn't mean that they didn't make it easy to compare them to supervillains:

Ron Paul is Magneto
Both men espouse an ideology of civil rights that sound good at first until deeper analysis reveals that if allowed to enact their policies most of humanity would probably die.  Both men also inspire a rabid and almost religious devotion from their followers, were children during World War II, and could easily be portrayed in a movie by Sir Ian McKellen.

Rick Santorum is the Green Goblin
Rick Santorum may not be a millionaire industrialist, but on the outside both him and Norman Osborn are pillars of their community with a veneer of respectability.  However underneath, they're a raging mess of self-loathing and paranoia driving them to lash out at those they perceive as their enemies (whether wall crawlers or gays) while frantically trying to keep their inner demons from being exposed to the world.

Newt Gingrich is the Riddler
Sure on the surface this one's an odd pick.  One's a short, stocky, toad of the man and the other is usually depicted as being tall and thin.  But true supervillainy runs more than skin deep.  And on the inside they're the same: egomaniacs obsessed with their own self proclaimed brilliance who must inevitably given in to their self destructive urges.

Mitt Romney is Lex Luthor
A corrupt businessman who looks down on all those he believes to be his inferiors (pretty much all of us), thinks that the Presidency is for sale and wants it seemingly just for his own amusement and benefit, ruthlessly crushes his enemies, and can barely maintain his cool facade when things don't go his way?  Certainly sounds a lot like that guy who keeps hassling Superman all the time.

So those are my picks, what're yours?

Frontline of the Class War: Mitt Romney Edition

The Republicans are right, there is a class war going on in this country. And they're the ones waging it against the middle and working class:
  • Of course then again, Romney thinks that if you add the 13.9% he paid in taxes last year to the 15% he gave away to charity, multiplied by being double taxed at the corporate level (hint: when you're paid in stock options like Romney was, you avoid getting taxed on it the first time around, which is exactly why companies pay executives in stock options) it all somehow adds up to his real tax rate being 50%.
  • Of course even his cherry picked 2010 tax returns revealed that Romney had left $3 million dollars in a Swiss bank account off his ethics disclosure form, but his campaign has that mistake was "trivial."  Which if your Mitt Romney it is, $3,000,0000 US is only 1,200 MittBucks.
  • Now I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican, the state of our healthcare system is disgusting.  If you're a Democrat it's because we have people literally dying in the street of easily preventable and curable diseases.  If you're a Republican it's because the Kenyan Muslim Usurper has instituted death panels to kill your grandmother.  But regardless if you're in touch with reality or not, it's worth getting worked up over.  Unless you're Mitt Romney or anyone else in the top 1% who are rich enough never to have to worry about being able to afford the best medical care that money can buy, then "it's not worth getting angry about."
  • But hey, there's at least one man out there willing to defend Mitt Romney, the country's most unpopular Governor, Florida's Rick Scott who compared Romney to a Holocaust victim.  I'm starting to understand why he's so unpopular.
Welcome to the working week!

Monday Makeover: Radio Station C-R-I-M-E

There are no bad characters, just characters that no one has spent far too much time thinking about how to make work. I intend to fix that.

Brand Keldon was the Voice of Radio Station C-R-I-M-E which made it's first and only appearance in 1953's Detective Comics #200.  Keldon's plan with Radio Station C-R-I-M-E was beautiful in it's simplicity.  For a cut of a criminals profits, they would be outfitted with a special radio that would alert them to the movements of the police and Batman.  After finding one of the radios after crooks using it narrowly escaped capture, Batman and Robin then go on a quest to shut down Radio Station C-R-I-M-E.  After being unable to triangulate the location of the broadcasts source, they realize that the Voice must be using a mobile transmitter.  Armed with that knowledge they quickly identify Brand Keldon, who'd stolen one from his employer.  They then discover that he's a lip reader, and from that they deduce that he's been getting his information by spying into Commissioner Gordon's office and reading everyone's lips from an adjacent building.  With Brand Keldon in custody, Radio Station C-R-I-M-E is shut down for good.

Radio Station C-R-I-M-E is one of the rare jewels of a Silver Age comic book villain plan that would actually work.  I mean if he'd used a police scanner to get his information instead of the gimmicky lip reading thing, I don't actually know how Brand Keldon would have been caught.  The only other thing linking him to the crime was stealing the transmitter, and with a little more planning he could have avoided that.  Then he's just feeding information anonymously to the crooks who repay him anonymously with a portion of their ill gotten gains.  Nice and tidy, with nary a monkey nor raygun in sight.

And unlike a lot of Silver Age plots, Radio Station C-R-I-M-E is one that actually makes more sense today than it did in 1953.  I mean then it was basically just regurgitating info from a police scanner, but today Radio Station C-R-I-M-E would be a smart phone app.  You spot the Batmobile driving buy, or see Batman swinging from rooftop to rooftop, you press a button and his GPS location gets update to every other crook on the network.  Because lets face it, supervillains might stand a fighting chance against Batman, but your average crook doesn't stand a chance if they come face to face with the Dark Knight (that's what keeps guys like the Getaway Genius, the Spook, and the Eraser in business).  But while he may be an unstoppable force of nature, the Caped Crusader is still just one man.  And if you knew he was busy dealing with a hostage situation in the Bowery, it'd be a pretty good time to rob the shipping containers in the Tricorner yards.  And, I'm sure there are all kinds of people who'd be interested in long term data sets of Batman sightings.  It's time to welcome Radio Station C-R-I-M-E into the digital age.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

More Ads Need to Include the Words "This is Reality"

I mean if you can't trust a scary announcer voice in a political ad telling you what is and isn't reality, who can you trust?

The Leftovers: Storybooks, Leap Seconds, and the Purity Bear

Everyone knows that leftovers are better than the original meal. Here are the news stories that didn't fit in anywhere else this week:
  • If you have kids, or are just a dog lover, you owe it to yourselves to read the storybook Hey Mitt! Dogs Don't Go There! to figure out why Mitt Romney is not the candidate for you.
  • If you've been listening to the debate about Mitt Romney's wealth and realize that you don't fully understand what "private equity firms" are and whether the fact that's how he made a quarter of a billion dollars is a bad thing or not (it's a very bad thing), read this New Yorker article, it's fantastic.
  • Everyone knows about Leap Years, but have you heard about Leap Seconds?  Personally having read the article, I'm now all for abolishing the Leap Second because it seems to be way more trouble than it's worth.  So now I have a new pet issue which is exactly what I needed!
  • If you haven't spent the appropriate amount of time figuring out who is going to play all the candidates when HBO inevitably makes a movie out of the freakshow we call the 2012 Republican Primary, shame on you.  But don't worry, I've got your back with this basic primer so you won't embarrass yourself when it comes up in conversation.
  • Finally, it's videos like these which prove to me that we need way more than just Abstinence Only sex education (and if a stuffed bear tries to tell you who you should or should not have sex with, seek immediate psychiatric help):

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Does Anyone Remember When Newsweek Wasn't a Joke?

I sure don't.

Love Lessons with Lois Lane: Girl Atlas!

In much of the civilized world, Saturday night is date night. And everything I know about dating I learned from Lois Lane. So before heading out for the night, let's see what advice she has for us this week:

It can be hard to see someone you're attracted to with someone else, but you should always try to be polite about it.  Especially if that someone else has the power to snap you in half like a twig.

He-Man Woman Haters Club Report: Domestic Abuse, Fetuses as Food, and Just Chill Out

With classism, racism, and homophobia already in the mix, why wouldn't the GOP add in some sexism too:
  • It also doesn't quite explain why Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has introduced legislation to prevent birth control from being covered by insurance because it is "unrelated to basic needs of health care."  Funny how his bill doesn't touch on insurance covering viagra.
  • You're a New York Republican running for the Senate, what should you not have written a blog about?  The difference between "sexy" girls and "skanky" girls, the need for "Steak and a Blowjob Day to counterbalance Valentine's Day for men", and asking that all important question "if polygamy was legal in the Bible why can't we do it now?"  If you were Marc Cenedella you might not want to have done that.
  • Meanwhile Rick Santorum is running around telling people that if you're raped and become pregnant that's "a gift...God has given you" and you should just "make the best out of a bad situtation."
  • North Carolina Republican Rep. Larry Pittman wants to bring back public hangings as a punishment for murderers (of which he would "include abortionists").

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friendship Friday with Jimmy Olsen: King for a Day!

Who better to teach us about the true meaning of friendship than Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen?

Friends DO have each other's backs.

Friday Freakshow Roundup: Murdered Pets, the TSA, and Say Anything

In the political news system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the Republicans who do insane things, and this blogger who mocks them. These are their stories:
  • The campaign manager for an Arkansas Democratic Congressional candidate returned home with his four children early this week to find: "The family pet, an adult, mixed-breed Siamese cat, had one side of its head bashed in to the point the cat’s eyeball was barely hanging from its socket. The perpetrators scrawled “liberal” across the cat’s body and left it on the doorstep of Burris’ house."  So that's special.

Mitt Romney: Blood Money

I'm fairly certain that Gingrich's new plan is to simply paint Mitt Romney as some kind of Supervillain.  I am ok with this plan:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Liveblogging the CNN/Florida Republican Party Presidential Debate

Tonight's debate begins at 8PM EST / 5PM PST on CNN (or follow the stream online).  Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and those other two guys (Rick Santorum and Ron Paul) will all be in attendance. But what you should really be watching out for is whether Gingrich can excite the crowd (and if CNN will let them cheer) the way he did last Thursday in South Carolina.  If he does, he wins Florida and probably the nomination.  If he doesn't he's probably toast.  Unless of course Mitt Romney's robotic circuitry explodes and he starts leaking oil from his eyes because he sees it all slipping away:

4:45PM: T-Minus 15 minutes

4:58PM: Gingrich won, CNN just said they're going to let the audience cheer

5:03PM: Let the games begin!

5:08PM: Opening Statements:
Santorum: My mom is old.
Gingrich: I live next door.
Romney: My family is huge and if I can just win all their votes I can win.
Paul: I want to bring the gold standard.

5:10PM: Santorum: undocumented immigrants are committing crimes every single day.

5:15PM: When Ron Paul says that Mitt Romney's "self deportation" immigration plan is "not practical" you know it's bad.

5:17PM Romney: "Don't say I'm anti-immigrant, my dad was born in Mexico."

5:18PM That may have been Romney's single best moment in any debate.

5:20PM Romney: "Our problem isn't 11 million grandmas."  That is a sentence I never thought I'd here a presidential candidate say.

5:21PM It's pretty meaningless when the crowd cheers after every single response.

5:26PM Ok I know they're technically still in the race, but why has CNN let Ron Paul and Rick Santorum arguing back and forth over intervention in South America for the last five minutes?

5:29PM Romney did not like being called out about lying about putting out an ad at all.

5:30PM  I know I've asked this before, but can anyone explain to me how Romney attacking Gingrich for working at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac doesn't immediately boomerang back into hurting him for what he did at Bain?

5:32PM Haha, Romney and Gingrich attacking each other over their investment portfolios is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titannic.

5:33PM Please tell me someone taped Romney sneering and nodding in agreement as Gingrich explained that his personal investments were like a mouse compared to the elephant that are Romney's

5:38PM First commercial break of the debate and Romney and Gingrich have just been savaging each other

5:41PM Romney: 'I didn't do anything that looks bad, my money manager did.'  Normal people can relate to that right?

5:44PM Gingrich: Everyone should pay the same low percentage that Romney does.

5:47PM Paul: Screw all these other people's tax plans, can't we just make income tax unconstitutional?

5:48PM Question: Ron Paul, you're a doctor, aren't you afraid you're going to die?

5:49PM I unironically want to watch a 20 mile bike race between all the Republican candidates.

5:50PM Romney: I really do want to pander to the Space Coast right now, but I also want to make sure that people understand that Gingrich is crazy when he says that we should build a colony on the moon.

5:53PM Santorum is now rambling about militarizing space.  Because that's not illegal at all.

5:54PM Ron Paul wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up.

5:59PM Ok, we've spent literally 10 minutes debating about whether or not we should build a moon colony in the next 10 years.  What is wrong with these people?

6:00PM And Ron Paul just shoved a shiv into Gingrich's side, "you only balanced the budget those 4 years because you stole a trillion dollars from Social Security"

6:01PM Did Gingrich just admit that there's no Social Security crisis?

6:04PM And now Romney is making the case for Single Payer Healthcare (he would claim he's arguing for health savings account)

6:06PM  Santorum is very very angry about healthcare mandates, and Gingrich is trying to do some verbal jujitsu to make that only apply to Romney

6:12PM  Romney just said that healthcare mandates "are not worth getting angry about."  Anyone want to guess how long it takes before that gets put into a SuperPAC ad?

6:14PM Ron Paul: Why can't we return to the good old days before Medicare and Medicaid where I don't remember anyone dying in the street? (that'd be because they died neglected in their homes)

6:17PM All of them look so nervous answering if there are any Latinos they'd consider putting in their cabinet.

6:18PM Commercial break with the teaser of explaining who'd be the best First Lady, because that's what's important.

6:23PM  Who would be the best First Lady?
Paul: We've been married for 50 years and she wrote a cookbook.
Romney: My wife has MS and survived cancer.
Gingrich: I think all three wives would be fabulous First Lady's....Oh he meant his opponent's wives.
Santorum: My wife is my hero, she gave up her law career when we got married.

6:29PM  It's amazing how Romney manages to skip over his run for Senate when giving his life story, it's as if he doesn't think that Gingrich will bring it up if he doesn't.

6:39PM  What's your stance on Cuba?
Santorum: Half of South America are their puppets and they're all jihadist terrorists and we shouldn't reward them.
Paul: I'd see what we could do to improve relations since they're not likely to attack us.
Romney: Tyrants look for weakness to take advantage of.  I'd do everything short of military invasion so that we're ready for when Castro dies.  (How is that different from our current policy?)
Gingrich: How dare Obama be worried about civil unrest in the Middle East instead of focusing on Cuba.  I'd bring the Arab Spring South.

6:40PM Now they're getting a question from a Palestinian-American about Israel/Palestine.  Odds that this gets ugly quickly?

6:41PM Gingrich is doubling down on Palestinians being "an invented people."

6:42PM Puerto Rican Statehood Question:
Santorum: I went to Church with the Governor of Puerto Rico, and I've worked on hurricane relief there,  but I'm not going to take any stance on Statehood.

6:45PM How would your religion effect your Presidency?
Paul: It wouldn't.
Romney: I would seek God's guidance in making decisions.
Gingrich: 1. I'd seek God's guidance in making decisions. 2. it's part of who I am, and 3. Because I want to stop the War Against Christians in this country.
Santorum: The constitution only exists to protect God given rights.  We're basically a theocracy.

6:53PM Why are you the best to beat Obama?
Paul: I won in that one national poll that one time.  I also attract the fringes of all political parties.
Romney: If I'm not elected America is doomed.  I'll beat him on my experience.
Gingrich: Do you want Freedom and a Paycheck, or Dependence and a Foodstamp.  (most people would be ashamed of this)
Santorum: I will stick to my insane principles even if it costs me the election, that's why I am the most electible.  Unless sticking to my insane principles costs me the election, then maybe you should have nominated someone else.

7:00PM That's all folks.

Quick Reactions:

  • Romney was better than he's ever been.
  • Gingrich was strong, but I don't think he got the win he was hoping for.
  • I think this leaves Florida as a tossup now.

Published as a Public Service Announcement: Superman says, "Human Rights for All!"

Superman agrees, everyone has the right to be wrong.

The Secret Origin of Alcatraz: The TV Show

Many people have watched the recently premiered Alcatraz and seen a show about the people on a mysterious island full of secrets created by JJ Abrams and assumed he's just a hack trying to cash in by recreating Lost.  The show is more a procedural about tracking down the newly returned Alcatraz inmates and thus the true origin of the show is far stranger and more sinister:

In the 1998-1999 television season Fox aired a little remembered show called Brimstone:

The premise was simple, a bunch of evil souls that had previously been imprisoned in hell had escaped and returned to Earth to cause havoc and a former detective is recruited by the Devil to capture them and send them back to hell.  Sound familiar?  Indeed if you replace John Glover masterfully playing the Devil with that guy from Jurassic Park playing the mysterious and sinister boss on Alcatraz and they're essentially exactly the same show.  But that's not where the trail ends.  Oh no, we must go deeper.  Because in 1985 there was yet another show about detectives having to track down escaped prisoners one by one on the orders of a mysterious and vaguely sinister boss:

The archetypes are all there, and there is no more sinister boss that Vincent Price.  There can be no question that without The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo that we would have no Alcatraz.  I don't know how I feel about that.

Closeted Countdown: What's the Matter with Kansas, Arkansas, and Tennessee?

I've long believed that the only thing that could motivate someone to dedicate their lives to homophobia is deep self-loathing. So start the countdown timer until these folks get caught with a gay prostitute:
  • Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback wants you to know that just because the Supreme Court says anti-sodomy laws are unconstitutional, and he's actually created an advisory panel to help him identify laws that should no longer be on the books, he's keeping anti-sodomy laws on the books in Kansas.  Presumably so that if the Supreme Court ever changes his mind, he doesn't have to wait a single day for the legislature to repass the law before he can start rounding up gay people for prosecution.
  • To their credit, Tennessee is considering anti-bullying legislation to protect LGBT students.  To their detriment, they also have guys like Republican State Rep. John Ragan who wrote this letter stating that the case for anti-bullying legislation is "similar in it's calculated logic to that made by Adolf Hitler against the Jewish people."  He also argues really strongly that he's mentally healthy, because nothing sounds less crazy than randomly ranting that you're not crazy when no one said you were.

"Mittbucks" or "Why I Need to Learn Some Basic Computer Coding"

Last week on the blog I introduced the concept of MittMoney, the concept that Mitt Romney's statements that include dollar amounts can only make sense in the context of converting real money to the fake currency MittMoney which approximates how much that much cash is worth to Romney given his massive wealth.

Which is why I am both excited and mildly disappointed to introduce you to http://www.MittBucks.com/, where you can enter how much you make at find out how much money Romney would have to spend to feel what you feel when you buy a gallon of gas or a pizza or whatever.  I'm excited because the website is incredibly well done and illustrates my point spectacularly.  I'm disappointed because I wish I'd done it (and MittBucks rolls off the tongue better than MittMoney).  So anyone want to teach me some coding?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In Twitter Everyone Can Hear You Scream: Senior Campaign Staff Edition

I'd be more worried about the fact that senior Presidential campaign staff are bickering on Twitter if Axelrod wasn't wiping the floor with Romney's guy:

Reading Rush: Obama's Pitiful Speech Full of Lies

When attempting to listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio do you find yourself slamming your head into the steering wheel repeatedly until blood is streaming down your face while the other drivers in traffic look on in horror? Well, he's worse when you can actually read a transcript of what he's saying.

Apparently Rush Limbaugh did not enjoy the State of the Union last night:
I had to shut down my e-mail because I'm listening to the most vacuous, empty, filled-with-lies speech. It was boring. It was actually boring. I watched some of the post-debate analysis, and I was actually surprised to hear some of the Fox people say that. I thought the Fox people were gonna be praising this speech to the hilt, as Obama's back, 'cause that's all I had gotten from my friends. I was pulling what little hair I have left out last night, "Jesus, for crying out loud, why are people such pessimists?" 'Cause this is not what that speech was. This was not a, "It's over, we can't beat this guy," kinda speech. This speech was recycled. In fact, the GOP, the RNC, somebody's put together a short video to show he uses exact phrases from State of the Union show to State of the Union show to State of the Union show.
You see, in Republican world, it is for some reason unfair to repeat campaign promises more than once.  But what really got Rush wasn't the repetition, it was the lies:
It was chock-full of lies. It was fantasyland. No, it didn't soar. It was boring. It was an hour-and-a-half long. There was nothing to set it apart, nothing about it that's going to be memorable in a positive way. General Motors, the number one car company in the world again? It just isn't true. None of the economic news is true. He did two things. He lied. He tried to paint the economy as back. We are back, except where we're not back, and that's Bush's fault. But we are back.
 Now it just so happens that GM is in fact the number one car company in the world again, and since that's the only lie Rush ever actually mentions directly, I guess we'll just have to move on to his next objection to the speech:
In fact, there are a lot of facts that were omitted in the State of the Union speech. He didn't talk about the 13.1 million unemployed Americans. He didn't talk about the 5.6 million unemployed Americans who have been on unemployment longer than 27 weeks. He didn't talk about 8.1 million involuntary part-time workers. He didn't talk about the falling civilian labor force participation rate was 64%. The number of jobs, the universe of jobs shrinking, didn't bring that up. Didn't talk about the national debt, $15.2 trillion, five trillion of which is his! Do you realize one-third of our entire national debt as a nation over 200 years, one-third of it is his, his alone. Of course he didn't bring it up. He didn't talk about the Keystone pipeline.
Now I guess to be fair to Mr. Limbaugh, Obama did not technically say any of those words verbatim.  However since the single most used word in the speech after "American" was "jobs" I'm again having trouble with this criticism, but don't worry El Rushbo isn't done yet:
This speech was so filled with contradictions. He talked about teamwork is what made America great? Teamwork? Do you know, ladies and gentlemen, how wrong that is? Do you know what our founding documents are about? The rights and freedom of the individual versus government. There's nothing about teamwork. There's nothing about compromise, getting along and working together. The whole point of this government, the whole point of this country, the whole point of this founding was to champion the power and the rights and the civil rights and the freedoms and the liberty of the individual over government. I'm gonna tell you, if anybody on our side running for office anywhere -- Senate, House, president -- is on their game, this is an immediate, I mean they have just, Obama unwittingly has tossed a softball with the bases loaded.
 Now I'm not a hillybilly heroin addict so it's sometimes difficult for me to perceive the world in the same way that Rush does, but really?  Attacking "teamwork"?  That should be the Republican strategy going forward?  Oh and not just teamwork:
Then there was this, whatever we do, we gotta have fairness. There must be fairness. That's a code word for class warfare. Fairness is in the liberal dictionary, and it gives them the opportunity, the right, the power to redistribute wealth. That's what fairness is.
 If Rush Limbaugh really wants to define the core value of the Republican Party as opposition to Teamwork and Fairness, I think I'm done with that.  Let's have that election.  Now for his next attack, you have to know that Rush Limbaugh can actually read mens minds, unlike mere mortals, he knows what secrets lie in the darkest hearts of men:
You know, I'll tell you what's also obvious here. This speech, it was a lie from front to back, and it was an attempt -- it was Obama's attempt -- to align himself with America's greatness. And, folks, it didn't work. Now, for those of us who know Obama. It mighta worked for some of you who don't. For those of us who know Obama, it was pitiful. We know he didn't mean it. He's talking about American greatness all night? He doesn't believe that. He doesn't believe what he said. What we learned last night is how much trouble he's in. We learned what he thinks he has to say in order to win reelection.
See what I mean, that whole paragraph wouldn't make any sense if Rush wasn't a telepath.  Otherwise it would just sound like he was making stuff up.  He rambles on about the car companies again for a while, but then we get to this wonderfully disjointed mess:

No, Warren Buffet's sec... Now I've stepped in it now. Well, I've almost stepped in it. Look, folks, I really want to beg your indulgence here today. I can't tell you how fast my brain's working. I can't physically mouth, articulate everything I'm thinking and I can't tell you how frustrated because I'm thinking some of the greatest stuff right now. I'm thinking some of the funniest stuff. It will eventually come outta here. You just gotta hang in with me. I mean, literally...This is one of those classic overload days, and I have become expert at overload at weeding out the unimportant, editing out the stuff that really doesn't matter. But today it's a veritable smorgasbord. It's a buffet. It's a gold mine out there. So just hang in there with me.
Now I'll confess, I was taking a cheap shot earlier when I brought up the fact that Rush Limbaugh is a self admitted drug addict.   But racing, scattered thoughts and an inability to handle the basic functions of his job?  I'm worried about the guy.  Well that's a lie.  I mostly wanted to remind you again that he's a drug addict who thinks that drug addicts deserve whatever they get in life.  But don't worry, he pulls it together enough to make one last attack on the State of the Union:
The championship game, NFC Championship Game aired on one network on Fox Sunday at 6:30, and it had twice the audience -- actually it wasn't a State of the Union; it was actually a Class Warfare Rally last night in the House chamber on every network. To put this in perspective. So the magic, The Messiah, the hope and change, all that, it's gone. The magic, all that stuff, it's gone. Last night was deadbeat city. It really was.
 Because sports events have never beat the State of the Union before.  All I've got to say is, if I hadn't watched the State of the Union, and all I knew about it was this rant, I'd think Obama must have been pretty good because Rush really didn't have anything.

Wit of the Web Slinger Wednesday: Problems

Besides some meta-textual desire to show that she's actually crazy, what about the punchline of that joke required slapping the books out of Spider-Man's hands?

Republican Racism Review: Gingrich, Tacos for Dinner, and Brainwashing

Real button handed out at the 2008
Texas Republican State Convention
If you start keeping your eyes open for them, there are a terrifying number of news stories about Republicans being racist:
  • Case in point:  You're the Republican Mayor of East Haven and 4 officers in your police department have just been arrested for the FBI for abusing their power to harass Latinos, what do you do to make things right?  "I might have tacos for dinner."
  • All of these stories are presumably why Fox News hosts think that only 5% of African Americans support Republicans because Democrats "do a lot of brainwashing."  Because there can't be any other reason minorities wouldn't trust the Republican Party.

Somehow Gingrich Squeezed His Massive Ego Into a Single Ad

I didn't think it would fit...

West Wing Wednesday

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Text of the State of the Union: "An America Built to Last"

January 24, 2012

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
State of the Union Address
“An America Built to Last”
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
Washington, DC

As Prepared for Delivery –

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought – and several thousand gave their lives.

We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.

These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness, and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.

Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.

We can do this. I know we can, because we’ve done it before. At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known. My grandfather, a veteran of Patton’s Army, got the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. My grandmother, who worked on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best products on Earth.

The two of them shared the optimism of a Nation that had triumphed over a depression and fascism. They understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share – the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.

The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.

Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.

In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money. Regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior.

It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and left innocent, hard-working Americans holding the bag. In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four million before our policies were in full effect.

Those are the facts. But so are these. In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we’ve put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that never happens again.

The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we’ve come too far to turn back now. As long as I’m President, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.

No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.

This blueprint begins with American manufacturing.

On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.

We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.

What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. We can’t bring back every job that’s left our shores. But right now, it’s getting more expensive to do business in places like China. Meanwhile, America is more productive. A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home. Today, for the first time in fifteen years, Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity.

So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.

We should start with our tax code. Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it.

So let’s change it. First, if you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it. That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring jobs home.

Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here.

Third, if you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut. If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making products here. And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers.

My message is simple. It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I’ll sign them right away.

We’re also making it easier for American businesses to sell products all over the world. Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years. With the bipartisan trade agreements I signed into law, we are on track to meet that goal – ahead of schedule. Soon, there will be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. Soon, there will be new cars on the streets of Seoul imported from Detroit, and Toledo, and Chicago.

I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products. And I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules. We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration – and it’s made a difference. Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires. But we need to do more. It’s not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated. It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.

Tonight, I’m announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China. There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders. And this Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing finance or new markets like Russia. Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you – America will always win.

I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that – openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work.

That’s inexcusable. And we know how to fix it.

Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College. The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant.

I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did. Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. My Administration has already lined up more companies that want to help. Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers – places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.

And I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people like Jackie have one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help they need. It’s time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work.

These reforms will help people get jobs that are open today. But to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start earlier.

For less than one percent of what our Nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every State in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning – the first time that’s happened in a generation.

But challenges remain. And we know how to solve them.

At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced States to lay off thousands of teachers. We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies – just to make a difference.

Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.

We also know that when students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen.

When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars. And give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.

Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid. We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down. Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who’ve done just that. Some schools re-design courses to help students finish more quickly. Some use better technology. The point is, it’s possible. So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can’t be a luxury – it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.

Let’s also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren’t yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else.

That doesn’t make sense.

I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That’s why my Administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.

The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now. But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away.

You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country. That means women should earn equal pay for equal work. It means we should support everyone who’s willing to work; and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs.

After all, innovation is what America has always been about. Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses. So let’s pass an agenda that helps them succeed. Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow. Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs. Both parties agree on these ideas. So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year.

Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don’t gut these investments in our budget. Don’t let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.

Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right – eight years. Not only that – last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.

But with only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy – a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.

We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.

The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock – reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.

What’s true for natural gas is true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.

When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it’s hiring workers like Bryan, who said, “I’m proud to be working in the industry of the future.”

Our experience with shale gas shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away. Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away from workers like Bryan. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs.

We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven’t acted. Well tonight, I will. I’m directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history – with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.

Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here’s another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, and more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs.

Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy. An incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.

During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected our States with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today.

In the next few weeks, I will sign an Executive Order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.

There’s never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest-hit when the housing bubble burst. Of course, construction workers weren’t the only ones hurt. So were millions of innocent Americans who’ve seen their home values decline. And while Government can’t fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners shouldn’t have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief.

That’s why I’m sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low interest rates. No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks. A small fee on the largest financial institutions will ensure that it won’t add to the deficit, and will give banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust.

Let’s never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a Government and a financial system that do the same. It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.

We’ve all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them. That’s why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior. Rules to prevent financial fraud, or toxic dumping, or faulty medical devices, don’t destroy the free market. They make the free market work better.

There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly. In fact, I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his. I’ve ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense. We’ve already announced over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years. We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill – because milk was somehow classified as an oil. With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.

I’m confident a farmer can contain a milk spill without a federal agency looking over his shoulder. But I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago. I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean. I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women differently from men.

And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules. The new rules we passed restore what should be any financial system’s core purpose: Getting funding to entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and getting loans to responsible families who want to buy a home, start a business, or send a kid to college.

So if you’re a big bank or financial institution, you are no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits. You’re required to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail – because the rest of us aren’t bailing you out ever again. And if you’re a mortgage lender or a payday lender or a credit card company, the days of signing people up for products they can’t afford with confusing forms and deceptive practices are over. Today, American consumers finally have a watchdog in Richard Cordray with one job: To look out for them.

We will also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people’s investments. Some financial firms violate major anti-fraud laws because there’s no real penalty for being a repeat offender. That’s bad for consumers, and it’s bad for the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals who do the right thing. So pass legislation that makes the penalties for fraud count.

And tonight, I am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.

A return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help us protect our people and our economy. But it should also guide us as we look to pay down our debt and invest in our future.

Right now, our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is still fragile. People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year. There are plenty of ways to get this done. So let’s agree right here, right now: No side issues. No drama. Pass the payroll tax cut without delay.

When it comes to the deficit, we’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings. But we need to do more, and that means making choices. Right now, we’re poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else – like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both.

The American people know what the right choice is. So do I. As I told the Speaker this summer, I’m prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors.

But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up. You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You’re the ones who need relief.

Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.

We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference – like a senior on a fixed income; or a student trying to get through school; or a family trying to make ends meet. That’s not right. Americans know it’s not right. They know that this generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to their country’s future, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility. That’s how we’ll reduce our deficit. That’s an America built to last.

I recognize that people watching tonight have differing views about taxes and debt; energy and health care. But no matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right now: Nothing will get done this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken.

Can you blame them for feeling a little cynical?

The greatest blow to confidence in our economy last year didn’t come from events beyond our control. It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not. Who benefited from that fiasco?

I’ve talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad – and it seems to get worse every year.

Some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of money in politics. So together, let’s take some steps to fix that. Send me a bill that bans insider trading by Members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow. Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact. Let’s make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress, and vice versa – an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.

Some of what’s broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days. A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything – even routine business – passed through the Senate. Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it. For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.

The executive branch also needs to change. Too often, it’s inefficient, outdated and remote. That’s why I’ve asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy so that our Government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.

Finally, none of these reforms can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town. We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common sense ideas.

I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more. That’s why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and States. That’s why we’re getting rid of regulations that don’t work. That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a Government program.

On the other hand, even my Republican friends who complain the most about Government spending have supported federally-financed roads, and clean energy projects, and federal offices for the folks back home.

The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective Government. And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest philosophical differences this year, we can make real progress. With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow. But I can do a whole lot more with your help. Because when we act together, there is nothing the United States of America can’t achieve.

That is the lesson we’ve learned from our actions abroad over the last few years.

Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can’t escape the reach of the United States of America.

From this position of strength, we’ve begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Ten thousand of our troops have come home. Twenty-three thousand more will leave by the end of this summer. This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America.

As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; from Sana’a to Tripoli. A year ago, Qadhafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators – a murderer with American blood on his hands. Today, he is gone. And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied.

How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we have a huge stake in the outcome. And while it is ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well. We will stand against violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings – men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews. We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.

And we will safeguard America’s own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests. Look at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent. Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.

The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to the Americas are deeper. Our iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history. We’ve made it clear that America is a Pacific power, and a new beginning in Burma has lit a new hope. From the coalitions we’ve built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we’ve led against hunger and disease; from the blows we’ve dealt to our enemies; to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back.

Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That’s not the message we get from leaders around the world, all of whom are eager to work with us. That’s not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than they’ve been in years. Yes, the world is changing; no, we can’t control every event. But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs – and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way.

That’s why, working with our military leaders, I have proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget. To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I have already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing danger of cyber-threats.

Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it. As they come home, we must serve them as well as they served us. That includes giving them the care and benefits they have earned – which is why we’ve increased annual VA spending every year I’ve been President. And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our Nation.

With the bipartisan support of this Congress, we are providing new tax credits to companies that hire vets. Michelle and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families. And tonight, I’m proposing a Veterans Job Corps that will help our communities hire veterans as cops and firefighters, so that America is as strong as those who defend her.

Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.

One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates – a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary; and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.

All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job – the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other – because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s someone behind you, watching your back.

So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those fifty stars and those thirteen stripes. No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we’re joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.