Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2010 State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama
2010 State of the Union Address

Prepared text of President Obama's speech:

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

Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner. And as we mark this occasion, we are also mindful of the empty chair in this Chamber, and pray for the health of our colleague – and our friend – Gabby Giffords.

It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.

But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater – something more consequential than party or political preference.

We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation.

Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.

I believe we can. I believe we must. That’s what the people who sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they’ve determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world.

We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.

But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.

That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.

We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of the new investments they make this year. These steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.

But we have more work to do. The steps we’ve taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession – but to win the future, we’ll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making.

Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck, good benefits, and the occasional promotion. Maybe you’d even have the pride of seeing your kids work at the same company.

That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful. I’ve seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts of once busy Main Streets. I’ve heard it in the frustrations of Americans who’ve seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear – proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game.

They’re right. The rules have changed. In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there’s an internet connection.

Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. They’re investing in research and new technologies. Just recently, China became home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.

So yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn’t discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember – for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. No workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We are home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any other place on Earth.

What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea – the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That is why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like “What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.

Now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit, and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future. And tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there.

The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.

None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That’s what planted the seeds for the Internet. That’s what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS.

Just think of all the good jobs – from manufacturing to retail – that have come from those breakthroughs.

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

Already, we are seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard.

Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”

That’s what Americans have done for over two hundred years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.

Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future – if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas – then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.

Think about it. Over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us – as citizens, and as parents – are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.

That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.

Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”

Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. These standards were developed, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country. And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.

You see, we know what’s possible for our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.

Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado; located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97% of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their family to go to college. And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said “Thank you, Mrs. Waters, for showing… that we are smart and we can make it.”

Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child – become a teacher. Your country needs you.

Of course, the education race doesn’t end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within reach of every American. That’s why we’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students. And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit – worth $10,000 for four years of college.

Because people need to be able to train for new jobs and careers in today’s fast-changing economy, we are also revitalizing America’s community colleges. Last month, I saw the promise of these schools at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina. Many of the students there used to work in the surrounding factories that have since left town. One mother of two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry since she was 18 years old. And she told me she’s earning her degree in biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not just because the furniture jobs are gone, but because she wants to inspire her children to pursue their dreams too. As Kathy said, “I hope it tells them to never give up.”

If we take these steps – if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they’re born until the last job they take – we will reach the goal I set two years ago: by the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.

The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information – from high-speed rail to high-speed internet.

Our infrastructure used to be the best – but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”

We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, and constructed the interstate highway system. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down tracks or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.

Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these efforts.

We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.

Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.

Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans. This isn’t just about a faster internet and fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.

All these investments – in innovation, education, and infrastructure – will make America a better place to do business and create jobs. But to help our companies compete, we also have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.

Over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries. Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change.

So tonight, I’m asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system. Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years – without adding to our deficit.

To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 – because the more we export, the more jobs we create at home. Already, our exports are up. Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs in the United States. And last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs. This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor; Democrats and Republicans, and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible.

Before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers, and promote American jobs. That’s what we did with Korea, and that’s what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia, and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks.

To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws. It’s why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, and new rules to prevent another financial crisis. And it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.

Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law. So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you. We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.

What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition. I’m not willing to tell James Howard, a brain cancer patient from Texas, that his treatment might not be covered. I’m not willing to tell Jim Houser, a small business owner from Oregon, that he has to go back to paying $5,000 more to cover his employees. As we speak, this law is making prescription drugs cheaper for seniors and giving uninsured students a chance to stay on their parents’ coverage. So instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and move forward.

Now, the final step – a critical step – in winning the future is to make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt.

We are living with a legacy of deficit-spending that began almost a decade ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets.

But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.

So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. This would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president.

This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we have frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years. I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs. The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without.

I recognize that some in this Chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. And let’s make sure what we’re cutting is really excess weight. Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you’ll feel the impact.

Now, most of the cuts and savings I’ve proposed only address annual domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12% of our budget. To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough. It won’t.

The bipartisan Fiscal Commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it – in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.

This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. Health insurance reform will slow these rising costs, which is part of why nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.

To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. And we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.

And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.

It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.

In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to simplify the individual tax code. This will be a tough job, but members of both parties have expressed interest in doing this, and I am prepared to join them.

So now is the time to act. Now is the time for both sides and both houses of Congress – Democrats and Republicans – to forge a principled compromise that gets the job done. If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the future.

Let me take this one step further. We shouldn’t just give our people a government that’s more affordable. We should give them a government that’s more competent and efficient. We cannot win the future with a government of the past.

We live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black and white TV. There are twelve different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different entities that deal with housing policy. Then there’s my favorite example: the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.

Now, we have made great strides over the last two years in using technology and getting rid of waste. Veterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of the mouse. We’re selling acres of federal office space that hasn’t been used in years, and we will cut through red tape to get rid of more. But we need to think bigger. In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote – and we will push to get it passed.

In the coming year, we will also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you will be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history. Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done: put that information online. And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.

A 21st century government that’s open and competent. A government that lives within its means. An economy that’s driven by new skills and ideas. Our success in this new and changing world will require reform, responsibility, and innovation. It will also require us to approach that world with a new level of engagement in our foreign affairs.

Just as jobs and businesses can now race across borders, so can new threats and new challenges. No single wall separates East and West; no one rival superpower is aligned against us.

And so we must defeat determined enemies wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom, justice, and dignity. And because we have begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored.

Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high; where American combat patrols have ended; violence has come down; and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept; the Iraq War is coming to an end.

Of course, as we speak, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us. Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, we are disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies. And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family.

We have also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan Security Forces. Our purpose is clear – by preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe-haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.

Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home.

In Pakistan, al Qaeda’s leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001. Their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield. Their safe-havens are shrinking. And we have sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: we will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you.

American leadership can also be seen in the effort to secure the worst weapons of war. Because Republicans and Democrats approved the New START Treaty, far fewer nuclear weapons and launchers will be deployed. Because we rallied the world, nuclear materials are being locked down on every continent so they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher and tighter sanctions than ever before. And on the Korean peninsula, we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons.

This is just a part of how we are shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity. With our European allies, we revitalized NATO, and increased our cooperation on everything from counter-terrorism to missile defense. We have reset our relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances, and built new partnerships with nations like India. This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances for progress in the Americas. Around the globe, we are standing with those who take responsibility – helping farmers grow more food; supporting doctors who care for the sick; and combating the corruption that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity.

Recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be our power – it must be the purpose behind it. In South Sudan – with our assistance – the people were finally able to vote for independence after years of war. Thousands lined up before dawn. People danced in the streets. One man who lost four of his brothers at war summed up the scene around him: “This was a battlefield for most of my life. Now we want to be free.”

We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.

We must never forget that the things we’ve struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country.

Tonight, let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in support of our troops and their families. Let us serve them as well as they have served us – by giving them the equipment they need; by providing them with the care and benefits they have earned; and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation.

Our troops come from every corner of this country – they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.

We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our schools; changing the way we use energy; reducing our deficit – none of this is easy. All of it will take time. And it will be harder because we will argue about everything. The cost. The details. The letter of every law.

Of course, some countries don’t have this problem. If the central government wants a railroad, they get a railroad – no matter how many homes are bulldozed. If they don’t want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn’t get written.

And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.

We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything’s possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.

That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight. That dream is why a working class kid from Scranton can stand behind me. That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.

That dream – that American Dream – is what drove the Allen Brothers to reinvent their roofing company for a new era. It’s what drove those students at Forsyth Tech to learn a new skill and work towards the future. And that dream is the story of a small business owner named Brandon Fisher.

Brandon started a company in Berlin, Pennsylvania that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. One day last summer, he saw the news that halfway across the world, 33 men were trapped in a Chilean mine, and no one knew how to save them.

But Brandon thought his company could help. And so he designed a rescue that would come to be known as Plan B. His employees worked around the clock to manufacture the necessary drilling equipment. And Brandon left for Chile.

Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000 foot hole into the ground, working three or four days at a time with no sleep. Thirty-seven days later, Plan B succeeded, and the miners were rescued. But because he didn’t want all of the attention, Brandon wasn’t there when the miners emerged. He had already gone home, back to work on his next project.

Later, one of his employees said of the rescue, “We proved that Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things.”

We do big things.

From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That’s how we win the future.

We are a nation that says, “I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company. I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree. I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try. I’m not sure how we’ll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we’ll get there. I know we will.”

We do big things.

The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.

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

Monday, January 24, 2011

Texas Depended Most On Federal Stimulus Of Any State

Gov. Perry has been a consistent critic of government spending, frequently pointing to Texas as proof that conservative budget austerity -- spending cuts coupled with low taxes -- works.

Gov. Perry raised his national profile by repeatedly criticizing the Obama administration’s support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e. federal stimulus) in response to a near collapse of the American economy during Pres. Bush's administration.

In contrast to Perry's criticism of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Texas legislature used federal stimulus funds to fill almost the entire budget deficit for fiscal 2009-2010, even as Perry scored political points grandstanding against the Federal Government. According to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures released Monday, Texas relied more heavily on stimulus funding to patch over its structural budget deficit problem than any other state:
Turns out Texas was the state that depended the most on those very stimulus funds to plug nearly 97% of its shortfall for fiscal 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Texas, which crafts a budget every two years, was facing a $6.6 billion shortfall for its 2010-2011 fiscal years. It plugged nearly all of that deficit with $6.4 billion in Recovery Act money, allowing it to leave its $9.1 billion rainy day fund untouched.
As Texas grappled with its 2009-2010 state budget deficit during the 2009 legislative session Gov. Perry made headlines for months proclaiming that President Obama’s economic stimulus plan was unneeded and unwelcome in Texas and "we can take care of ourselves.”

Perry, speaking in support of conservative fiscal ideology, said that federal money from Washington is so onerous to "all" Texans that we may rise up in revolt and secede from the United States by invoking the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Yet, Gov. Perry wrote a letter to President Obama accepting all of Texas' $17 billion share of the federal stimulus money made available by the stimulus legislation signed into law by Obama. (Read Perry's letter to President Obama) On the same day Perry asked Pres. Obama for the bailout money, he started a petition called "No Government Bailouts."
"Join our fight and add your voice to a growing list of several thousand Americans who are fed up with this irresponsible spending that threatens our future," Perry wrote on his blog on Feb. 18, 2009.
Texas used Recovery Act stimulus money not only to fill the state's 2009-2010 budget gap, but also to fund billions of dollars in infrastructure projects over the past two years.

After nearly two years of criticizing the fiscal policies of the Obama administration and touting “the hard work that Texas and states like ours have done to make prudent fiscal decisions,” Texas faces a budget fiasco on par with that in California.

Gov. Perry says the state's conservative budget austerity yields "fertile ground for job growth," yet in 2010 the state created only new 230,800 jobs to replace the 359,000 jobs lost in 2009. The Texas Workforce Commission reports the unemployment rate in Texas was 8.3 percent in December, up from 8.2 percent in November. As unemployment continues to deepen Texas'unemployment rate remains near 22-year highs.

While tax revenues have steadily declined due to a sluggish economy and job cuts across Texas, Gov. Perry has continually dismissed the idea that Texas has a growing structural budget deficit problem.

With the economy still sluggish the state comptroller estimated that tax revenues will further decline in fiscal 2012-2013. But, now, the Federal stimulus money to make up the difference is running out. The state comptroller now projects Texas has a $27 billion deficit for fiscal 2012-2013. State lawmakers last week released an austere budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal years that cuts $31 billion in spending. Public schools, colleges, collage students, Medicaid and social services, public safety (police and prisons) and transportation will all be hit hard.

If Texas can not produce a well educated workforce, or build and maintain roads, or keep crime off the streets, how does that make "fertile ground for job growth?"

President Obama: JFK On The 50th Anniversary Of His Inauguration

President Obama celebrates the
50th anniversary of JFK's Inauguration
Kennedy Center
President Barack Obama last Thursday paid tribute to President John F. Kennedy on the anniversary of his inauguration 50 years ago.

"We are the heirs of this president, who showed us what is possible," Obama said. "Because of his vision, more people prospered, more people served, our union was made more perfect. Because of that vision I can stand here tonight as president of the United States."

He said Kennedy led a "volatile America, in this tinderbox of a world," with a steady hand, "defusing the most perilous crisis since the Cold War without firing a single shot."

Pres. Obama also noted Kennedy's work to help blacks attend their choice of college, launch the Peace Corps of goodwill ambassadors around the world and set America's sights on landing on the moon. "He knew that we, as a people, can do big things. We can reach great heights. We can rise to any challenge, so long as we're willing to ask what we can do for our country," Obama said, recreating one of the more memorable lines from Kennedy's inaugural address.

As President Obama prepares to give his State of the Union address before Congress on Tuesday, I hope he remembers some more of JFK's words:

John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
September 14, 1960 - From JFK Library Archive

What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

But first, I would like to say what I understand the word "Liberal" to mean and explain in the process why I consider myself to be a "Liberal," and what it means in the presidential election of 1960.

In short, having set forth my view -- I hope for all time -- two nights ago in Houston, on the proper relationship between church and state, I want to take the opportunity to set forth my views on the proper relationship between the state and the citizen. This is my political credo:

I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man's ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.

Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies. And the only basic issue in the 1960 campaign is whether our government will fall in a conservative rut and die there, or whether we will move ahead in the liberal spirit of daring, of breaking new ground, of doing in our generation what Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson did in their time of influence and responsibility.

Our liberalism has its roots in our diverse origins. Most of us are descended from that segment of the American population, which was once called an immigrant minority. Today, along with our children and grandchildren, we do not feel minor. We feel proud of our origins and we are not second to any group in our sense of national purpose. For many years New York represented the new frontier to all those who came from the ends of the earth to find new opportunity and new freedom, generations of men and women who fled from the despotism of the czars, the horrors of the Nazis, the tyranny of hunger, who came here to the new frontier in the State of New York. These men and women, a living cross section of American history, indeed, a cross section of the entire world's history of pain and hope, made of this city not only a new world of opportunity, but a new world of the spirit as well.

But in 1960 the cause of liberalism cannot content itself with carrying on the fight for human justice and economic liberalism here at home. For here and around the world the fear of war hangs over us every morning and every night. It lies, expressed or silent, in the minds of every American. We cannot banish it by repeating that we are economically first or that we are militarily first, for saying so doesn't make it so. More will be needed than goodwill missions or talking back to Soviet politicians or increasing the tempo of the arms race. More will be needed than good intentions, for we know where that paving leads.

In Winston Churchill's words, "We cannot escape our dangers by recoiling from them. We dare not pretend such dangers do not exist."

This is an important election -- in many ways as important as any this century -- and I think that the Democratic Party and those who believe in progress all over the United States, should be associated with us in this great effort. The reason that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson had influence abroad, and the United States in their time had it, was because they moved this country here at home, because they stood for something here in the United States, for expanding the benefits of our society to our own people, and the people around the world looked to us as a symbol of hope.

I think it is our task to re-create the same atmosphere in our own time. Our national elections have often proved to be the turning point in the course of our country. I am proposing that [this time] be another turning point in the history of the great Republic.

I say this is the great opportunity that we will have in our time to move our people and this country and the people of the free world beyond the new frontiers...

John F. Kennedy Democratic National Convention
Nomination Acceptance Address
15 July 1960, Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles


President John F. Kennedy's Inauguration Speech
January 20, 1961
Other Speeches by JFK

Texas Economy Struggling Under Republicans

Posted at Jobsanger

The following headline appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Texas added 230,800 jobs in December, Workforce Commission says

[But, the first paragraph of the Star-Telegram story says, "Texas employers added 20,000 jobs in December for a total of 230,800 for all of 2010, the Texas Workforce Commission said Friday.]

That 230,800 jobs did not come close to making up for the 359,000 jobs lost in the state. And the number of jobs created in December did not even keep up with the number of people entering the work force. The unemployment rate actually climbed by 0.1% in December and now sits at 8.3% (not counting the people who's benefits have run out, who have given up looking for work, or who are working part-time because they can't find full-time work).

And that doesn't count what the Republican legislature is fixing to do to the Texas economy. The House's Legislative Budget Board has recommended massive cuts to the state budget (and the Senate's recommendations are expected to be as bad). These cuts would eliminate around 10,000 state jobs and make huge cuts to education -- cuts that some think could result in the lay-off of 100,000 teachers and other school employees statewide.

[These cuts in employment will ripple through the state economy causing additional lay-offs across other private businesses. That will result in a further hit to the state's sales tax revenue and create another state budget deficit which will result in future rounds budget cuts and lay-offs ad infinitum.] In spite of all this, our governor continues to brag about the state's economy. He's not just wrong -- he's a fool.

The Texas economy is not doing well at all, and when the legislature finishes there work this session it will be doing even worse. We are probably looking at another year where job losses outnumber job creations. As usual, the Republicans have taken a booming economy and thrown it in the dumper.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Departure Of Keith Olbermann From MSNBC

Juan Cole says it best:

People are blaming the abrupt departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC on that company’s merger with Comcast and Olbermann’s loss of the protection and patronage of Jeff Zucker, the former head of NBC programming. MSNBC says that the issue has nothing to do with Comcast.

Whether Comcast is the villain of the piece directly, things like the Comcast merger with MSNBC are responsible for there being very few voices on American television (and despite the proliferation of channels) like Olbermann’s. And for there being relatively little news on the “news” programs. Time Warner, General Electric and Comcast (partners in NBC), Viacom, Disney, and Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp own almost all television news. In other words, six big corporations determine what you will hear about the world if you get your news from television. There are fewer and fewer t.v. news outlets that do not belong to one of these six, a process called media consolidation.

For reasons of profit-seeking, when Disney acquired ABC, it looted the company’s news divisions. Profits are not to be had in hard news, but rather in tabloid news. It used to be that human interest stories would be ‘dessert,’ but they have become the main meal.

Ironically,former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw was one of Olbermann’s biggest critics, afraid that the latter’s flamboyant and polarizing style would tarnish the reputation of regular NBC newsmen for objectivity.

What Brokaw seems not to have noticed is that NBC and MSNBC did, like most television news, a miserable job of covering the Iraq issue in 2002-2003–mainly buying White House propaganda. The powerful bias toward the point of view of the rich and powerful and well-connected in Washington demonstrated by all the major tv news outlets in 2002-2003 makes Olbermann look like a staid centrist.

We’ll miss Keith. But it isn’t about him. It is about the ever-narrowing character of public comment in the US, about the few having most of everything. It is about media consolidation.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

TX House Budget Proposal Slashes $9.8 Billion From Education

More about the proposed budget:

The state comptroller has calculated that a continuation of state services at current levels of would result in a $27 billion budget shortfall.

About $7 billion in federal government stimulus funds could reduce that budget shortfall to about $20 billion. The state could then use its $9.4 billion "rainy day fund" to lower the budget deficit to about $11 billion. Broadening the sales tax base slightly could eliminate most of that remaining $11 billion shortfall, without any further tax increase. This strategy would maintain the current level of state services.

Republicans, however, are sticking with their new new taxes and no federal stimulus money pledges, and then some. The Legislative Budget Board sent a proposed budget to House members Tuesday night that cuts $31.1 billion from current spending.

In education the proposed budget slashes public school funding, cuts at least 60,000 college students from financial aid, closes at least four community colleges and likely raise college tuition fees. College education has already been priced out of the reach of many working and middle class students and the high tuition fees will price even more young Texans out of a higher education.

The proposed budget drafted by the Legislative Budget Board will slash an additional $9.8 billion from public school funding, while the student population is projected to grow by at least 80,000 students each year. Further, an estimated 109,000 children will be cut from Pre-Kindergarten early start programs and 83,000 children will be cut from the Early Childhood School Ready program. Under current funding levels, Texas ranks 44th nationally in education funding per pupil, is last in the percentage of adults obtaining a high school diploma with a school dropout rate of 30 percent.

In the Medicaid program, the proposed budget slashes overall spending by nearly 30 percent, cut services for adults that federal law doesn’t require states to offer and cut 10 percent, in addition to last spring’s 1 percent cut, from reimbursements to doctors, dentists, hospitals and nursing homes. The proposed budget also cut Nursing Facility payments by $1.57 billion dollars, which will have a tremendous impact on residents in Texas’ nursing homes.

In public safety and corrections programs, the proposed budget closes a correctional facility in Sugar Land, three Texas Youth Commission correctional facility and 2,000 private prison beds, a move that could close at least two additional correctional facilities and cut 1,562 prison jobs. Probation programs would see funding cut by 20 percent, parole supervision would be cut by almost 9 percent, and the construction and public safety and correctional facility maintenance funding will be cut by 83 percent, along with 90 jobs. And, the Victims Services Division would be eliminated.

The proposed budget does not cut any of the state's corporate welfare programs. Many claim the corporate welfare programs, advertised as “business incentives to create jobs," throw wads of taxpayer cash to Republican campaign donors, who actually deliver few jobs.

State Senator Wendy Davis
(D-10 Fort Worth)
State Senator Wendy Davis (D-10 Fort Worth) said late Tuesday night, after the budget draft was delivered, that the budget draft by the Legislative Budget Board released earlier was wrong for Texas. Full Article at Capitol Annex:

Senator Wendy Davis said the first draft of Texas’ 2012-13 budget is wrong for Texas.

The Legislative Budget Board’s budget proposal released to House members last night will cut $31.1 billion from current spending, even before accounting for population growth.

The budget, drafted for House leadership, will slash education funding by $9.8 billion, while the student population is projected to grow by 80,000 students each year.

Several primary and secondary education programs are recommended for elimination, including: pre-k early start grants; Texas reading, math and science initiatives; criminal history background reviews; and science labs. Higher education is slated to lose $1.7 billion in funding including significant cuts to the Texas Equalization Grants and Texas Grants programs –state-funded financial aid.

Other budget recommendations include reducing prison populations through early release of prisoners, cutting Medicaid reimbursements to doctors, hospitals and nursing home by 10 percent, and eliminating family practice and rural public health physician rotations.

”With such a dramatic budget shortfall, cuts must be made,” Davis said. “But education funding should be our highest priority. We need to ensure that Texans are adequately educated so that we do not lose competitive ground at a critical time in our nation’s economic recovery.”

Under current funding levels, Texas is already near the bottom in education funding per pupil (Texas ranks 44th nationally), is last nationally in the percentage of adults with a high school diploma, and is among the bottom in high school completion rates across the country.

“While other states are competing for dollars to race to the top in education funding, Texas, under this budget recommendation, will be sprinting to the bottom,” Davis said.

Davis said that any proposed budget that does not address the structural deficit in education funding, created in 2005 when lawmakers turned to an under-performing business franchise tax, will push the current biennial shortfall in public education funding of about $7 billion into future budgets indefinitely.

”We have to have an honest and transparent conversation about the education funding shortfall, which is cheating our schoolchildren while simultaneously overburdening small and medium sized businesses in Texas,” Davis said.

Davis said that as cuts are proposed to strip critical services to educate our children and to address some of the state’s most vulnerable, lawmakers should do what they can to lessen that burden in other ways.

Protecting Texans’ pocketbooks through lowering homeowners insurance rates, lowering residential electricity rates and by establishing fair rules to prevent the devastating impacts of predatory lending should also be considered, Davis said.

Regardless of the bleak budget picture, Davis called on fellow lawmakers to work to positively change course for future Texas families and to address other issues that will have a very real impact on their household finances and their quality of life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lt Gov. Dewhurst: 8,000 State Jobs Could Be Cut On $27 Billion Deficit

Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports
thousands of jobs cuts due to the looming $27 billion
Texas state budget deficit.
With some top state leaders warning that Texas' dire fiscal situation will lead to the loss of several thousand state jobs, House budget writers will release their first draft budget today. Some state leaders have begun to warn that the state’s dire fiscal situation will lead to the loss of several thousand state jobs.

House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts didn’t pull any punches when it came to his assessment of job losses. He spoke last week with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune. “There will be less state employees when we’re completed with this budget process. Because we’re gonna have a whole lot less money to spend,” said Pitts.

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst went a step further and put a number to the cuts. He thinks about 8,000 state jobs could be eliminated. But there are thousands of other jobs dependent on state funds that fall outside of those projections. Cuts to Medicaid and Medicare provider reimbursement rates could lead to health care job losses. Teachers could also face layoffs.

Linda Bridges is president of the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. She says it won’t be clear how many education jobs would disappear until after legislative action and money begins to work its way back to the local school districts. From there, it will be up to school boards to figure out a way to make it work.

“Are they looking at eliminating positions through attrition?” asked Bridges. “Are they looking at eliminating programs? We just don’t have a handle on that yet. A lot of it’s speculation.”

And there’s still another especially hard jobs equation to still figure out. A recent report by state Comptroller Susan Combs suggests getting rid of the cap on elementary class size as a way to trim the budget.

“If you do that math on that it comes up to about 12,000 elementary school teachers could be laid off,” said Bridges.

Another thing to consider is these kinds of cuts don’t happen in a vacuum. Economist Ray Perryman says there’s the “multiplier effect”. He says public sector layoffs will have a multiplier effect of about two and a half.

“What that basically means is that in addition to the direct job that’s lost you have one and a half additional jobs in the economy that are lost,” said Perryman. “Because it impacts suppliers. It impacts – the payroll not there. It impacts spending on food, clothing, shelter other items that are made in the state.”

Republican budget writers haven’t said the cuts will be easy. But they have argued that making cuts is a better solution than raising taxes. Because they say increasing taxes slows the state’s economy by limiting private sector spending…which can also lead to layoffs. Perryman says cutting state jobs could even help bolster the economy.

“If it’s something the state’s doing that’s inefficient that they could effectively do with fewer people, then society is better off if we take that resource and use it somewhere else that’s more productive. Either the public sector somewhere else or the private sector,” said Perryman.

But this budget isn’t about reshuffling resources. Money cut from one state program won’t be going to pay for another. It will simply be cut.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK: I Have A Dream

Click here for "I Have a Dream" Speech Text

Internet Users Are More Likely To Volunteer With Political and Service Organizations

Pew Internet & American Life Project: The internet is now deeply embedded in group and organizational life in America. A new national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has found that 75% of all American adults are active in some kind of voluntary group or organization and internet users are more likely than others to be active: 80% of internet users participate in groups, compared with 56% of non-internet users. And social media users are even more likely to be active: 82% of social network users and 85% of Twitter users are group participants. Read the complete report at: Pew Internet & American Life Project

Internet Is Now Main News Source For Adults Under 30

In 2010, for the first time, the internet surpassed television as the main source of national and international news for people younger than 30. (chart right)

Since 2007, the number of 18 to 29 year old adults citing the internet as their main source has nearly doubled, from 34% to 65%.

Over this period, the number of young people citing television as their main news source has dropped from 68% to 52%.

The internet is slowly closing in on television as Americans’ main source of national and international news.

Television remains the most widely used source for national and international news – 66% of Americans say it is their main source of news – but that is down from 74% three years ago and 82% as recently as 2002.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 1-5, 2010 among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that more people continue to cite the internet than newspapers as their main source of news.

This reflects both the growth of the internet, and the gradual decline in newspaper readership (from 34% in 2007 to 31% now).

Currently, 41% of all adults say they get most of their news about national and international news from the internet, which is little changed over the past two years but up 17 points since 2007.

The proportion citing radio as their main source of national and international news has remained relatively stable in recent years; currently, 16% say it is their main source.

Among those 30 to 49, the internet is on track to equal, or perhaps surpass, television as the main source of national and international news within the next few years. Currently, 48% say the internet is their main source – up 16 points from 2007 – and 63% cite television – down eight points.

The decline in the share of Americans who cite television as their main source of national and international news crosses all age groups. Over the past three years, the number saying TV is their main source has fallen 16 points among 18-29 year-olds, eight points among those 30 to 49, and six points among those age 50 and older.

Reflecting the slow decline in the proportion of people getting most of their national and international news from television, the numbers specifically citing cable news outlets or broadcast networks as their main news source has fallen. When asked where on television they get most of their news, 36% name a cable network such as CNN, the Fox News Channel or MSNBC; 22% name ABC News, CBS News or NBC News; and 16% say they get most of their national and international news from local news programming.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Seven Democratic Message Frames

Op-Ed: Sudhir Joshi

I am an average Democratic voter in Texas. When I watch the news and political talk shows, I notice that the language has decidedly turned to the advantage of Republicans. That is because what is said is just as important as how it is said when it comes to influencing voters. Just as framing a picture focuses attention on what is enclosed within that frame, framing a message focuses a reader's or listener's attention on the idea within the frame.

A sizable body of research supports the notion that emotion often plays a central role in impacting individuals’ political decision-making processes. It is not surprising, then, that conservative political organizations and candidates seek to influence opinion and garner public support by using the emotion of fear to frame public debate on a range of political issues to shape media and public opinion. Conservative operatives, like Frank Luntz and Alex Castellanos, have skillfully framed Republican talking points to end Social Security, block health insurance industry reform, block financial industry reforms, and much more.

The conservative message factory coins phrases like ‘family values,‘ ‘death tax,’ and ‘Obama death panels’ and then distributes them throughout the Republican messaging channels to be parroted non-stop by Republican operatives, candidates and pundits, starting with Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck. These framed conservative messages permeate the national dialog on TV and, eventually, the national media concludes America is a center-right nation. For example, most media pundits consistently repeat the conservative talking point that raising taxes will kill job creation, even though historical experience shows the exact opposite; After the TV viewing pubic hears such framed conservative messages often enough, they begin to accept them as fact.

Why does the subtle conservative message framing work? Because people are busy. They have kids to raise, mortgages to pay, and so on. Very few people research key political issues to any depth. They make their decision based on their surface knowledge of issues. And their surface knowledge of issues is very much affected by the language used by traditional media journalists and pundits who simply parrot the carefully framed conservative talking points.

If the Democrats are going to make a comeback in the 2012 election, we must stop letting Republicans frame every issue message to their advantage. Democrats must start framing messages with the same skill as conservative operatives like Frank Lutz to successfully compete in the debate of ideas.

So here are some suggestions on phrases Democrats should use consistently in 2011:
“Bush-Debt” With the rise of the Tea Party, the national debate has shifted to how we can reduce the growing US debt. However, the Republicans have successfully removed from the discussion that they created the debt. George Bush was handed an annual surplus by Bill Clinton. The National Debt Clock in New York was running backwards as the debt was being reduced each year. With a conservative, ‘fiscally responsible’ Republican majority in both the House and Senate for his first six years, George Bush promptly eliminated the annual surplus created the largest debt in US history.

So the next time someone says, ‘we’ve got to do something about the national debt and get our country back, ‘your response should be, ‘Yes, the Bush-debt is a major problem.’

“Government Responsibilities” If you watch political talk shows discuss the Bush-debt, the conversation immediately turns to what to do about ‘entitlements.’ Entitlements refer to Social Security and Medicare. Entitlements make the issue sound like the government is giving out charity. It is not! Social Security and Medicare are paid for payroll taxes. The benefits are not charity. They are earned by recipient and a contract of the federal government.

I don’t know about you but when I go to Starbuck and pay for a latte, I want what I paid for – a latte. When I put money in the bank at an agreed upon interest rate, I expect to get paid the interest owed to me. And, when I pay Social Security payroll taxes for over 50 years of my working life, I expect the benefits promised to me. It is not an ‘entitlement.’ It’s a contract. It’s a “Government Responsibility.”

So the next time some says, “we need to do something about entitlements.’ Your response should be, “The US government must honor its responsibilities to its citizens.”

”Global Defense Burden” Staying on the discussion of the Bush-debt, one item that is rarely discussed is the defense budget. The US spends more on defense than all other countries combined. Do we really need that much defense? Do we really need bases in Germany and Japan anymore? Do we really need over a dozen types of jet fighters?

We cannot let the discussion of the Bush-debt be only about changing government obligations. We also need to add the defense budget to the discussion. For that we need to refer to it as the ‘Global Defense Burden.’ Why should the US police the world at our expense while other countries do not contribute. The US defense budget is $623B. The next largest budget, according to the CIA is China at $65B – one-tenth the size of the US. Do we really need 10 times the defense of China?

So the next time some says, “we need to do something about debt.’ Your response should be, “One place we can start to reduce the Bush-debt is by reducing our global defense burden.”

“World Trade Center Attacks in 2001” Related to the topic of defense are the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. If you took a poll of what year the attacks on the World Trade Center occurred, I imaging many people would guess wrong. This is because we use the phrase 9/11 to describe the date of those attacks. The problem with using the phrase, “9/11” is that the year is forgotten. So psychologically, it seems they occurred more recently than they really did. This allows the Republicans to continue to scare us into thinking we need more defense spending than we really do.

So the next time someone says, “we’ve got make sure we don’t have another 9/11;’ your response should be, “We’ve been at war for 9 years since the World Trade Center attacks in 2001 and Obama bin Laden is still free. We’ve got to try a different approach.”

“Party of the Rich” During a light office discussion once, I mentioned that I’m a Democrat – a rarity in the suburb I live in. I got the strangest response. The lady said, “So you want everything for free?” Now there is so much wrong with that statement but there’s not enough room to write about it here. But it shows the impact of language in the media on the perceptions of a gullible public. Republicans have successfully labeled Democrats as ‘tax and spend liberals who support handouts (entitlements).’ We need to re-label the Republican party the same way. The Republican’s are the party for the wealthy, not the every day working person. Their recent move to stop all Senate activities until the richest 600 families got a tax break proves it.

So the next time someone says, “I’m Republican are you?” Your response should be, “No, I’m not a member of the party that takes from the average working person and gives it to the ultra-rich -- I’m a Democrat.

Yeah right, and there’s WMD in Iraq” We all know that the Republican Party simply makes up carefully framed messages and consistently repeats them to attack the character of their opponent. Some recent examples are the ads Mike Huckabee is running to repeal the Health Care Reform act. Huckabee’s ads parrot the Republican claim that the Health Care Act was written, ‘behind closed doors’ and no one was allowed to read it’s ‘2500 pages.’ Of course that’s not true. Other examples are the swift-boat ads regarding John Kerry and constant claims that Obama was not born in the US by the ‘birthers.’ Republicans hope to send the national talk shows off in these tangential issues so that public can be fooled into not discussing real issues and the Republican Party’s record. It works and we’ve got to stop them from doing it. Just point out it’s a lie by bringing back memories of the biggest deception in recent history.

So the next time some says, “Obama isn’t qualified to be president because he wasn’t born in the US,” respond, “Yeah right, and Pres. Bush started a $1 trillion war claiming there were WMD's in Iraq and that was also a false claim. But right now, let’s discuss the real issue why you think we can reduce the Bush-debt and reduce taxes at the same time.”

Ignore and talk about the issues: This is not a phrase but a linguistic tactic. I read once that Al Franken sent a copy of his book, ”Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” to Rush Limbaugh to comment on his TV show. Rush had a TV show at that time. Rush never commented on it and never mentioned it. That was smart.

In contrast, Democrats and the media comment on every controversial thing that Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Fox New do. This plays right into the hands of the Republican Party because the more we discuss the made up, but well framed, Republican talking points the more people are exposed to the right’s ideology and some buy into their lies. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to completely ignore the opposition.
So the next time some says, “What do you think of Glen Beck?” Your response should be, “Let’s discuss how to stop corporations from exporting jobs overseas and getting America back to work.”

Let’s win back the language frame and the Congress in 2012.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Real Problem With The GOP

proleft graphic blue and white.jpgJanuary 14, 2011 - One-year anniversary of the Internet radio program with Driftglass and Bluegal!

Download the MP3 (39:25)

Anniversary program - The real problem with the GOP, why mere civility and facts are not enough to move the dialogue forward, and a historical explanation of why "blood libel" is a perfect motif for conservative political discourse.
You can listen to the archives at http://professionalleft.blogspot.com/

New Therapies for Prevention and Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease Identified

Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of severe memory loss late in life and the fourth leading cause of death in adults, after heart disease, cancer and stroke. The National Institute on Aging estimates that over 4 million people in the United States suffer from the disease.

For too long there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, no known way to prevent the illness, and the benefits of current treatments are modest at best. Those afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and their families, lacking effective treatments, must deal with the grueling realities of the disease over time. Alzheimer's disease is called the disease of the "long goodbye" because as it steals memory, cognitive function, and even personality over a period of five to eight years, it is as though the person dies several times over. One day a parent with Alzheimer's disease may recognize their child and next day treat the child as suspicious stranger. Families face only frank acknowledgment of the difficult choices the about the value and the quality of life for a parent diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease during the "long goodbye."

Perhaps, finally, there is now a glimmer of hope that medical researchers may have found the true path of understanding and curing this dread disease:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 14, 2011) — A Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute (BRNI) study published in the Journal of Neuroscience reveals underlying causes for the degeneration of synapses in Alzheimer's Disease and identifies promising pharmaceutical solutions for the devastating condition that affects more than 5 million people in the United States. The BRNI study is the first to achieve fundamental molecular understanding of how synapses are lost in Alzheimer's Disease before the plaques and tangles develop. At the same time, it is the first study to demonstrate the comprehensive benefits of synaptogenic compounds in treating Alzheimer's Disease.

The BRNI study marks an important shift in our understanding of how Alzheimer's Disease is caused and should be treated. Previous autopsy-based studies have shown the critical role of synaptic loss in producing dementia (though, not the reason behind the degeneration), yet for decades scientists and pharmaceutical companies have focused on ways to target the amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles thought to play a role in causing Alzheimer's Disease. By preventing the loss of synapses, BRNI's new therapeutics prevent the progressive symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease.

"Alzheimer's Disease is not primarily a disease of plaques and tangles as many had previously concluded, it is most importantly a disease of synapses," said Dr. Daniel Alkon, the scientific director of BRNI and co-author of the study, "This study found that treatments that target the loss of synapses in the Alzheimer's brain, can virtually eliminate all other elements of the disease -- elevation of the toxic protein, A Beta, the loss of neurons, the appearance of plaques, and loss of cognitive function; the animals' brains were normalized."

The study utilized mice genetically engineered to express the symptoms and pathology of human Alzheimer's Disease in two different strains. BRNI used a difficult training regimen for the mice in order to reveal that significant cognitive deficits occurred five months before plaques were detected in their brains, providing evidence that plaques and tangles are not at the root of the disease.

Treatments of Bryostatin and similar compounds synthesized at BRNI that target the enzyme PKCε, which controls the creation of synapses at the molecular level, were administered for twelve weeks during the study. While the compounds promoted the growth of new synapses and preservation of existing synapses, they also stopped the decrease of PKCε and the increase of soluble β amyloid, meaning that the treatments could be used to prevent the familiar hallmarks of Alzheimer's Disease, the plaques and tangles. BRNI has received approval to move forward with Phase II clinical testing for Bryostatin to treat Alzheimer's Disease, which is set to begin within the next several months.

The synaptogenic BRNI drugs have also shown potential for the treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI), as recently reported in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, and stroke described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in 2008 and 2009.

The target of the synaptogenic compounds is the same molecule identified as a biomarker for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease in clinical trials conducted by BRNI and published in Neurobiology of Aging in 2010. As a result of that study, researchers at the Institute are now working to develop a skin test for identifying Alzheimer's Disease in its early stages before significant progression.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

TX-Sen: Kay Bailey Hutchison Announces She Won't Run for Re-Election in 2012

From the Dallas Morning News:
“I have known since 2006 that I wouldn’t seek another term,” the senator said in a telephone interview. “I wanted to announce it on my own terms and in my own way."

Hutchison, first elected to the Senate in 1993, said the swearing-in of the new Congress, among other things, made her feel it was the right moment to announce her resignation.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Obama's Arizona Speech: 'I Want America To Be As Good As She Imagined It'

President Barack Obama implored Americans to honor those slain and injured in the Arizona shootings by becoming better people, telling a polarized citizenry that it is time to talk with each other "in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds."

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