I love Bennett’s clean lines, and acid commentary.
In this photo, Souza captures two presidents lost in conversation, bathed in blue stage lights, awaiting their time on the stage; but next up is Hillary Clinton, who will introduce them. Mrs. Clinton awaits her cue. The presidents met at the annual meetings for the Clinton Global Initiative.
Hold on to this photo; depending on events of 2016, it may yet have many more stories to tell.
Consoler and Encourager in Chief:
Pete Souza‘s work as White House photographer will ultimately make historians’ work much richer. He’s got a great eye for a shot that needs to be snapped, and a great sense of art on the fly. If you’re not a regular watcher of Souza’s work, you probably should be, especially if you’re teaching history.
It’s a prize-winning photograph by “Scout Tufankjian, an independent photographer whose portfolio includes a book of photographs from Obama’s first run for the White House.”
Photographs sometimes reveal truths, and sometimes those truths are wonderful, and smile-making.
Bill Wundram’s column discusses the photo, in the Quad-City Times (it’s worth the click to read it).
THE QUIETUDE of the soda fountain booth was a marked difference from a rousing Obama appearance a half-hour earlier at a curb-to-curb outdoor rally.
After the speech, the Obamas adjourned to the cool of Lago’s. Tom had prepared for them to be seated in Booth No. 3.
“The Obamas were shaking so many hands before coming into our soda shop that I had to make three different chocolate sundaes for them.” Tom says. “They kept melting.”
Not big news — they do this almost every year — but I want to put down the anchor on this story.
Why do I want to anchor it? In about three days, if tradition holds, I’ll get an e-mail from some vet madder than hell that Obama shut out the kids of military veterans from the Easter Egg Roll; the story he sends will probably claim Obama changed it to a Ramadan Relleno Roll, or something.
I post it here so I can find it quickly, then. Obama H8ers will distort every piece of good news. You can see the drumbeat start in the “More” section below. A Continuing Resolution passed the Senate today, and is expected to win approval in the House tomorrow, providing funds to continue the Easter Egg roll on April 13, as well as the rest of the government through the end of the Fiscal Year.
Update: Turns out that Fox News had already slammed Obama, falsely, for keeping the Egg Roll on the calendar. As Mediaite reported, Fox News’s Megyn Kelly charged it was all politics, prompting White House press guy Jay Carney to explain the event is paid for out of donations, not out of the budget.
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 12, 2013
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
State of the Union Address
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, fellow citizens:
Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union – to improve it is the task of us all.”
Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in twenty. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.
Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.
But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs – but too many people still can’t find full-time employment. Corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs – but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.
It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.
It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.
It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.
The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together; and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.
Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget – decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.
Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.
Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?
In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” are a really bad idea.
Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training; Medicare and Social Security benefits.
That idea is even worse. Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms – otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.
But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful. We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters. Most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share. And that’s the approach I offer tonight.
On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. The reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.
To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? How does that promote growth?
Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit. The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring; a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America. That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together.
I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform won’t be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, and visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans. So let’s set party interests aside, and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors. The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.
Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?
A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than one million new jobs. I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda, and I urge this Congress to pass the rest. Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.
Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.
After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.
There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America.
If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.
After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.
But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.
The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.
In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.
Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.
America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts. I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.
Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children. Let’s prove that there is no better place to do business than the United States of America. And let’s start right away.
Part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. Today, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years, home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.
But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it. Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill. Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.
These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, and housing will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs. And that has to start at the earliest possible age.
Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.
Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.
Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.
We need to give every American student opportunities like this. Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.
Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education. It’s a simple fact: the more education you have, the more likely you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.
Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do. Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.
To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require. But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.
Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.
And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.
In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.
But we can’t stop there. We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. I urge the House to do the same. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.
We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.
Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.
Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it’s virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.
Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods. And this year, my Administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, education, and housing. We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.
Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home. It is also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.
Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan, and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda. Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.
Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.
Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.
As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.
Of course, our challenges don’t end with al Qaeda. America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.
Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. At the same time, we will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands – because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead.
America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. We know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mail. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.
That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy. Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.
Even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not only dangers, but opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union – because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.
We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.
Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”
In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can – and will – insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.
All this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk – our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. As long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military in the world. We will invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat. We will keep faith with our veterans – investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors; supporting our military families; and giving our veterans the benefits, education, and job opportunities they have earned. And I want to thank my wife Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they serve us.
But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.
Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource – our children.
It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.
Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.
One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.
Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.
Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.
The families of Newtown deserve a vote.
The families of Aurora deserve a vote.
The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.
Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.
We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country. We should follow their example.
We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, her thoughts were not with how her own home was faring – they were with the twenty precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.
We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her. Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read “I Voted.”
We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived, and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside – even as he lay bleeding from twelve bullet wounds.
When asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.”
That’s just the way we’re made.
We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title:
We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Anthony Watts strays farther and further from science with every passing day, and most of his new posts.
At the moment he’s got a doozy of a post, citing a bovine excrement question on a CFACT billboard, and offering a push-poll with three choices designed to push Watts’s preferred political answer, that ‘Obama and Gore go in different directions on global warming and climate change, and maybe they are both wrong.’ The end message Watts pushes is wrong, as you can see in the full texts below.(Morgan, here’s the link so you don’t have to flounder around with Google.)
Who do you believe?
It’s based on these two quote mine products from the CFACT billboard:
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?
“Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come.” — Al Gore, 10/30/2012
“We can’t attribute any particular weather event to global warming.” — Barack Obama, 11/14/2012
Watts doesn’t offer a “both correct” choice. That would be the accurate answer.
Gore’s comment at his blog on October 30, 2012, noted that while we can’t attribute the formation of Sandy to climate change, the effects of the storm were magnified by climate change. Gore called that “disturbing.”
Obama, noting that while we can’t say for certain that any particular storm is caused entirely from human-created global warming, the long-term effects clearly have human causation and we need to act to stop it.
In short, Gore and Obama take the same side on this issue, the side of science and making sound public policy. Watts works the old tobacco company strategy, suggesting that wherever studies showing health harms from tobacco differ from each other in the slightest jot or tittle, that means scientists can’t decide whether tobacco is harmful — substitute “human-caused climate change” for tobacco in that argument, and you see what Watts is trying to do.
Meanwhile, the Earth still warms:
Statement on Hurricane Sandy October 30, 2012 : 1:21 PM
This week, our nation has anxiously watched as Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast and caused widespread damage–affecting millions. Now more than ever, our neighbors need our help. Please consider donating or volunteering for your local aid organizations.
The images of Sandy’s flooding brought back memories of a similar–albeit smaller scale– event in Nashville just two years ago. There, unprecedented rainfall caused widespread flooding, wreaking havoc and submerging sections of my hometown. For me, the Nashville flood was a milestone. For many, Hurricane Sandy may prove to be a similar event: a time when the climate crisis—which is often sequestered to the far reaches of our everyday awareness became a reality.
While the storm that drenched Nashville was not a tropical cyclone like Hurricane Sandy, both storms were strengthened by the climate crisis. Scientists tell us that by continually dumping 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every single day, we are altering the environment in which all storms develop. As the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, storms are becoming more energetic and powerful. Hurricane Sandy, and the Nashville flood, were reminders of just that. Other climate-related catastrophes around the world have carried the same message to hundreds of millions.
Sandy was also affected by other symptoms of the climate crisis. As the hurricane approached the East Coast, it gathered strength from abnormally warm coastal waters. At the same time, Sandy’s storm surge was worsened by a century of sea level rise. Scientists tell us that if we do not reduce our emissions, these problems will only grow worse.
Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come. We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis. Dirty energy makes dirty weather.
President Obama’s statement, excerpted from his November 14, 2012, press conference:
THE PRESIDENT: Mark Landler. Where’s Mark? There he is right in front of me.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. In his endorsement of you a few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg said he was motivated by the belief that you would do more to confront the threat of climate change than your opponent. Tomorrow you’re going up to New York City where you’re going to, I assume, see people who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which many people say is further evidence of how a warming globe is changing our weather. What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change? And do you think the political will exists in Washington to pass legislation that could include some kind of a tax on carbon?
THE PRESIDENT: As you know, Mark, we can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change. What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago. We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been extraordinarily — there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.
And I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.
Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That will have an impact. That will take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation. And we continue to invest in potential breakthrough technologies that could further remove carbon from our atmosphere. But we haven’t done as much as we need to.
So what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, and elected officials to find out what can — what more can we do to make a short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary — a discussion, a conversation across the country about what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we’re passing on to future generations that’s going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.
I don’t know what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point, because this is one of those issues that’s not just a partisan issue; I also think there are regional differences. There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices. And understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody is going to go for that. I won’t go for that.
If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth, and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that’s something that the American people would support.
So you can expect that you’ll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward.
Q Sounds like you’re saying, though, in the current environment, we’re probably still short of a consensus on some kind of attack.
THE PRESIDENT: That I’m pretty certain of. And, look, we’re still trying to debate whether we can just make sure that middle-class families don’t get a tax hike. Let’s see if we can resolve that. That should be easy. This one is hard — but it’s important because one of the things that we don’t always factor in are the costs involved in these natural disasters; we just put them off as something that’s unconnected to our behavior right now. And I think what — based on the evidence we’re seeing, is that what we do now is going to have an impact and a cost down the road if we don’t do something about it.
In context, can you point to any points of conflict between what Al Gore said in October, and what President Obama said a couple of weeks later? To me it looks as if they’re singing very much from the the same hymnal or songbook, and they’re in harmony, if not unison, especially in what I’ve turned into red-letter text.
Here’s the video of the entire Obama press conference (climate question comes at 42:19 in the video transcript):
A guy named William Duncan at a blog called Sensible Thoughts posted something I found inherently unsensible a while back. He listed six reasons why he thought the Affordable Care Act should be repealed. (“A while?” “Yeah, July 2012 is ‘a while.’”)
His sixth point was the old canard about Congress and the President being exempt. Of course they are not exempt, and so I told him.
Your sixth reason is in error. There is no provision to exempt either the president or Congress from the act. There is no language in the bill such as you describe. Language from page 114 can be found here:
At some length, Mr. Duncan removed that point, but said he still thinks the law should be repealed on the other five points I hadn’t dealt with.
Thank you for the correction on point #6. I have gone back and looked at this, and you are absolutely right. Although the Wall Street Journal and folks like Sean Hannity reported that the President and members of Congress are exempt from participation in the Affordable Care Act, in the end that did NOT make it into the language of the legislation. I have deleted point #6 from the post as a result. Thank you for the correction. Now, if you copuld only prove me wrong on the rest of the points listed…. Unfortunately, this remains a bill the the American public did not want, and was purchased by shenanigans that the Administration should be ashamed of.
A quick and dirty response; we may need to put more meat on these response bones in the next couple of months, because the opposition to ObamaCare relies on severely distorted claims about the law and what it actually does. Much if not most of the good stuff in the law is completely ignored by these critics, and we should point that out, too.
What makes you think Americans didn’t want it? There was a whale of an anti-health care campaign after the act passed, but when it passed, it enjoyed a majority of support. And, when we take each provision of the bill and ask people about that provision, they approve overwhelmingly.
For example, not even you are opposed to continuing the Reagan-era program that encourages medical schools to train more general practitioners. No one seriously objects to the provisions that pay physicians to practice in under-served areas, like West Texas, Iowa, and West Virginia. No one objects to the provisions that train more nurses. Only the most rabid racists complain about continuing and expanding the health care clinics on Indian reservations.
The law has dozens of provisions like those, and no one in their right mind objects to them.
Your other five points?
- The Supreme Court killed that one for you. They said that, even if you call it a fine, it’s a tax. And at that, it’s a helluva bargain. For those who do not purchase health insurance because they can’t afford to, they must pay $695 additional tax, per year. That’s about what I’d pay monthly on the open market.In any case, there are no fines, according to the Supreme Court.
But I can’t imagine why you oppose bargains in health care, especially when they lower the costs of health care to the insured, who will no longer pay the 15% to 25% premium to cover indigent care.
- With all the “new taxes,” CBO, the non-partisan group that scores these issues for Congress, projects the bill will decrease federal spending and cut the deficits annually, when fully enacted in 2014 and all out years.Do you oppose deficits or not?All the other taxes are fair, strike only the tippy-top income tiers, and are cheap at that.These taxes make the system more fair. It’s stacked against anyone making less than $150,000 a year, now. That’s most of us. I don’t like it when government helps the rich, at the expense of the poor — that’s contrary to moral standards my church holds, for example, and it tends to damage the economy.So I think more fair taxes, and lower costs, will be quite popular, once we see them.So, new taxes aren’t a good justification to oppose the law.
- Speaking of fallacious accounting — CBO, the group you cite, says the bill will reduce the deficits. You assume the Law won’t work, while small portions of it have already slashed inflation in health care costs, from 20% in 2009 to 4% in 2011 and 2012.But, what about repeal? CBO looked at that, too — repeal of the law will increase deficits, not decrease them. It’s only $109 billion increase in deficits, but these number directly refute all claims that repeal would be cheaper. See the analysis gateway here: http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43471
- This Medicare issue was hashed out, accurately and well I thought, in the campaign. Medicare costs will be reduced by holding costs down — benefits will not be reduced. Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan ran into some difficulty with this, because their budget plans assumed the savings from the Affordable Care Act, while eliminating the law that produced the savings.I’m sure there will be some adjustments required. Medicare seems a little ham-fisted when it comes to dealing with local and regional cost differences, but nationwide, over the past 40 years, enormous savings have been realized by reducing some reimbursements for procedures that once were uncommon and expensive, to a less expensive rate, now that they are more common. On the whole, over 40 years, over thousands of procedures, physicians have changed their expectations, and things have worked fine. Oh, there have been grumblings, I know. But the cuts in costs, without cuts in benefits, have stuck.Under the Affordable Care Act, we hope a lot more people will move to company plans from Medicare, or at least to the exchange plans offered in each state.One of the changes already introduced is working [link added here]. Rather than pay providers for each procedure, Medicare now reimburses hospitals for effective hospitalization — that is, when a patient is discharged and then re-enters a hospital for the same complaint, the hospital will lose money. Hospitals are keeping patients a few days longer on many procedures, to insure that one hospitalization is all that is required. Savings are already being made in costs, while improvements have resulted in the health care – better health in the patients!In all, CBO says costs will come down with the Affordable Care Act, as advertised, and costs will rise and deficits will rise if the Act is repealed.
- Your abortion argument is too metaphysical, and not enough real-world. Do you want to reduce the number of abortions? Then provide health care, make sure contraception is freely available (not for free, but freely), and stand back. Those two things reduce abortions, as they did during the Clinton administration.Restrictions on abortion, on the other hand, make it more likely a woman will choose to terminate a pregnancy under a number of circumstances: She doesn’t have health care coverage, her coverage does not cover pre-natal care, her coverage won’t cover a new infant, the pregnancy is unplanned due to lack of good information on family planning or lack of access to affordable contraception.You can choose: Restrict abortions and increase the number of abortions, or provide health care, and reduce the number of abortions.It may be a bit counter-intuitive, but you’d better study the issue. The Affordable Care Act’s provisions, Obamacare, have over the years reduced abortions where applied; cutting off that care has increased the number of abortions.My advice would be, don’t kill the babies to make a political point.
I am concerned that you don’t appear much familiar with what the bill actually does. Here are a few reasons to keep the law.
- We need more physicians, and the bill provides them.
- We need more physicians in underserved areas, and the bill provides them.
- We need more nurses, and the bill provides them.
- We need more community clinics in underserved urban areas [link added here], where illnesses and injuries frequently go untreated until extreme trauma results, and the victim must get extremely expensive care in an emergency room. This will be one of the biggest cost savers — and the law provides those clinics.
- The law will cut the private bureaucracy, and completely dismantle the private death panels set up by insurance companies, saving at least 10% of every health care dollar, applying that money to care instead of bureaucracy. This is already occurring.
- Preventive care under the Act is greatly encouraged — if we can boost flu vaccines by another 10%, it will save thousands of lives annually, and millions of dollars in hospitalization costs. Flu shots came with no co-pay this year — did you notice? — so that anyone with any insurance at all could drop by any pharmacy offering flu shots and get one with no out-of-pocket expenses.
This is huge. Everyone agrees the cheapest health care is for healthy people. The Affordable Care Act changes the way health care is delivered, to emphasize prevention of disease and injury, instead of triage. Prevention usually costs about 10% what the triage would cost.
- Removing the lifetime cap on insurance payments, per patient, will save a few thousands of lives, annually. It should kill the phenomenon where many families, hit with a costly disease or accident, had to declare bankruptcy as a result. A significant portion of all bankruptcies have been “not adequately-insured” cases. Those should almost disappear.
- Allowing children to stay insured, on a parent’s plan, for those critical years after high school and college and into the second job, with benefits has already benefited millions of Americans, saving millions of dollars and probably a few lives.
I cannot imagine why anyone would want to go back to 20% annual health care cost inflation, the highest per capita health care costs in the world by a factor of two, while leaving one out of every seven people uninsured even though we were paying amounts more than the insurance would have cost.
Obamacare reduces the deficits, and puts our health system on the path to catch up to the rest of the industrialized world, with better care for less cost.
I’ll keep it, thank you.
(See this, too: “More good news about Obamacare: CBO says it will save money”
— $1.6 trillion in additional tax revenues over the next decade, from limiting tax deductions on the wealthy and raising tax rates on incomes over $250,000 (although those rates don’t have to rise as high as the top marginal rates under Bill Clinton)
— $50 billion in added economic stimulus next year
— A one-year postponement of pending spending cuts in defense and domestic programs
— $400 billion in savings over the decade from Medicare and other entitlement programs (the same number contained in the President’s 2013 budget proposal, submitted before the election).
— Authority to raise the debt limit without congressional approval.
The $50 billion in added stimulus is surely welcome. We need more spending in the short term in order to keep the recovery going, particularly in light of economic contractions in Europe and Japan, and slowdowns in China and India.
But by signaling its willingness not to raise top rates as high as they were under Clinton and to cut some $400 billion from projected increases in Medicare and other entitlement spending, the White House has ceded important ground.
Republicans obviously want much, much more.
The administration has taken a “step backward, moving away from consensus and significantly closer to the cliff, delaying again the real, balanced solution that this crisis requires,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) in a written statement. “No substantive progress has been made” added House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio).
No surprise. The GOP doesn’t want to show any flexibility. Boehner and McConnell will hang tough until the end. Boehner will blame his right flank for not giving him any leeway — just as he’s done before.
It’s also clear Republicans will seek whatever bargaining leverage they can get from threatening to block an increase in the debt limit – which will have to rise early next year if the nation’s full faith and credit is to remain intact.
Meanwhile, the White House has started the bidding with substantial concessions on tax increases and spending cuts.
Haven’t we been here before? It’s as if the election never occurred – as if the Republicans hadn’t lost six or seven seats in the House and three in the Senate, as if Obama hadn’t won reelection by a greater number of votes than George W. Bush in 2004.
And as if the fiscal cliff that automatically terminates the Bush tax cuts weren’t just weeks away.
But if it’s really going to be a repeat of the last round, we might still be in luck. Remember, the last round resulted in no agreement. And no agreement now may be better than a bad agreement that doesn’t raise taxes on the wealthy nearly enough while cutting far too much from safety nets most Americans depend on.
If Republicans won’t budge and we head over the fiscal cliff, the Clinton tax rates become effective January 1 – thereby empowering the White House and Democrats in the next congress to get a far better deal.
Watch that space.
It’s especially interesting to me how House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will work to get a solution, if the GOP continues its blockade to almost all action.
Obama’s own words, with animation provided by Lucas Gray, a veteran animator from The Simpsons and Family Guy.
Andre Tartar wrote about it at the New York Magazine website:
Your average campaign ad involves lots of black and white B-roll, ominous music, and floating newspaper headlines. So this nearly 4-minute illustrated reel by Lucas Gray, a veteran of the Simpsons and Family Guy animation departments, is a welcome bit of color. Using audio from a speech President Obama gave at the Associates Press Luncheon in April, “Why Obama Now” is a jaunty mix of cartoon Americans driving their Model T Fords off the assembly line onto the American Dream, graphs and charts sprouting up as the president rattles off statistics, and little bobblehead meanies providing comic relief: Bush and Cheney with a pile of gold (the Clinton surplus), Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, and the rest of the conservative pundit gang. It also includes the best (though not most convincing) explanation of trickle-down economics we’ve seen yet: “If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the sparrows.”
At the website for WhyObamaNow.org, the sources are listed:
The entire speech (58 minutes — 36 minutes for the prepared text, plus Q&A):
You’ve seen that button in the right hand column for several weeks now, “Submit a science question for the candidates for president.” Second time in a row, we didn’t get a separate debate on science issues. Next best thing, maybe: The major candidates agreed to answer submitted questions.
“Whenever the people are well-informed,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “they can be trusted with their own government.”
Science now affects every aspect of life and is an increasingly important topic in national policymaking.
ScienceDebate.org invited thousands of scientists, engineers and concerned citizens to submit what they felt were the the most important science questions facing the nation that the candidates for president should be debating on the campaign trail.
ScienceDebate then worked with the leading US science and engineering organizations listed at left to refine the questions and arrive at a universal consensus on what the most important science policy questions facing the United States are in 2012.
Candidates readily debate jobs and the economy even though they are not economists; they debate foreign policy and military intervention even though they are not diplomats or generals; they debate faith and values even though they are not priests or pastors. We call on the candidates for President to also debate these Top American Science Questions that affect all voters’ lives.
Candidates’ Answers, a Side by Side Comparison
Barack Obama’s answers to the Top American Science Questions, September 4, 2012 Mitt Romney’s answers to the Top American Science Questions, September 4, 2012 Click on these key words to be taken back to ScienceDebate’s website and this debate:
Innovation | Climate Change | Research and the Future | Pandemics and Biosecurity
Education | Energy | Food | Fresh Water | The Internet | Ocean Health
Science in Public Policy | Space | Critical Natural Resources | Vaccination and Public Health
1. Innovation and the Economy. Science and technology have been responsible for over half of the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII, when the federal government first prioritized peacetime science mobilization. But several recent reports question America’s continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will best ensure that America remains a world leader in innovation? Barack Obama: I believe that in order to be globally competitive in the 21st century and to create an American economy that is built to last, we must create an environment where invention, innovation, and industry can flourish. We can work together to create an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, and skills for American workers.I am committed to doubling funding for key research agencies to support scientists and entrepreneurs, so that we can preserve America’s place as the world leader in innovation, and strengthen U.S. leadership in the 21st century’s high-tech knowledge-based economy. To prepare American children for a future in which they can be the highly skilled American workers and innovators of tomorrow, I have set the goal of preparing 100,000 science and math teachers over the next decade. These teachers will meet the urgent need to train one million additional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates over the next decade. Mitt Romney:Innovation is the key to economic growth and job creation, and increasingly important to American competitiveness in the global economy. Three-quarters of all U.S. economic growth, and three-quarters of the U.S. productivity advantage over other OECD nations, is directly attributable to innovation, and wages in innovation-intensive industries have grown more than twice as fast as other wages in recent decades.My plan for a stronger middle class will rebuild the American economy on the principles of free enterprise, hard work, and innovation. The promotion of innovation will begin on Day One, with efforts to simplify the corporate tax code, reform job retraining programs, reduce regulatory burdens, and protect American intellectual property around the world.A Growth AgendaOver the course of my campaign, I have laid out a detailed economic plan that seeks to strengthen the American economy by empowering entrepreneurs and workers and rewarding innovation. This plan emphasizes critical structural adjustments to promote growth rather than short-term fixes.
- Human Capital. We must reform America’s legal immigration system to attract and retain the best and the brightest, and equip more Americans with the skills to succeed. I will raise visa caps for highly skilled foreign workers, offer permanent residence to foreign students graduating with advanced degrees in relevant fields, and restructure government retraining programs to empower individual workers and welcome private sector participation.
- Taxes. We must pursue fundamental tax reform that simplifies the tax code, broadens the tax base, and lowers tax rates. I will lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, strengthen and make permanent the R&D tax credit, and transition to a territorial tax system. I will cut individual income tax rates across the board, and maintain today’s low tax rates on investment. And I will ensure that these changes are made permanent, so that investors and entrepreneurs are not confronted with a constantly shifting set of rules.
- Regulation. We must reduce the power of unaccountable regulators by requiring that all major regulations receive congressional approval and by imposing a regulatory cap that prevents the addition of new regulatory costs. In a Romney Administration, agencies will have to limit the costs they are imposing on society and recognize that their job is to streamline and reduce burdens, not to add new ones.
- Trade. We must open new markets for American businesses and workers. I will create a Reagan Economic Zone encompassing nations committed to the principles of free enterprise. At the same time, I will confront nations like China that steal intellectual property from American innovators while closing off American access to their markets.
A Foundation for Innovation
The private sector is far more effective at pursuing and applying innovation than government could ever be. However, there are key areas in which government policy must strengthen the ability of the private sector to innovate effectively.
- Education. America’s K-12 education system lags behind other developed nations, and while our higher education system remains the envy of the world its costs are spiraling out of control. We must pursue genuine education reform that puts the interests of parents and students ahead of special interests and provides a chance for every child. I will take the unprecedented step of tying federal funds directly to dramatic reforms that expand parental choice, invest in innovation, and reward teachers for their results instead of their tenure. I will also ensure that students have diverse and affordable options for higher education to give them the skills they need to succeed after graduation.
- Basic Research. President Obama’s misguided attempts to play the role of venture capitalist, pick winners and losers, and spend tens of billions of dollars on politically-prioritized investments have been a disaster for the American taxpayer. Yet at the same time, we must never forget that the United States has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to national investment in basic research and advanced technology. As president, I will focus government resources on research programs that advance the development of knowledge, and on technologies with widespread application and potential to serve as the foundation for private sector innovation and commercialization.
2. Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries? Barack Obama: Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. Since taking office I have established historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history. My administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants and reduced carbon emissions within the Federal Government. Since I took office, the U.S. is importing an average of 3 million fewer barrels of oil every day, and our dependence on foreign oil is at a 20-year low. We are also showing international leadership on climate change, reaching historic agreements to set emission limits in unison with all major developed and developing nations. There is still more to be done to address this global problem. I will continue efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating an economy built to last. Mitt Romney:I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.Ultimately, the science is an input to the public policy decision; it does not dictate a particular policy response. President Obama has taken the view that if global warming is occurring, the American response must be to slash carbon dioxide emissions by imposing enormous costs on the U.S. economy. First he tried a massive cap-and-trade bill that would have devastated U.S. industry. When that approach was rejected by Congress, he declared his intention to pursue the same course on his own and proceeded through his EPA to impose rules that will bankrupt the coal industry.Nowhere along the way has the President indicated what actual results his approach would achieve — and with good reason. The reality is that the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming. China long ago passed America as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. Developed world emissions have leveled off while developing world emissions continue to grow rapidly, and developing nations have no interest in accepting economic constraints to change that dynamic. In this context, the primary effect of unilateral action by the U.S. to impose costs on its own emissions will be to shift industrial activity overseas to nations whose industrial processes are more emissions-intensive and less environmentally friendly. That result may make environmentalists feel better, but it will not better the environment.So I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that would handicap the American economy and drive manufacturing jobs away, all without actually addressing the underlying problem. Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection in the long run. So I believe we should pursue what I call a “No Regrets” policy — steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action.
For instance, I support robust government funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies that will maintain American leadership in emerging industries. And I believe the federal government must significantly streamline the regulatory framework for the deployment of new energy technologies, including a new wave of investment in nuclear power. These steps will strengthen American industry, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and produce the economically-attractive technologies that developing nations must have access to if they are to achieve the reductions in their own emissions that will be necessary to address what is a global issue.
3. Research and the Future. Federally funded research has helped to produce America’s major postwar economies and to ensure our national security, but today the UK, Singapore, China, and Korea are making competitive investments in research. Given that the next Congress will face spending constraints, what priority would you give to investment in research in your upcoming budgets? Barack Obama: I strongly support investments in research and development that help spur America innovation and proposed a goal that, as a country, we invest more than 3 percent of our GDP in public and
private research and development—exceeding the level achieved at the height of the space race. That’s why, under the Recovery Act, my administration enacted the largest research and development increase in our nation’s history. Through the Recovery Act, my Administration committed over $100 billion to support groundbreaking innovation with investments in energy, basic research, education and training, advanced vehicle technology, health IT and health research, high speed rail, smart grid, and information technology. Of these funds, we made a $90 billion investment in clean energy that will produce as much as $150 billion in clean energy projects. In fact, the Recovery Act made the largest single investment in clean energy in American history. And our investments in energy not only focus on research, but on the deployment of these new technologies.We have invested highly in important research being done to improve the health and wellness of all Americans so that we can continue to unravel clues to treating or preventing some of life’s most daunting and debilitating diseases, develop powerful new medicines, and even define strategies that will prevent disease from occurring in the first place. We have also made critical investments in research and development to bolster our national security and defense. And my budget continues to support making permanent the R&D tax credit, which would allow businesses the ability to invest and grow their organizations. While making tough choices, we will continue to prioritize investments in research to ensure that our country remains a global leader and that Americans can remain innovators, working to better their lives and the lives around them.
Mitt Romney:As I noted above, I am a strong supporter of federally funded research, and continued funding would be a top priority in my budget. The answer to spending constraints is not to cut back on crucial investments in America’s future, but rather to spend money more wisely. For instance, President Obama spent $90 billion in stimulus dollars in a failed attempt to promote his green energy agenda. That same spending could have funded the nation’s energy research programs at the level recommended in a recent Harvard University study for nearly twenty years.Good public policy must also ensure that federal research is being amplified in the private sector, and that major breakthroughs are able to make the leap from the laboratory to the marketplace. Unfortunately, President Obama has pursued policies across a range of fields that will have the opposite effect. For instance, Obamacare imposes an excise tax on the revenue of medical device companies that is already driving jobs and investment overseas. Meanwhile, the FDA’s slow and opaque approval process is rated less than one-fourth as effective as its European counterpart by medical technology companies. Robust NIH funding will only have its desired effect if paired with sensible policies that facilitate medical innovation more broadly. 4. Pandemics and Biosecurity. Recent experiments show how Avian flu may become transmissible among mammals. In an era of constant and rapid international travel, what steps should the United States take to protect our population from emerging diseases, global pandemics and/or deliberate biological attacks? Barack Obama: We all are aware that the world is becoming smaller every day. Advancements in technology allow Americans to travel internationally with ease, and allow us to welcome individuals from around the world. This fluidity also requires that we, as a nation, are cognizant to the threats we face and are prepared to protect against them. I will continue to work to strengthen our systems of public health so we can stop disease from spreading across our borders. It is also important that should these threats breach our borders, our communities can respond quickly, effectively, with the greatest impact, and with the fewest consequences. Lastly, to help our country prepare to meet these challenges, we have been working with the private sector to assess potential vulnerabilities. I have no doubt that we can counter any threat we face, but we cannot face it alone. We must continue to work with our international partners, remain diligent in seeking out new threats, and prepare to act should a need arise. Mitt Romney:Pandemics are not new — they have happened at different points throughout human history. And it is a certainty that, at some point in the future, they will happen again. Fortunately, America today is better prepared than ever to face a pandemic. In part, this is because researchers are learning so much more about infectious diseases, how they work, and how they spread. Unfortunately, globalization has enabled the spread of these diseases much more rapidly from previously remote corners of the world to the busiest airports and cities.To further improve preparedness, we must continue to invest in the best public health monitoring systems that can be built. I will also encourage advancements in research and manufacturing to increase scientific understanding of new pathogens and improve response time when they emerge. The development of new countermeasures, from diagnostics to antibiotics and antivirals to respirators, will help protect human lives in the face of new bugs and superbugs.Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has taken numerous steps that are stifling medical innovation. He has imposed new taxes on innovative companies. He has empowered bureaucrats to manage the marketplace. His FDA has slowed the drug development process and inserted requirements that drive up the cost of developing new antibiotics. A robust public health system is only as strong as the tools available, and I will empower the private sector to pursue the breakthroughs that will equip society for the health challenges of the twenty-first century. 5. Education. Increasingly, the global economy is driven by science, technology, engineering and math, but a recent comparison of 15-year-olds in 65 countries found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 23rd, while average U.S. math scores ranked 31st. In your view, why have American students fallen behind over the last three decades, and what role should the federal government play to better prepare students of all ages for the science and technology-driven global economy? Barack Obama: An excellent education remains the clearest, surest route to the middle class. To compete with other countries we must strengthen STEM education. Early in my administration, I called for a national effort to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement. Last year, I announced an ambitious goal of preparing 100,000 additional STEM teachers over the next decade, with growing philanthropic and private sector support. My “Educate to Innovate” campaign is bringing together leading businesses, foundations, non-profits, and professional societies to improve STEM teaching and learning. Recently, I outlined a plan to launch a new national STEM Master Teacher Corps that will be established in 100 sites across the country and be expanded over the next four years to support 10,000 of the best STEM teachers in the nation. These investments would improve the quality of STEM education at all levels, ensuring the next generation of Americans has the tools to out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world. Mitt Romney:The education challenges America faces are not new. Since A Nation at Riskwas published almost thirty years ago, our country has understood the urgent need for reform. Yet today, fewer than 75 percent of freshmen graduate within four years of entering high school, and far too many who do graduate require remediation when they enroll in college. In a recent survey of more than 10,000 of its graduates, the Harvard Business School identified America’s K-12 education system as one of our nation’s greatest competitive weaknesses — only the dysfunction of our political system itself scored worse. Recent test results showing U.S. students lagging behind their international peers are unacceptable in their own right, and a sobering warning of a potential decline threatening our nation’s future.Politicians have attempted to solve these problems with more spending. But while America’s spending per student is among the highest in the world, our results lag far behind. We spend nearly two-and-a-half times as much per pupil today, in real terms, as in 1970, but high school achievement and graduation rates have stagnated. Higher spending rarely correlates with better results. Even the liberal Center for American Progress acknowledged in a recent study that “the literature strongly calls into question the notion that simply investing more money in schools will result in better outcomes,” and reported from its own research that most states showed “no clear relationship between spending and achievement” even after adjusting for other factors like the cost of living.Unfortunately, rather than embracing reform and innovation, America remains gridlocked in an antiquated system controlled to a disturbing degree by the unions representing teachers. The teachers unions spend millions of dollars to influence the debate in favor of the entrenched interests of adults, not the students our system should serve. The efforts of teachers will be central to any successful reform, but their unions have a very different agenda: opposing innovation that might disrupt the status quo while insulating even the least effective teachers from accountability. Sadly, these priorities do not correlate with better outcomes for our children. To the contrary, teachers unions are consistently on the front lines fighting against initiatives to attract and retain the best teachers, measure performance, provide accountability, or offer choices to parents.Real change will come only when the special interests take a back seat to the interests of students. Across the nation, glimmers of success offer reason for hope. Charter school networks such as the KIPP Academies, Uncommon Schools, and Aspire Public Schools are producing remarkable results with students in some of our nation’s most disadvantaged communities. Florida Virtual School and other digital education providers are using technology in new ways to personalize instruction to meet students’ needs. In Massachusetts, whose schools have led the nation since my time as governor, students’ math achievement is comparable to that of the top-performing national school systems worldwide. In our nation’s capital, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has achieved high school graduation rates above 90 percent in inner-city communities where barely half of public school students are earning their diplomas. These successes point the way toward genuine reform.
My agenda for K-12 education is organized around the following principles:
Promoting Choice and Innovation. Empowering parents with far greater choice over the school their child attends is a vital component of any national agenda for education reform. To start, low-income and special-needs children must be given the freedom to choose the right school and bring funding with them. These students must have access to attractive options, which will require support for the expansion of successful charter schools and for greater technology use by schools.
Ensuring High Standards and Responsibility for Results. States must have in place standards to ensure that every high school graduate is prepared for college or work and, through annual testing, hold both students and educators accountable for meeting them. The results of this testing, for both their own children and their schools, must be readily available to parents in an easy to understand format.
Recruiting and Rewarding Great Teachers. A world-class education system requires world-class teachers in every classroom. Research confirms that students assigned to more effective teachers not only learn more, but they also are also less likely to have a child as a teenager and more likely to attend college. Policies for recruitment, evaluation, and compensation should treat teachers like the professionals they are, not like interchangeable widgets.
A full white paper describing my approach to education reform is available at MittRomney.com.
6. Energy. Many policymakers and scientists say energy security and sustainability are major problems facing the United States this century. What policies would you support to meet the demand for energy while ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable future? Barack Obama: Since taking office, I have supported an all-of-the-above energy approach that will allow us to take control of our energy future, one where we safely and responsibly develop America’s many energy resources – including natural gas, wind, solar, oil, clean coal, and biofuels – while investing in clean energy and increasing fuel efficiency standards to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.I know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the global economy in the 21st century. That’s why I have made the largest investment in clean energy and energy efficiency in American history and proposed an ambitious Clean Energy Standard to generate 80 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources like wind, solar, clean coal, and natural gas by 2035. Since taking office, electricity production from wind and solar sources has already more than doubled in the United States. We are boosting our use of cleaner fuels, including increasing the level of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline and implementing a new Renewable Fuel Standard that will save nearly 14 billion gallons of petroleum-based gasoline in 2022. America has regained its position as the world’s leading producer of natural gas. My administration is promoting the safe, responsible development of America’s near 100-year supply of natural gas that will help support more than 600,000 jobs. Because of these actions, we are positioning ourselves to have cleaner and cheaper sources of fuel that make us more energy secure and position the U.S. as a world leader in the clean energy economy. Mitt Romney:A crucial component of my plan for a stronger middle class is to dramatically increase domestic energy production and partner closely with Canada and Mexico to achieve North American energy independence by 2020. While President Obama has described his own energy policy as a “hodgepodge,” sent billions of taxpayer dollars to green energy projects run by political cronies, rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline as not in “the national interest,” and sought repeatedly to stall development of America’s domestic resources, my path forward would establish America as an energy superpower in the 21st century.The goal of energy independence has long proved elusive, but analysts across the spectrum — energy experts, investment firms, even academics at Harvard University — now recognize that surging U.S. energy production, combined with the resources of America’s neighbors, can meet all of the continent’s energy needs within a decade. The key is to embrace these resources and open access to them.A successful national energy strategy will have a fundamental influence on the well-being of the nation. An expansion in the affordable, reliable supply of domestically produced energy can bolster the competitiveness of virtually every industry within the country, creating millions of new jobs from coast to coast. With fewer energy imports and more exports of manufactured goods, America’s trade deficit will decline and the dollar will strengthen.The benefits even extend beyond immediate economic growth. The lease payments, royalties, and taxes paid to the American people in return for the development of the nation’s resources can yield literally trillions of dollars in new government revenue. Lower energy prices can ease the burdens on household budgets. And all Americans can rest assured that the nation’s security is no longer beholden to unstable but oil-rich regions half way around the world.
I have put forward a six-part plan for achieving these goals. First, I will empower states to control onshore energy development, including on federal lands within their borders. Second, I will open offshore areas to development. Third, I will pursue a North American Energy Partnership so that America can benefit from the resources of its neighbors. Fourth, I will ensure accurate assessment of the nation’s energy resources by updating decades-old surveys that do not reflect modern technological capabilities. Fifth, I will restore transparency and fairness to permitting and regulation. And sixth, I will facilitate private-sector-led development of new energy technologies.
Throughout this agenda, I remain committed to implementing and enforcing strong environmental protections that ensure all energy development activity is conducted in a safe and responsible manner. But whereas President Obama has used environmental regulation as an excuse to block the development of resources and the construction of infrastructure, I will pursue a course that designs regulation not to stifle energy production but instead to facilitate responsible use of all energy sources — from oil and coal and natural gas, to nuclear and hydropower and biofuels, to wind and solar. Energy development, economic growth, and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand if the government focuses on transparency and fairness instead of seeking to pick winners and repay political favors.
A full white paper describing my plan for energy independence is available at MittRomney.com.
7. Food. Thanks to science and technology, the United States has the world’s most productive and diverse agricultural sector, yet many Americans are increasingly concerned about the health and safety of our food. The use of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, as well as animal diseases and even terrorism pose risks. What steps would you take to ensure the health, safety and productivity of America’s food supply? Barack Obama: Since taking office, I have been working to safeguard our food supply, prevent foodborne illnesses and improve consumers’ knowledge about the food they eat.When I started, our food safety system needed to be modernized. One in four people were getting sick every year due to food-borne illness, and children and the elderly were more at risk. I signed the most comprehensive reform of our nation’s food safety laws in more than 70 years – giving the Food and Drug Administration the resources, authority and tools needed to make real improvements to our food safety system. We have strengthened standards, prevented food from being contaminated with dangerous bacteria, bolstered surveillance used to detect contamination problems earlier, and responded to illness outbreaks faster.I am also working to bolster the use of organic farming methods and minimize pesticides and antibiotics in our food. I set the ambitious goal to increase the number of certified organic operations by 20 percent – and we expect to meet that target. I am protecting human health by ensuring that the foods the American public eats will be free from unsafe levels of pesticides by making sure that all new, and even older pesticides, comply with strict science-based health standards. We are also making sure safer pesticides get to market faster, so that we can decrease the use of those pesticides that have higher risks of health impacts. And my administration is taking steps to limit antibiotic use for livestock. This will help ensure that antibiotics are used only address diseases and health problems, and not for enhancing growth and other production purposes. And I will continue to work on food safety issues to ensure that public health is the priority in our food safety system. Mitt Romney:Food safety is crucial to both the health and safety of the American people and the economic strength of the agriculture sector as it serves both this nation and export markets around the world. Businesses and workers in America’s agriculture system, from farmers and ranchers to packager and processors to grocers and restaurants, work incredibly hard to provide peace of mind to the hundreds of millions they feed every year. Government regulators play an important role in this system, monitoring products and processes while taking rapid action when problems do arise.Preventive practices are the best tool to reduce the incidence of food-borne illnesses because they provide the greatest control over the potential risks of contamination and are generally the most cost-effective. These practices are best developed by growers, handlers, processors, and others in the supply chain with specific knowledge of the risks, diversity of operations in the industry, and feasibility of potential mitigation strategies.In a Romney Administration, the FDA will work closely with industry, and collaborate with researchers and state agencies, to develop specific guidance for the commodities most often associated with food-borne illness outbreaks. With advanced research and continued scientific breakthroughs, state-of-the-art monitoring, and a collaborative instead of combative relationship between regulators and businesses, America’s food system will continue to be the world’s best. 8. Fresh Water. Less than one percent of the world’s water is liquid fresh water, and scientific studies suggest that a majority of U.S. and global fresh water is now at risk because of increasing consumption, evaporation and pollution. What steps, if any, should the federal government take to secure clean, abundant fresh water for all Americans? Barack Obama: I am working to ensure the integrity of the water Americans rely on every day for drinking, swimming and fishing, and that support farming, recreation, tourism and economic growth. My Administration released a national clean water framework aimed at developing a comprehensive approach to protecting the health of America’s waters. Through partnerships with communities around the country, we are working to improve water quality, restore rivers and critical watersheds, and we are making headway in ensuring that our nation’s waters best serve its people.To help with water scarcity concerns in the West and elsewhere, I am supporting water conservation programs. My administration has awarded 92 grants to water conservation projects that will save enough water for an estimated 950,000 people. We are also working collaboratively with communities around the country on how to best manage freshwater resources in a changing climate, in order to ensure adequate water supplies and protect water quality.Having clean water isn’t enough if people don’t have access to it, which is why we are also working to improve access to clean water for rural American’s and border counties. Already, my administration has invested in 5,100 water and waste water community infrastructure projects to safeguard the health of 18 million rural residents and support 135,000 jobs. This past summer, we also streamlined the process to improve water quality along the US-Mexico border that previously didn’t have the right water facilities to ensure clean water.By working together, we can continue to build on these achievements and find more efficient ways to use the water available, conserve where we can, protect jobs, and secure safe drinking water for all Americans today and for years to come. Mitt Romney:America has made extraordinary environmental progress in recent decades thanks to the laws that protect our air and water. But while these laws have served us well, they have not been modernized in over twenty years and are now significantly out of date. Our communities and businesses must contend with excessively costly and inflexible approaches that impose unnecessary economic constraints and trigger inevitable litigation. The result is to delay progress that could be achieved, and to leave communities and natural resources worse instead of better off.I will modernize the federal laws and regulations governing water use to enable smarter, more collaborative, more flexible, and more cost-effective approaches that welcome state and local participation as partners and leaders. A combination of incentives, market-based programs, and cooperative conservation measures will improve the water quality of our lakes, rivers, streams and coastal environments. Through a renewed focus on research and technology in both the private and public sectors, America can meet the growing challenge of maintaining and improving the nation’s drinking water and sanitation infrastructure. 9. The Internet. The Internet plays a central role in both our economy and our society. What role, if any, should the federal government play in managing the Internet to ensure its robust social, scientific, and economic role? Barack Obama: A free and open Internet is essential component of American society and of the modern economy. I support legislation to protect intellectual property online, but any effort to combat online piracy must not reduce freedom of expression, increase cybersecurity risk, or undermine the dynamic, innovative global Internet. I also believe it is essential that we take steps to strengthen our cybersecurity and ensure that we are guarding against threats to our vital information systems and critical infrastructure, all while preserving Americans’ privacy, data confidentiality, and civil liberties and recognizing the civilian nature of cyberspace. Mitt Romney:It is not the role of any government to “manage” the Internet. The Internet has flourished precisely because government has so far refrained from regulating this dynamic and essential cornerstone of our economy. I would rely primarily on innovation and market forces, not bureaucrats, to shape the Internet and maximize its economic, social and scientific value.Thanks to the non-governmental multi-stakeholder model, the Internet is — and always has been — open to all ideas and lawful commerce as well as bountiful private investment. Unfortunately, President Obama has chosen to impose government as a central gatekeeper in the broadband economy. His policies interfere with the basic operation of the Internet, create uncertainty, and undermine investors and job creators.Specifically, the FCC’s “Net Neutrality” regulation represents an Obama campaign promise fulfilled on behalf of certain special interests, but ultimately a “solution” in search of a problem. The government has now interjected itself in how networks will be constructed and managed, picked winners and losers in the marketplace, and determined how consumers will receive access to tomorrow’s new applications and services. The Obama Administration’s overreaching has replaced innovators and investors with Washington bureaucrats.In addition to these domestic intrusions, there are also calls for increased international regulation of the Internet through the United Nations. I will oppose any effort to subject the Internet to an unaccountable, innovation-stifling international regulatory regime. Instead, I will clear away barriers to private investment and innovation and curtail needless regulation of the digital economy. 10. Ocean Health. Scientists estimate that 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are in serious decline, habitats like coral reefs are threatened, and large areas of ocean and coastlines are polluted. What role should the federal government play domestically and through foreign policy to protect the environmental health and economic vitality of the oceans? Barack Obama: I am committed to ensuring that our nation’s vast natural resources are used responsibly, and that we maintain healthy oceans and coasts. By establishing a National Ocean Policy, I made it a priority of the federal government to ensure a proactive approach to improving the conservation of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.We are directing additional funding to Gulf Coast restoration to bring back the fisheries and coastal ecosystems which are still recovering in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill. We kicked off the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades, which is targeting ecological problems such as invasive species, toxic hot spots, and pollution runoff. We are cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, establishing a “pollution diet” for the Bay that will help restore the natural habitat for fish and other wildlife. We have also invested over $1.4 billion in Everglades’ restoration, helping restore tens of thousands of acres which will serve as a sanctuary for native Florida plants and wildlife. We have created or enhanced more than 540 public coastal recreation areas, protected more than 54,000 acres of coastlines and restored over 5,200 acres of coastal habitat. We are also investing more in monitoring our fishing stock in coastal areas so we have the most accurate data possible on the health of our fisheries. These are significant steps that are helping us improve the health of our oceans and build more robust fisheries. Mitt Romney:The health of the world’s fisheries is of paramount economic and environmental importance to not only America but also the global community. Maintenance of those fisheries also represents a significant regulatory challenge, and is indeed often used as an archetypical illustration of a situation in which a market will not succeed without some form of governance. The question, though, is what form of governance should be employed: where are international agreements required, where is government regulation most appropriate, and where can the fishing industry itself serve as the best steward?The federal government has a vital role to play in conducting sound science and making the resulting data available. Not only federal agencies but also foreign and local governments, regional cooperatives, and industry associations should have access to the data to protect the health and vitality of the oceans and to adjust policy when necessary. A Romney Administration will safeguard the long-term health of fisheries, while welcoming input from the fishermen most affected at every step and seeking to accommodate the needs of these small businessmen wherever possible. 11. Science in Public Policy. We live in an era when science and technology affect every aspect of life and society, and so must be included in well-informed public policy decisions. How will you ensure that policy and regulatory decisions are fully informed by the best available scientific and technical information, and that the public is able to evaluate the basis of these policy decisions? Barack Obama: Whether it’s improving our health or harnessing clean energy, protecting our security or succeeding in the global economy, our future depends on reaffirming America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation. Our policies should be based on the best science available and developed with transparency and public participation.Soon after taking office, I directed the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to ensure that our policies reflect what science tells us without distortion or manipulation. We appointed scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology. I also have insisted that we be open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions.During my presidency, I have been working to improve transparency and public participation – for instance, by expanding public disclosure of pollution, compliance, and other regulatory information to more efficiently provide the public with information necessary to participate in key environmental decisions. Over the next four years, I will continue seeking new ways to make scientific information more transparent and readily available to the public.Only by ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda, making scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology, and including the public in our decision making process will we harness the power of science to achieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives. Mitt Romney:Sound science is crucial to good public policy and, as the question highlights, it is important not only to use sound science in the regulatory process but also to do so in a transparent manner that allows for public participation and evaluation. I will ensure that the best available scientific and technical information guides decision-making in my Administration, and avoid the manipulation of science for political gain.Unfortunately, President Obama has repeatedly manipulated technical data to support a regulatory agenda guided by politics rather than science. For example, his “Utility MACT” rule is purportedly aimed at reducing mercury pollution, yet the EPA estimates that the rule will cost $10 billion to reduce mercury pollution by only $6 million (with an “m”). This has not stopped the President from trumpeting the rule as “cost-effective” and “common sense,” while claiming it will “prevent thousands of premature deaths.” The trick? Making the rule so expensive that it will bankrupt the coal industry, and then claiming that the elimination of that industry (and its hundreds of thousands of jobs) would have significant benefits.In a Romney Administration, sound science will inform sound policy decisions, and the costs and benefits of regulations will be properly weighed in that process. I will pursue legislative reforms to ensure that regulators are always taking cost into account when they promulgate new rules. And I will establish a regulatory cap, so that agencies spend as much time repealing and streamlining outdated regulations as they spend imposing new ones. 12. Space. The United States is currently in a major discussion over our national goals in space. What should America’s space exploration and utilization goals be in the 21st century and what steps should the government take to help achieve them? Barack Obama: We’re fortunate to be part of a society that can reach beyond our planet and explore frontiers that were only imagined by our ancestors. I am committed to protecting these critical investments in science and technology and pursuing an ambitious new direction for NASA that lays the groundwork for a sustainable program of exploration and innovation.We have extended the life of the International Space Station, forwarding efforts to foster international cooperation in space, supporting the growth of America’s commercial space industry, and taking on our pressing scientific challenges while continuing the nation’s commitment to robust human space exploration, science, and aeronautics programs.From investing in research on advances in spaceflight technology, to expanding our commitment to an education system that prepares our students for space and science achievements, I am committed to strengthening the base for America’s next generation of spaceflight. No other country can match our capabilities in Earth observation from space. In robotic space exploration, too, nobody else comes close. And I intend to keep it that way.Two years ago I set a goal of sending humans farther into space than we have ever been — to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s. We will continue to operate the Space Station until at least 2020 and perhaps beyond. When our Orion deep space crew vehicle takes its first test flight in 2014, it will travel farther into space than any spacecraft designed for humans has flown in the 40 years since our astronauts returned from the moon. That is progress.
The recent landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars was a great leadership moment for our nation and a sign of the continued strength of NASA’s many programs in science, aeronautics and human spaceflight. It’s also important to remember that the $2.5 billion investment made in this project was not spent on Mars, but right here on Earth, supporting more than 7,000 jobs in at least 31 states.
My administration has put a big focus on improving science and technology, engineering and math education. And this is the kind of thing that inspires kids across the country. They’re telling their moms and dads they want to be part of a Mars mission — maybe even the first person to walk on Mars. That’s inspiring.
This exciting work will lead us to important new discoveries and take us to destinations we would have never visited.
Mitt Romney:The mission of the U.S. space program is to spur innovation through exploration of the heavens, inspire future generations, and protect our citizens and allies.
- Space is crucial to technological innovation. If we want to have a scientifically trained and competent workforce, we must demonstrate a long-term commitment to the pursuit of innovation and knowledge.
- Space is crucial to the global economy. From agriculture to air transportation, from natural resource management to financial management, it is almost impossible to imagine a world without the space capabilities we have today.
- Space is crucial to national security. U.S. and allied space capabilities provide a source of strategic advantage to military and intelligence functions that has no parallel.
- Space is crucial to America’s international standing. Independent access to space, the launch of satellites, and the travel of citizens to and from space continue to be seen as major technical achievements that convey not only America’s military and economic power, but also the power of American values. The success of private sector enterprises in achieving these objectives opens a new chapter in American leadership.
America has enjoyed a half-century of leadership in space, but now that leadership is eroding despite the hard work of American industry and government personnel. The current purpose and goals of the American space program are difficult to determine. With clear, decisive, and steadfast leadership, space can once again be an engine of technology and commerce. It can help to strengthen America’s entrepreneurial spirit and commercial competitiveness, launch new industries and new technologies, protect our security interests, and increase our knowledge.
Rebuilding NASA, restoring U.S. leadership, and creating new opportunities for space commerce will be hard work, but I will strive to rebuild an institution worthy of our aspirations and capable once again leading the world toward new frontiers. I will bring together all the stakeholders – from NASA and other civil agencies, from the full range of national security institutions, from our leading universities, and from commercial enterprises – to set goals, identify missions, and define the pathway forward.
Focusing NASA. A strong and successful NASA does not require more funding, it needs clearer priorities. I will ensure that NASA has practical and sustainable missions. There will be a balance of pragmatic and top-priority science with inspirational and groundbreaking exploration programs.
Partnering Internationally. Part of leadership is also engaging and working with our allies and the international community. I will be clear about the nation’s space objectives and will invite friends and allies to cooperate with America in achieving mutually beneficial goals.
Strengthening Security. Space-based information capabilities are the central nervous system of the U.S. national security community. If America is to remain strong as a nation, the national security space programs must remain strong and sustainable. I am committed to a robust national security space program and I will direct the development of capabilities that defend and increase the resilience of space assets. I will also direct the development of capabilities that will deter adversaries seeking to damage or destroy the space capabilities of the U.S. and its allies.
Revitalizing Industry. A strong aerospace industry must be able to compete for and win business in foreign markets. I will work to ease trade limitations, as appropriate, on foreign sales of U.S. space goods and will work to expand access to new markets.
13. Critical Natural Resources. Supply shortages of natural resources affect economic growth, quality of life, and national security; for example China currently produces 97% of rare earth elements needed for advanced electronics. What steps should the federal government take to ensure the quality and availability of critical natural resources? Barack Obama: Rare earth elements and other critical minerals are used by American manufacturers to make high-tech products like the advanced batteries that power everything from hybrid cars to cell phones. My support for the development alternatives to rare earth materials is helping to ensure we have the materials necessary to propel our high-technology economy forward.Being able to manufacture competitive products in America is too important for us to stand by and do nothing. We’ve got to take control of our energy future, and we can’t let the energy industry take root in other countries because they are allowed to break the rules. That’s why we have joined with Japan and some of our European allies to bring a trade case against China for imposing restrictions on their exports of rare earth materials.Part of our strategy is also to use the natural resources we have more efficiently, so we are less reliant on other countries in the first place. To achieve that, I have invested in a series of innovative projects to decrease our reliance on rare earth material and unveiled a federal strategy to promote U.S.-based electronics recycling to keep American manufactures competitive. We are also launching a new, multidisciplinary energy innovation research “hub” to advance our leadership in manufacturing products that rely on rare earth materials and other critical materials. The hub — which will bring together scientists, materials specialists, and others – will aim to develop efficiencies and alternatives that reduce the amount of rare earths that we need as well as develop strategies to ensure that we have a reliable supply of rare earths and other critical materials going forward. Mitt Romney:The United States was once self-sufficient in its production of critical natural resources like rare-earth minerals. But a decline in production, driven more by regulation than by economics or scarcity, has left the nation reliant on imports. The key to guaranteeing the quality and availability of these resources is a modernized regulatory regime that protects the environment while providing access to the inputs that our economy requires to grow and thrive.Energy provides a good example. Reliance on foreign oil imports has long been seen as an insurmountable challenge but, as noted above, extraordinary technological breakthroughs in the private sector have placed America at the edge of an energy revolution that has the potential to dramatically expand domestic production and achieve energy independence on the continent by the end of the decade. The federal government must open greater access to federal lands, and adopt streamlined regulatory processes that encourage rather than stifle resource development.As the first element of my plan for energy independence, I have proposed giving states authority to manage the development of energy resources within their borders, including on federal lands. States have crafted highly efficient and effective permitting and regulatory programs that address state-specific needs. For instance, while the federal government takes an average of 307 days to permit the drilling of an oil well on federal land, the state of North Dakota can permit a project in ten days. Colorado does it in twenty-seven. Nor do these processes pose any greater environmental risks. To the contrary, from oil and gas and coal to wind and solar and biofuels, states are far better able to develop, adopt, and enforce regulations based on their unique resources, geology, and local concerns.By adopting creative approaches like these to the development of all the nation’s resources, America can benefit fully from its extraordinary natural endowments. 14. Vaccination and public health. Vaccination campaigns against preventable diseases such as measles, polio and whooping cough depend on widespread participation to be effective, but in some communities vaccination rates have fallen off sharply. What actions would you support to enforce vaccinations in the interest of public health, and in what circumstances should exemptions be allowed? Barack Obama: Today, there are too many Americans who do not get the preventive health care services they need to stay healthy. Many people put off preventive care because the deductibles and copays are too expensive. That’s why I fought for the Affordable Care Act, which will make sure all Americans have access to quality preventive health care services. Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans can now get vital preventive services – including the full suite of routine vaccines recommend by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices – with no co-pay or deductible. The health care law also created the Prevention and Public Health Fund, an investment in promoting wellness, preventing disease, and investing in public health infrastructure across the country. It will help us transform our health care system from a focus on sickness and disease to a focus on prevention and wellness. The law also proves authority to states to purchase adult vaccines with state funds at federally-negotiated prices, supporting state vaccination programs. Ultimately, I believe the health care law is a significant step forward in ensuring that every American has access to the preventive care and immunizations that they need to stay healthy. Mitt Romney:The first priority must be to ensure that America has adequate supplies of safe and effective vaccines. Making vaccines requires complex facilities and highly skilled workers, which means that America must continue to strengthen its advanced manufacturing capabilities.Second, preventing outbreaks of these diseases also requires that these vaccines are used effectively. The vaccines only work to prevent outbreaks when a sufficient number of people are protected from the diseases and thus able to stop a bug from spreading from one person to the next, which means that the vast majority of Americans need to take steps to receive vaccinations.Finally, America must have a robust research and development enterprise capable of constantly improving on the tools available to prevent these diseases. That means taking steps to ensure that America remains the most attractive place to develop and commercialize innovative, life-saving products like vaccines. The issue of medical innovation has arisen at several points throughout this survey, underscoring its importance to America’s scientific and economic leadership in the coming years. America has historically dominated the field, but uncompetitive policies in areas ranging from taxation to regulation to trade and human capital are threatening that leadership. Recent years have seen an unprecedented exodus of investment from the United States to more innovation-friendly markets. My innovation agenda, detailed above, is aimed at reversing that tide.
There you go. Information on which you can base your decision to vote.
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I’m perplexed by people like Lou Pritchett, who claimed not to know who Barack Obama was after the last presidential election, or like Dinesh D’Souza, who make up fantastic webs of stories about how President Obama is Auric Goldfinger, the Brain and Lex Luthor rolled into one, based on less than gossamer.
One can read Obama’s books. One can read the stories about him by people who know him. One can read stories by good journalists who write about people in high office.
I’m fascinated with the profile of Obama in the current issue of Vanity Fair, by Michael Lewis, “Obama’s Way.” It lends insights on leadership, foreign policy, and how a celebrity or high office holder (or both) can work to stay grounded and do a good job.
To someone who has staffed government agencies, and worked for elected and appointed officials, Lewis’s profile tells a lot in just a few words.
One summer morning I met him outside the private elevator that brings him down from the residence. His morning commute, of roughly 70 yards, started in the ground-floor center hall, and continued past a pair of oil paintings, of Rosalynn Carter and Betty Ford, and through two sets of double doors, guarded by a Secret Service officer. After a short walk along a back porch, guarded by several other men in black, he passed through a set of French doors into the reception area outside the Oval Office. His secretary, Anita, was already at her desk. Anita, he explained, has been with him since he campaigned for the Senate, back in 2004. As political attachments go, eight years isn’t a long time; in his case, it counts as forever. Eight years ago he could have taken a group tour of the White House and no one would have recognized him.
Passing Anita, the president walked into the Oval Office. “When I’m in Washington I spend half my time in this place,” he said. “It’s surprisingly comfortable.” During the week he is never alone in the office, but on weekends he can come down and have the place to himself. The first time Obama set foot in this room was right after he’d been elected, to pay a call on George Bush. The second time was the first day he arrived for work—and the first thing he did was call in several junior people who had been with him since long before anyone cared who he was so they might see how it felt to sit in the Oval Office. “Let’s just stay normal,” he said to them.
You should read the article. And pass it on. Get the print version, secretly run a few copies and pass them around to your friends and people you go to church with, or your poker buddies, or the other professors in the biology department. What do they think of the story?
Stick to the facts, in other words. Make your own decisions on good information.
Lou Pritchett? You still out in the wilderness? Read this.
“Let’s just stay normal.”
President Barack Obama spoke at Fort Bliss, Texas, On August 31, 2012:
Description from the White House:
On the two-year anniversary of the end of our combat mission in Iraq, the President speak to troops at Fort Bliss, and discusses that part of ending wars responsibly demands standing by those who have served. August 31, 2012.
Republicans have to argue with an empty chair. They wouldn't stand a chance trying to argue with this one. http://t.co/5DaBkdlK—
Luke Adams (@luketadams) August 31, 2012
Turns out this chair is occupied.
Tip of the old scrub brush to Luke Adams and Twitter, and to Clint Eastwood.
Also, I’ll wager that photo should have got a credit line to one of the White House photographers, probably Pete Souza.
Someone with a handle LLORT3 maybe put it concisely: “We need healthcare, not wealthcare.”
The lines for the election seem to me to very well drawn: Back to the Gilded Age, or on to the 21st century.
What do you think? Did Romney just double down on a Marie Antoinette economy? Will more than 20% of Americans vote to screw the middle class like that?