2012 State Of The Union Address

(applause) The President:
Thank you. Everybody, please be seated. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice
President, members of Congress, distinguished guests,
and fellow Americans: Last month, I went to Andrews
Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops
to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final,
proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of
our fellow citizens fought — and several thousand
gave their lives. We gather tonight knowing that
this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and
more respected around the world. (applause) For the first time
in nine years, there are no Americans
fighting in Iraq. (applause) For the first time
in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a
threat to this country. (cheering and applause) Most of al Qaeda’s top
lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum
has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan
have begun to come home. These achievements are a
testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork
of America’s Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our
institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed
with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over
their differences. They focus on the
mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish
if we followed their example. (applause) Think about the America
within our reach: A country that leads the
world in educating its people. An America that attracts a
new generation of high-tech manufacturing and
high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in
control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity
aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last,
where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded. We can do this. I know we can, because
we’ve done it before. At the end of World War II, when
another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they
built the strongest economy and middle class the
world has ever known. (applause) My grandfather, a
veteran of Patton’s Army, got the chance to go to
college on the GI Bill. My grandmother, who worked
on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce
that turned out the best products on Earth. The two of them shared the
optimism of a nation that had triumphed over a
depression and fascism. They understood they were
part of something larger; that they were contributing to
a story of success that every American had a
chance to share — the basic American promise
that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to
raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college,
and put a little away for retirement. The defining issue of our
time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a
country where a shrinking number of people do really well while
a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore
an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone
does their fair share, and everyone plays by
the same set of rules. (applause) What’s at stake aren’t
Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And we have to reclaim them. Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession,
jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made
businesses more efficient, but also made some
jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their
incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans
struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t,
and personal debt that kept piling up. In 2008, the house
of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had
been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets
and bonuses with other people’s money. Regulators had
looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority
to stop the bad behavior. It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our economy into
a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with
more debt, and left innocent, hardworking Americans
holding the bag. In the six months
before I took office, we lost nearly 4 million jobs. And we lost another 4 million
before our policies were in full effect. Those are the facts. But so are these: In
the last 22 months, businesses have created
more than 3 million jobs. (applause) Last year, they created
the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers
are hiring again, creating jobs for the first
time since the late 1990s. Together, we’ve agreed to
cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we’ve put in place new rules
to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like this
never happens again. (applause) The state of our Union
is getting stronger. And we’ve come too
far to turn back now. As long as I’m President, I will
work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight
obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to
return to the very same policies that brought on this economic
crisis in the first place. (cheering and applause) No, we will not go back to an
economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony
financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak
about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an
economy that’s built to last — an economy built on American
manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and
a renewal of American values. Now, this blueprint begins
with American manufacturing. On the day I took office, our
auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we
should let it die. With a million jobs at stake,
I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we
demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers
to settle their differences. We got the industry to
retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is
back on top as the world’s number-one automaker. (cheering and applause) Chrysler has grown faster in the
U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions
in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire
industry added nearly 160,000 jobs. We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American
auto industry is back. (applause) What’s happening in Detroit
can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland
and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. We can’t bring every job
back that’s left our shore. But right now, it’s getting
more expensive to do business in places like China. Meanwhile, America
is more productive. A few weeks ago, the CEO of
Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for
him to bring jobs back home. (applause) Today, for the first
time in 15 years, Master Lock’s unionized plant
in Milwaukee is running at full capacity. (applause) So we have a huge
opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my message to
business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can
do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will
do everything we can to help you succeed. (applause) We should start
with our tax code. Right now, companies get tax
breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose
to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax
rates in the world. It makes no sense,
and everyone knows it. So let’s change it. First, if you’re a business
that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax
deduction for doing it. (applause) That money should be used
to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock
that decide to bring jobs home. (applause) Second, no American company
should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes
by moving jobs and profits overseas. (applause) From now on, every multinational
company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go
towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay
here and hire here in America. (applause) Third, if you’re an
American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut. If you’re a high-tech
manufacturer, we should double the tax
deduction you get for making your products here. And if you want to relocate in a
community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should
get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training
for new workers. So my message — (applause) My message is simple. It is time to stop rewarding
businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding
companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and
I will sign them right away. (applause) We’re also making it easier
for American businesses to sell products all over the world. Two years ago, I set a goal
of doubling U.S. exports over five years. With the bipartisan trade
agreements we signed into law, we’re on track to meet that
goal ahead of schedule. (applause) And soon, there will be millions
of new customers for American goods in Panama,
Colombia, and South Korea. Soon, there will be new cars on
the streets of Seoul imported from Detroit, and
Toledo, and Chicago. (applause) I will go anywhere in the
world to open new markets for American products. And I will not stand by when
our competitors don’t play by the rules. We’ve brought trade cases
against China at nearly twice the rate as the last
administration — and it’s made a difference. (applause) Over a thousand Americans are
working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires. But we need to do more. It’s not right when another
country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated. It’s not fair when foreign
manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re
heavily subsidized. Tonight, I’m announcing the
creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with
investigating unfair trading practices in
countries like China. There will be more
inspections — (applause) There will be more inspections
to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders. And this Congress should make
sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American
manufacturing when it comes to accessing financing or
new markets like Russia. Our workers are the most
productive on Earth, and if the playing field
is level, I promise you — America will always win. (applause) I also hear from many business
leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find
workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science
and technology have twice as many openings as we have
workers who can do the job. Think about that — openings
at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work. It’s inexcusable. And we know how to fix it. Jackie Bray is a single mom from
North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas
turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership
with Central Piedmont Community College. The company helped the college
design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie’s tuition,
then hired her to help operate their plant. I want every American looking
for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did. Join me in a national commitment
to train 2 million Americans with skills that will
lead directly to a job. (applause) My administration has already
lined up more companies that want to help. Model partnerships between
businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places
like Charlotte, and Orlando, and Louisville are
up and running. Now you need to give more
community colleges the resources they need to become
community career centers — places that teach people skills
that businesses are looking for right now, from data management
to high-tech manufacturing. And I want to cut through the
maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on,
people like Jackie have one program, one website, and
one place to go for all the information and
help that they need. It is time to turn our
unemployment system into a reemployment system that
puts people to work. (applause) These reforms will help people
get jobs that are open today. But to prepare for
the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and
education has to start earlier. For less than 1% of what our
nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly
every state in the country to raise their standards for
teaching and learning — the first time that’s
happened in a generation. But challenges remain. And we know how to solve them. At a time when other countries
are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced
states to lay off thousands of teachers. We know a good teacher can
increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an
escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond
his circumstance. Every person in this chamber can
point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most teachers work
tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own
pocket for school supplies — just to make a difference. Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them,
or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to
keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. And in return, grant
schools flexibility: to teach with
creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test;
and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn. That’s a bargain worth making. (applause) We also know that when students
don’t walk away from their education, more of them walk
the stage to get their diploma. When students are not allowed
to drop out, they do better. So tonight, I am proposing that
every state — every state — requires that all students
stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18. (applause) When kids do graduate, the most
daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe
more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs
to stop the interest rates on student loans from
doubling in July. (applause) Extend the tuition tax credit we
started that saves millions of middle-class families
thousands of dollars, and give more young people the
chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number
of work-study jobs in the next five years. (applause) Of course, it’s not enough for
us to increase student aid. We can’t just keep subsidizing
skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need
to do their part, by making higher education
a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities
have to do their part by working to keep costs down. Recently, I spoke with a group
of college presidents who’ve done just that. Some schools redesign courses
to help students finish more quickly. Some use better technology. The point is, it’s possible. So let me put colleges and
universities on notice: If you can’t stop
tuition from going up, the funding you get from
taxpayers will go down. Higher education
can’t be a luxury — it is an economic imperative
that every family in America should be able to afford. Let’s also remember that
hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students
in this country face another challenge: the fact that they
aren’t yet American citizens. Many were brought here
as small children, are American
through and through, yet they live every day with
the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to
study business and science and engineering, but as soon
as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new
products and create new jobs somewhere else. That doesn’t make sense. I believe as strongly as
ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That’s why my administration
has put more boots on the border than ever before. That’s why there are fewer
illegal crossings than when I took office. The opponents of action
are out of excuses. We should be working on
comprehensive immigration reform right now. (cheering and applause) But if election-year politics
keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at
least agree to stop expelling responsible young people
who want to staff our labs, start new businesses,
defend this country. Send me a law that gives
them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away. (cheering and applause) You see, an economy built to
last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of
every person in this country. That means women should earn
equal pay for equal work. (cheering and applause) It means we should support
everyone who’s willing to work, and every risk-taker and
entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs. After all, innovation is what
America has always been about. Most new jobs are created in
start-ups and small businesses. So let’s pass an agenda
that helps them succeed. Tear down regulations that
prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the
financing to grow. Expand tax relief to small
businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs. Both parties agree
on these ideas. So put them in a bill, and
get it on my desk this year. (applause) Innovation also
demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking
place in our federally financed labs and universities could
lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave
healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops
and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don’t gut these
investments in our budget. Don’t let other countries
win the race for the future. Support the same kind of
research and innovation that led to the computer chip
and the Internet; to new American jobs and
new American industries. And nowhere is the promise
of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve
opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration,
and tonight, I’m directing my administration
to open more than 75% of our potential offshore
oil and gas resources. (applause) Right now — right now —
American oil production is the highest that it’s
been in eight years. That’s right — eight years. Not only that — last year, we
relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years. (applause) But with only 2% of the world’s
oil reserves, oil isn’t enough. This country needs an all-out,
all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available
source of American energy. (cheering and applause) A strategy that’s cleaner,
cheaper, and full of new jobs. We have a supply of natural gas
that can last America nearly 100 years. (applause) And my administration will take
every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will
support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies
that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the
chemicals they use. Because America will develop
this resource without putting the health and safety
of our citizens at risk. The development of natural
gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that
are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to
choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was
public research dollars, over the course of 30 years,
that helped develop the technologies to extract all this
natural gas out of shale rock — reminding us that government
support is critical in helping businesses get new energy
ideas off the ground. Now — (applause) What’s true for natural gas is
just as true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership
with the private sector has already positioned America to be
the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments,
renewable energy use has nearly doubled, and thousands
of Americans have jobs because of it. When Bryan Ritterby was laid off
from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at
55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx,
a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the
factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it’s hiring workers
like Bryan, who said, “I’m proud to be working in
the industry of the future.” Our experience with shale gas,
our experience with natural gas, shows us that the payoffs on
these public investments don’t always come right away. Some technologies don’t pan
out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from
the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away
from workers like Bryan. (applause) I will not cede the wind or
solar or battery industry to China or Germany because
we refuse to make the same commitment here. We’ve subsidized oil
companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer
giveaways to an industry that rarely has been more profitable,
and double-down on a clean energy industry that never
has been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits. Create these jobs. (applause) We can also spur energy
innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber
may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan
to fight climate change. But there’s no reason why
Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that
creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven’t acted. Well, tonight, I will. I’m directing my administration
to allow the development of clean energy on enough public
land to power 3 million homes. And I’m proud to announce that
the Department of Defense, working with us, the world’s
largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest
commitments to clean energy in history — with the Navy
purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a
million homes a year. (applause) Of course, the easiest way
to save money is to waste less energy. So here’s a proposal: Help
manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100
billion lower over the next decade, and America will
have less pollution, more manufacturing, more
jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that
creates these jobs. (applause) Building this new energy future
should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair
America’s infrastructure. So much of America
needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling
roads and bridges; a power grid that
wastes too much energy; an incomplete high-speed
broadband network that prevents a small business owner in
rural America from selling her products all over the world. During the Great Depression,
America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected
our states with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican
administrations invested in great projects that
benefited everybody, from the workers who built them
to the businesses that still use them today. In the next few weeks, I will
sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that
slows down too many construction projects. But you need to
fund these projects. Take the money we’re no
longer spending at war, use half of it to
pay down our debt, and use the rest to do
some nation-building right here at home. (cheering and applause) There’s never been a
better time to build, especially since the
construction industry was one of the hardest hit when the
housing bubble burst. Of course, construction
workers weren’t the only ones who were hurt. So were millions of innocent
Americans who’ve seen their home values decline. And while government can’t
fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners shouldn’t
have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit
bottom to get some relief. And that’s why I’m sending this
Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing
at historically low rates. No more red tape. No more runaround
from the banks. (applause) A small fee on the largest
financial institutions will ensure that it won’t add to
the deficit and will give those banks that were rescued by
taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust. (cheering and applause) Let’s never forget: Millions of
Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve
a government and a financial system that do the same. It’s time to apply the same
rules from top to bottom. No bailouts, no
handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last
insists on responsibility from everybody. We’ve all paid the price for
lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford
them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them. That’s why we need smart
regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior. (applause) Rules to prevent financial
fraud or toxic dumping or faulty medical devices — these
don’t destroy the free market. They make the free
market work better. There’s no question that some
regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly. In fact, I’ve approved fewer
regulations in the first three years of my presidency than
my Republican predecessor did in his. (applause) I’ve ordered every federal
agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense. We’ve already announced
over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them will
save business and citizens more than $10 billion over
the next five years. We got rid of one rule from 40
years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend
$10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill — because milk was somehow classified as an oil. With a rule like that, I
guess it was worth crying over spilled milk. (laughter and applause) Now, I’m confident a farmer can
contain a milk spill without a federal agency looking
over his shoulder. (applause) Absolutely. (applause) But I will not back down from
making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we
saw in the Gulf two years ago. (cheering and applause) I will not back down from
protecting our kids from mercury poisoning, or making sure
that our food is safe and our water is clean. I will not go back to the days
when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel
your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women
differently than men. (cheering and applause) And I will not go back to
the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by
its own set of rules. The new rules we passed restore
what should be any financial system’s core purpose: Getting funding to entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and getting
loans to responsible families who want to buy a home,
or start a business, or send their kids to college. So if you are a big bank
or financial institution, you’re no longer allowed to
make risky bets with your customers’ deposits. You’re required to write out
a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay
the bills if you fail — because the rest of us are not
bailing you out ever again. (applause) And if you’re a mortgage lender
or a payday lender or a credit card company, the days of
signing people up for products they can’t afford with confusing
forms and deceptive practices — those days are over. Today, American consumers
finally have a watchdog in Richard Cordray with one
job: To look out for them. (cheering and applause) We’ll also establish a Financial
Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on
large-scale fraud and protect people’s investments. Some financial firms violate
major anti-fraud laws because there’s no real penalty for
being a repeat offender. That’s bad for consumers, and
it’s bad for the vast majority of bankers and financial
service professionals who do the right thing. So pass legislation that makes
the penalties for fraud count. And tonight, I’m asking my
Attorney General to create a special unit of federal
prosecutors and leading state attorney general to expand our
investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky
mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold
accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance
to homeowners, and help turn the page on an
era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans. Now, a return to the American
values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect
our people and our economy. But it should also guide us as
we look to pay down our debt and invest in our future. Right now, our most immediate
priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working
Americans while the recovery is still fragile. (applause) People cannot afford losing $40
out of each paycheck this year. There are plenty of
ways to get this done. So let’s agree right here,
right now: No side issues. No drama. Pass the payroll tax
cut without delay. Let’s get it done. (applause) When it comes to the deficit,
we’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in
cuts and savings. But we need to do more, and
that means making choices. Right now, we’re poised to spend
nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary
tax break for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Right now, because of loopholes
and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires
pay lower tax rates than millions of
middle-class households. Right now, Warren Buffett
pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Do we want to keep
these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our
investments in everything else — like education
and medical research; a strong military and
care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious
about paying down our debt, we can’t do both. The American people know
what the right choice is. So do I. As I told the
Speaker this summer, I’m prepared to make more
reforms that rein in the long-term costs of
Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security,
so long as those programs remain a guarantee of
security for seniors. But in return, we need to change
our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot
of members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. (applause) Tax reform should
follow the Buffett Rule. If you make more than
$1 million a year, you should not pay
less than 30% in taxes. And my Republican friend
Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop
subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you’re earning
a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special
tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you
make under $250,000 a year, like 98% of American families,
your taxes shouldn’t go up. You’re the ones struggling with
rising costs and stagnant wages. (applause) You’re the ones who need relief. Now, you can call this
class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to
pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would
call that common sense. We don’t begrudge financial
success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks
like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because
they envy the rich. It’s because they understand
that when I get a tax break I don’t need and the
country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit,
or somebody else has to make up the difference — like a
senior on a fixed income, or a student trying
to get through school, or a family trying
to make ends meet. That’s not right. Americans know that’s not right. They know that this generation’s
success is only possible because past generations felt a
responsibility to each other, and to the future
of their country, and they know our way of life
will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared
responsibility. That’s how we’ll
reduce our deficit. That’s an America built to last. (applause) Now, I recognize that people
watching tonight have differing views about taxes and debt,
energy and health care. But no matter what
party they belong to, I bet most Americans are
thinking the same thing right about now: Nothing will get
done in Washington this year, or next year, or maybe
even the year after that, because Washington is broken. Can you blame them for
feeling a little cynical? The greatest blow to our
confidence in our economy last year didn’t come from
events beyond our control. It came from a debate in
Washington over whether the United States would
pay its bills or not. Who benefited from that fiasco? I’ve talked tonight about the
deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. But the divide between this city
and the rest of the country is at least as bad — and it
seems to get worse every year. Some of this has to do with the
corrosive influence of money in politics. So together, let’s take
some steps to fix that. Send me a bill that bans insider
trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow. (cheering and applause) Let’s limit any elected official
from owning stocks in industries they impact. Let’s make sure people who
bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby
Congress, and vice versa — an idea that has
bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington. Some of what’s broken has to do
with the way Congress does its business these days. A simple majority is no longer
enough to get anything — even routine business —
passed through the Senate. (applause) Neither party has been
blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should
put an end to it. (applause) For starters, I ask the Senate
to pass a simple rule that all judicial and public service
nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days. (applause) The executive branch
also needs to change. Too often, it’s inefficient,
outdated and remote. (applause) That’s why I’ve asked this
Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate
the federal bureaucracy, so that our government
is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the
needs of the American people. (applause) Finally, none of this can
happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town. We need to end the notion that
the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign
of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging
to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around
common-sense ideas. I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican
Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for
people only what they cannot do better by themselves,
and no more. (applause) That’s why my education reform
offers more competition, and more control for
schools and states. That’s why we’re getting rid
of regulations that don’t work. That’s why our health care law
relies on a reformed private market, not a
government program. On the other hand, even my
Republican friends who complain the most about government
spending have supported federally financed roads,
and clean energy projects, and federal offices for
the folks back home. The point is, we should
all want a smarter, more effective government. And while we may not be able to
bridge our biggest philosophical differences this year, we
can make real progress. With or without this Congress,
I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow. But I can do a whole
lot more with your help. Because when we act together,
there’s nothing the United States of America can’t achieve. (applause) That’s the lesson we’ve learned
from our actions abroad over the last few years. Ending the Iraq war has allowed
us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the al
Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they
can’t escape the reach of the United States of America. (applause) From this position of strength,
we’ve begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Ten thousand of our
troops have come home. Twenty-three thousand more will
leave by the end of this summer. This transition to Afghan
lead will continue, and we will build an enduring
partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never
again a source of attacks against America. (applause) As the tide of war recedes, a
wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North
Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; from Sana’a to Tripoli. A year ago, Qaddafi was one
of the world’s longest-serving dictators — a murderer with
American blood on his hands. Today, he is gone. And in Syria, I have no doubt
that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of
change cannot be reversed, and that human dignity
cannot be denied. (applause) How this incredible
transformation will end remains uncertain. But we have a huge
stake in the outcome. And while it’s ultimately up
to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will
advocate for those values that have served our own
country so well. We will stand against
violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and
dignity of all human beings — men and women; Christians,
Muslims and Jews. We will support policies that
lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets,
because tyranny is no match for liberty. And we will safeguard America’s
own security against those who threaten our citizens, our
friends, and our interests. Look at Iran. Through the power
of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided
about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program
now stands as one. The regime is more
isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced
with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk
their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent. Let there be no doubt: America
is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,
and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. (applause) But a peaceful resolution of
this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran
changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin
the community of nations. The renewal of American
leadership can be felt across the globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe
and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to the
Americas are deeper. Our ironclad commitment
— and I mean ironclad — to Israel’s security has meant
the closest military cooperation between our two
countries in history. (applause) We’ve made it clear that
America is a Pacific power, and a new beginning in
Burma has lit a new hope. From the coalitions we’ve built
to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we’ve led
against hunger and disease; from the blows we’ve
dealt to our enemies, to the enduring power of our
moral example, America is back. Anyone who tells you otherwise,
anyone who tells you that America is in decline or
that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what
they’re talking about. (cheering and applause) That’s not the message we get
from leaders around the world who are eager to work with us. That’s not how people
feel from Tokyo to Berlin, from Cape Town to Rio, where
opinions of America are higher than they’ve been in years. Yes, the world is changing. No, we can’t
control every event. But America remains the one
indispensable nation in world affairs — and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way. (applause) That’s why, working with
our military leaders, I’ve proposed a new defense
strategy that ensures we maintain the finest
military in the world, while saving nearly half a
trillion dollars in our budget. To stay one step ahead
of our adversaries, I’ve already sent this Congress
legislation that will secure our country from the growing
dangers of cyber-threats. (applause) Above all, our freedom endures
because of the men and women in uniform who defend it. (applause) As they come home, we
must serve them as well as they’ve served us. That includes giving them the
care and the benefits they have earned — which is why we’ve
increased annual VA spending every year I’ve been President. (applause) And it means enlisting our
veterans in the work of rebuilding our nation. With the bipartisan
support of this Congress, we’re providing new tax credits
to companies that hire vets. Michelle and Jill Biden have
worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of
135,000 jobs for veterans and their families. And tonight, I’m proposing a
Veterans Jobs Corps that will help our communities
hire veterans as cops and firefighters, so that America
is as strong as those who defend her. (applause) Which brings me back
to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent
here to serve can learn a thing or two from the
service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it
doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian, Latino, Native
American; conservative, liberal; rich, poor; gay, straight. When you’re marching
into battle, you look out for the person next
to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the
thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one
unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind. One of my proudest possessions
is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the
mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter
that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates
— a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary —
and Hillary Clinton — a woman who ran against
me for president. All that mattered that
day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in
the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit
for the mission. It only succeeded, he said,
because every single member of that unit did their job — the
pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the
translator who kept others from entering the compound; the
troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the
SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only
succeeded because every member of that unit trusted
each other — because you can’t
charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless
you know that there’s somebody behind you, watching your back. So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag,
I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those
50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this
country on their own. This nation is great because
we built it together. This nation is great
because we worked as a team. This nation is great because
we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that
truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too
great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined
in common purpose, as long as we maintain
our common resolve, our journey moves forward,
and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union
will always be strong. Thank you, God bless you, and
God bless the United States of America. (cheering and applause)

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