[House Document 112-51]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]




112th Congress, 1st Session - - - - - - - - - - - - - House Document
112-51
 
        PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS BEFORE A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS

                               __________

                                MESSAGE

                                  from

                     THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

                              transmitting

       AN ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT TO A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS




  September 9, 2011.--Message and accompanying papers referred to the 
 Committee on the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to 
                               be printed
To the Congress of the United States:
    Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and 
fellow Americans:
    Tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We 
continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of 
our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that has made 
things worse.
    This past week, reporters have been asking ``What will this 
speech mean for the President? What will it mean for Congress? 
How will it affect their polls, and the next election?''
    But the millions of Americans who are watching right now: 
they don't care about politics. They have real life concerns. 
Many have spent months looking for work. Others are doing their 
best just to scrape by--giving up nights out with the family to 
save on gas or make the mortgage; postponing retirement to send 
a kid to college.
    These men and women grew up with faith in an America where 
hard work and responsibility paid off. They believed in a 
country where everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair 
share--where if you stepped up, did your job, and were loyal to 
your company, that loyalty would be rewarded with a decent 
salary and good benefits; maybe a raise once in awhile. If you 
did the right thing, you could make it in America.
    But for decades now, Americans have watched that compact 
erode. They have seen the deck too often stacked against them. 
And they know that Washington hasn't always put their interests 
first.
    The people of this country work hard to meet their 
responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we'll meet 
ours. The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing 
national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually 
do something to help the economy; whether we can restore some 
of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since 
our beginning.
    Those of us here tonight can't solve all of our nation's 
woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by 
Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can 
help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take 
right now to improve people's lives.
    I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass 
right away. It's called the American Jobs Act. There should be 
nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. 
Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been 
supported by both Democrats and Republicans--including many who 
sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. 
Everything.
    The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more 
people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who 
are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, 
more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs 
for the long-term unemployed. It will provide a tax break for 
companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes 
in half for every working American and every small business. It 
will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give 
companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will 
be customers for their products and services. You should pass 
this jobs plan right away.
    Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most 
new jobs begin. And you know that while corporate profits have 
come roaring back, smaller companies haven't. So for everyone 
who speaks so passionately about making life easier for ``job 
creators,'' this plan is for you.
    Pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small 
businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or raise 
workers' wages. Pass this jobs bill, and all small business 
owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. 
If you have 50 employees making an average salary, that's an 
$80,000 tax cut. And all businesses will be able to continue 
writing off the investments they make in 2012.
    It's not just Democrats who have supported this kind of 
proposal. Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same 
payroll tax cut that's in this plan. You should pass it right 
away.
    Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work 
rebuilding America. Everyone here knows that we have badly 
decaying roads and bridges all over this country. Our highways 
are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in 
the world.
    This is inexcusable. Building a world-class transportation 
system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now 
we're going to sit back and watch China build newer airports 
and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed 
construction workers could build them right here in America?
    There are private construction companies all across America 
just waiting to get to work. There's a bridge that needs repair 
between Ohio and Kentucky that's on one of the busiest trucking 
routes in North America. A public transit project in Houston 
that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in 
the country. And there are schools throughout this country that 
desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do 
their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is 
America. Every child deserves a great school--and we can give 
it to them, if we act now.
    The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 
35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing 
roofs and windows; installing science labs and high-speed 
internet in classrooms all across this country. It will 
rehabilitate homes and businesses in communities hit hardest by 
foreclosures. It will jumpstart thousands of transportation 
projects across the country. And to make sure the money is 
properly spent and for good purposes, we're building on reforms 
we've already put in place. No more earmarks. No more 
boondoggles. No more bridges to nowhere. We're cutting the red 
tape that prevents some of these projects from getting started 
as quickly as possible. And we'll set up an independent fund to 
attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: 
how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it 
would do for the economy.
    This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican 
and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in 
construction is supported by America's largest business 
organization and America's largest labor organization. It's the 
kind of proposal that's been supported in the past by Democrats 
and Republicans alike. You should pass it right away.
    Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every 
state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged 
with preparing our children for a world where the competition 
has never been tougher. But while they're adding teachers in 
places like South Korea, we're laying them off in droves. It's 
unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it 
has to stop. Pass this jobs bill, and put our teachers back in 
the classroom where they belong.
    Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get extra tax 
credits if they hire America's veterans. We ask these men and 
women to leave their careers, leave their families, and risk 
their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they 
should have to do is fight for a job when they come home.
    Pass this bill, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged 
young people will have the hope and dignity of a summer job 
next year. And their parents, low-income Americans who 
desperately want to work, will have more ladders out of 
poverty.
    Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get a $4,000 tax 
credit if they hire anyone who has spent more than six months 
looking for a job. We have to do more to help the long-term 
unemployed in their search for work. This jobs plan builds on a 
program in Georgia that several Republican leaders have 
highlighted, where people who collect unemployment insurance 
participate in temporary work as a way to build their skills 
while they look for a permanent job. The plan also extends 
unemployment insurance for another year. If the millions of 
unemployed Americans stopped getting this insurance, and 
stopped using that money for basic necessities, it would be a 
devastating blow to this economy. Democrats and Republicans in 
this Chamber have supported unemployment insurance plenty of 
times in the past. At this time of prolonged hardship, you 
should pass it again--right away.
    Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will 
get a fifteen hundred dollar tax cut next year. Fifteen hundred 
dollars that would have been taken out of your paycheck will go 
right into your pocket. This expands on the tax cut that 
Democrats and Republicans already passed for this year. If we 
allow that tax cut to expire--if we refuse to act--middle-class 
families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible 
time. We cannot let that happen. I know some of you have sworn 
oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you 
live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise 
middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill 
right away.
    This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for 
construction workers, teachers, veterans, first responders, 
young people and the long-term unemployed. It will provide tax 
credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief for 
small business owners, and tax cuts for the middle-class. And 
here's the other thing I want the American people to know: the 
American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid 
for. And here's how:
    The agreement we passed in July will cut government 
spending by about $1 trillion over the next ten years. It also 
charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 
trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I'm asking you to 
increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the 
American Jobs Act. And a week from Monday, I'll be releasing a 
more ambitious deficit plan--a plan that will not only allow us 
to boost jobs and growth in the short-term, but stabilize our 
debt in the long run.
    This approach is basically the one I've been advocating for 
months. In addition to the trillion dollars of spending cuts 
I've already signed into law, it's a balanced plan that would 
reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts; by 
making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare 
and Medicaid; and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks 
the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their 
fair share. What's more, the spending cuts wouldn't happen so 
abruptly that they'd be a drag on our economy, or prevent us 
from helping small business and middle-class families get back 
on their feet right away.
    Now, I realize there are some in my party who don't think 
we should make any changes at all to Medicare and Medicaid, and 
I understand their concerns. But here's the truth. Millions of 
Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement. And millions 
more will do so in the future. They pay for this benefit during 
their working years. They earn it. But with an aging population 
and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to 
sustain the program. And if we don't gradually reform the 
system while protecting current beneficiaries, it won't be 
there when future retirees need it. We have to reform Medicare 
to strengthen it.
    I'm also well aware that there are many Republicans who 
don't believe we should raise taxes on those who are most 
fortunate and can best afford it. But here is what every 
American knows. While most people in this country struggle to 
make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and 
corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else 
gets. Right now, Warren Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his 
secretary--an outrage he has asked us to fix. We need a tax 
code where everyone gets a fair shake, and everybody pays their 
fair share. And I believe the vast majority of wealthy 
Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that, if it helps the 
economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.
    I'll also offer ideas to reform a corporate tax code that 
stands as a monument to special interest influence in 
Washington. By eliminating pages of loopholes and deductions, 
we can lower one of the highest corporate tax rates in the 
world. Our tax code shouldn't give an advantage to companies 
that can afford the best-connected lobbyists. It should give an 
advantage to companies that invest and create jobs here in 
America.
    So we can reduce this deficit, pay down our debt, and pay 
for this jobs plan in the process. But in order to do this, we 
have to decide what our priorities are. We have to ask 
ourselves, ``What's the best way to grow the economy and create 
jobs?''
    Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should 
we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit 
when they hire new workers? Because we can't afford to do both. 
Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or 
should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate 
ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can't afford to 
do both.
    This isn't political grandstanding. This isn't class 
warfare. This is simple math. These are real choices that we 
have to make. And I'm pretty sure I know what most Americans 
would choose. It's not even close. And it's time for us to do 
what's right for our future.
    The American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create 
jobs right away. But we can't stop there. As I've argued since 
I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate 
crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the 
future--an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that 
pay well and offer security. We now live in a world where 
technology has made it possible for companies to take their 
business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here 
and hire here, we have to be able to out-build, out-educate, 
and out-innovate every other country on Earth.
    This task, of making America more competitive for the long 
haul, is a job for all of us. For government and for private 
companies. For states and for local communities--and for every 
American citizen. All of us will have to up our game. All of us 
will have to change the way we do business.
    My administration can and will take some steps to improve 
our competitiveness on our own. For example, if you're a small 
business owner who has a contract with the federal government, 
we're going to make sure you get paid a lot faster than you do 
now. We're also planning to cut away the red tape that prevents 
too many rapidly-growing start-up companies from raising 
capital and going public. And to help responsible homeowners, 
we're going to work with Federal housing agencies to help more 
people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now 
near 4%--a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a 
family's pocket, and give a lift to an economy still burdened 
by the drop in housing prices.
    Other steps will require Congressional action. Today you 
passed reform that will speed up the outdated patent process, 
so that entrepreneurs can turn a new idea into a new business 
as quickly as possible. That's the kind of action we need. Now 
it's time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements 
that would make it easier for American companies to sell their 
products in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea--while also 
helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global 
competition. If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to 
see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and 
Chryslers. I want to see more products sold around the world 
stamped with three proud words: ``Made in America.''
    And on all of our efforts to strengthen competitiveness, we 
need to look for ways to work side-by-side with America's 
businesses. That's why I've brought together a Jobs Council of 
leaders from different industries who are developing a wide 
range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs.
    Already, we've mobilized business leaders to train 10,000 
American engineers a year, by providing company internships and 
training. Other businesses are covering tuition for workers who 
learn new skills at community colleges. And we're going to make 
sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in 
China or Europe, but right here, in the United States of 
America. If we provide the right incentives and support--and if 
we make sure our trading partners play by the rules--we can be 
the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to 
advanced biofuels to semiconductors that are sold all over the 
world. That's how America can be number one again. That's how 
America will be number one again.
    Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on 
how to grow the economy. Some of you sincerely believe that the 
only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most 
government spending and eliminate most government regulations.
    Well, I agree that we can't afford wasteful spending, and I 
will continue to work with Congress to get rid of it. And I 
agree that there are some rules and regulations that put an 
unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least 
afford it. That's why I ordered a review of all government 
regulations. So far, we've identified over 500 reforms, which 
will save billions of dollars over the next few years. We 
should have no more regulation than the health, safety, and 
security of the American people require. Every rule should meet 
that common sense test.
    But what we can't do--what I won't do--is let this economic 
crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections 
that Americans have counted on for decades. I reject the idea 
that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and 
their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy 
to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees 
by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from 
being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health 
insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the 
idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to 
compete in a global economy. We shouldn't be in a race to the 
bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst 
pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. 
And I believe that's a race we can win.
    In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do 
to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund 
everyone's money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell 
everyone they're on their own--that's not who we are. That's 
not the story of America.
    Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and 
self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our 
workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine 
and envy of the world.
    But there has always been another thread running throughout 
our history--a belief that we are all connected; and that there 
are some things we can only do together, as a nation.
    We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our 
Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader 
who looked to the future--a Republican president who mobilized 
government to build the transcontinental railroad; launch the 
National Academy of Sciences; and set up the first land grant 
colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example 
he set.
    Ask yourselves--where would we be right now if the people 
who sat here before us decided not to build our highways and 
our bridges; our dams and our airports? What would this country 
be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high 
schools, or research universities, or community colleges? 
Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the 
opportunity to go to school because of the GI Bill. Where would 
we be if they hadn't had that chance?
    How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses 
decided not to support the basic research that led to the 
Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this 
be if this Chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare 
just because it violated some rigid idea about what government 
could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered 
as a result?
    No single individual built America on their own. We built 
it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, 
under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a 
nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with 
responsibilities to one another. Members of Congress, it is 
time for us to meet our responsibilities.
    Every proposal I've laid out tonight is the kind that's 
been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. Every 
proposal I've laid out tonight will be paid for. And every 
proposal is designed to meet the urgent needs of our people and 
our communities.
    I know there's been a lot of skepticism about whether the 
politics of the moment will allow us to pass this jobs plan--or 
any jobs plan. Already, we're seeing the same old press 
releases and tweets flying back and forth. Already, the media 
has proclaimed that it's impossible to bridge our differences. 
And maybe some of you have decided that those differences are 
so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box.
    But know this: the next election is fourteen months away. 
And the people who sent us here--the people who hired us to 
work for them--they don't have the luxury of waiting fourteen 
months. Some of them are living week to week; paycheck to 
paycheck; even day to day. They reed help, and they need it 
now.
    I don't pretend that this plan will solve all our problems. 
It shouldn't be, nor will it be, the last plan of action we 
propose. What's guided us from the start of this crisis hasn't 
been the search for a silver bullet. It's been a commitment to 
stay at it--to be persistent--to keep trying every new idea 
that works, and listen to every good proposal, no matter which 
party comes up with it.
    Regardless of the arguments we've had in the past, 
regardless of the arguments we'll have in the future, this plan 
is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. And I 
intend to take that Message to every corner of this country. I 
also ask every American who agrees to lift your voice and tell 
the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action 
now. Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option. 
Remind us that if we act as one nation, and one people, we have 
it within our power to meet this challenge.
    President Kennedy once said, ``Our problems are man-made--
therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as 
he wants.''
    These are difficult years for our country. But we are 
Americans. We are tougher than the times that we live in, and 
we are bigger

than our politics have been. So let's meet the moment. Let's 
get to work, and show the world once again why the United 
States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth. Thank 
you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of 
America.

                                                      Barack Obama.
    The White House, September 8, 2011.