[House Document 112-76]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]



112th Congress, 2d Session - - - - - - - - - - - - - House Document 112-76


 
        PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS BEFORE A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS

                               __________

                                MESSAGE

                                  from

                   THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

                              transmitting

            THE PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS BEFORE A JOINT SESSION 
                              OF CONGRESS






  January 25, 2012.--Message and accompanying papers referred to the 
 Committee of 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, 
distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
    Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed 
home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we 
offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more 
than a million of our fellow citizens fought--and several 
thousand gave their lives.
    We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes 
has made the United States safer and more respected around the 
world. For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans 
fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin 
Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda's top 
lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban's momentum has been 
broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.
    These achievements are a testament to the courage, 
selflessness, and teamwork of America's Armed Forces. At a time 
when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed 
all expectations. They're not consumed with personal ambition. 
They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the 
mission at hand. They work together.
    Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their 
example. Think about the America within our reach: A country 
that leads the world in educating its people. An America that 
attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-
paying jobs. A future where we're in control of our own energy, 
and our security and prosperity aren't so tied to unstable 
parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work 
pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.
    We can do this. I know we can, because we've done it 
before. At the end of World War II, when another generation of 
heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest 
economy and middle class the world has ever known. My 
grandfather, a veteran of Patton's Army, got the chance to go 
to college on the GI Bill. My grandmother, who worked on a 
bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out 
the best products on Earth.
    The two of them shared the optimism of a Nation that had 
triumphed over a Depression and fascism. They understood they 
were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a 
story of success that every American had a chance to share--the 
basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do 
well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to 
college, and put a little away for retirement.
    The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise 
alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more 
important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking 
number of people do really well, while a growing number of 
Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where 
everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and 
everyone plays by the same set of rules. What's at stake are 
not Democratic values or Republican values, but American 
values. We have to reclaim them.
    Let's remember how we got here. Long before the recession, 
jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology 
made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs 
obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never 
before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs 
that were growing, paychecks that weren't, and personal debt 
that kept piling up.
    In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that 
mortgages had been sold to people who couldn't afford or 
understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with 
other people's money. Regulators had looked the other way, or 
didn't have the authority to stop the bad behavior.
    It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our 
economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us 
with more debt, and left innocent, hard-working Americans 
holding the bag. In the six months before I took office, we 
lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four million 
before our policies were in full effect.
    Those are the facts. But so are these. In the last 22 
months, businesses have created more than three million jobs. 
Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American 
manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first 
time since the late 1990s. Together, we've agreed to cut the 
deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we've put in place new 
rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that 
never happens again.
    The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we've come 
too far to turn back now. As long as I'm President, I will work 
with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I 
intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any 
effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this 
economic crisis in the first place.
    No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by 
outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight, I 
want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a 
blueprint for an economy that's built to last--an economy built 
on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American 
workers, and a renewal of American values.
    This blueprint begins with American manufacturing.
    On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the 
verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a 
million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In 
exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers 
and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry 
to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top 
as the world's number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster 
in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing 
billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire 
industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.
    We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. 
And tonight, the American auto industry is back.
    What's happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. 
It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. We can't 
bring back every job that's left our shores. But right now, 
it's getting more expensive to do business in places like 
China. Meanwhile, America is more productive. A few weeks ago, 
the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense 
for him to bring jobs back home. Today, for the first time in 
fifteen years, Master Lock's unionized plant in Milwaukee is 
running at full capacity.
    So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring 
manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my 
message to business leaders is simple: ask yourselves what you 
can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country 
will do everything we can to help you succeed.
    We should start with our tax code. Right now, companies get 
tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, 
companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of 
the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and 
everyone knows it.
    So let's change it. First, if you're a business that wants 
to outsource jobs, you shouldn't get a tax deduction for doing 
it. That money should be used to cover moving expenses for 
companies like Master Lock that decide to bring jobs home.
    Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying 
its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. 
From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a 
basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards lowering 
taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here.
    Third, if you're an American manufacturer, you should get a 
bigger tax cut. If you're a high-tech manufacturer, we should 
double the tax deduction you get for making products here. And 
if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a 
factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, 
equipment, or training for new workers.
    My message is simple. It's time to stop rewarding 
businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding 
companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these 
tax reforms and I'll sign them right away.
    We're also making it easier for American businesses to sell 
products all over the world. Two years ago, I set a goal of 
doubling U.S. exports over five years. With the bipartisan 
trade agreements I signed into law, we are on track to meet 
that goal--ahead of schedule. Soon, there will be millions of 
new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia and South 
Korea. Soon, there will be new cars on the streets of Seoul 
imported from Detroit, and Toledo, and Chicago.
    I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for 
American products. And I will not stand by when our competitors 
don't play by the rules. We've brought trade cases against 
China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration--and 
it's made a difference. Over a thousand Americans are working 
today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires. But we need 
to do more. It's not right when another country lets our 
movies, music, and software be pirated. It's not fair when 
foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because 
they're heavily subsidized.
    Tonight, I'm announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement 
Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trade 
practices in countries like China. There will be more 
inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from 
crossing our borders. And this Congress should make sure that 
no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing 
when it comes to accessing finance or new markets like Russia. 
Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the 
playing field is level, I promise you--America will always win.
    I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in 
the United States, but can't find workers with the right 
skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice 
as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think 
about that--openings at a time when millions of Americans are 
looking for work.
    That's inexcusable. And we know how to fix it.
    Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was 
laid off from her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas 
turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with 
Central Piedmont Community College. The company helped the 
college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid 
Jackie's tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant.
    I want every American looking for work to have the same 
opportunity as Jackie did. Join me in a national commitment to 
train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly 
to a job. My Administration has already lined up more companies 
that want to help. Model partnerships between businesses like 
Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, 
Orlando and Louisville are up and running. Now you need to give 
more community colleges the resources they need to become 
community career centers--places that teach people skills that 
local businesses are looking for right now, from data 
management to high-tech manufacturing.
    And I want to cut through the maze of confusing training 
programs, so that from now on, people like Jackie have one 
program, one website, and one place to go for all the 
information and help they need. It's time to turn our 
unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people 
to work.
    These reforms will help people get jobs that are open 
today. But to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment 
to skills and education has to start earlier.
    For less than one percent of what our Nation spends on 
education each year, we've convinced nearly every State in the 
country to raise their standards for teaching and learning--the 
first time that's happened in a generation.
    But challenges remain. And we know how to solve them.
    At a time when other countries are doubling down on 
education, tight budgets have forced States to lay off 
thousands of teachers. We know a good teacher can increase the 
lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great 
teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who 
dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this chamber 
can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their 
lives. Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, 
sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies--
just to make a difference.
    Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending 
the status quo, let's offer schools a deal. Give them the 
resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best 
ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with 
creativity and passion, to stop teaching to the test, and to 
replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn.
    We also know that when students aren't allowed to walk away 
from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their 
diploma. So tonight, I call on every State to require that all 
students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 
eighteen.
    When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be 
the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in 
tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop 
the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. 
Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-
class families thousands of dollars. And give more young people 
the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the 
number of work-study jobs in the next five years.
    Of course, it's not enough for us to increase student aid. 
We can't just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we'll run 
out of money. States also need to do their part, by making 
higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And 
colleges and universities have to do their part by working to 
keep costs down. Recently, I spoke with a group of college 
presidents who've done just that. Some schools re-design 
courses to help students finish more quickly. Some use better 
technology. The point is, it's possible. So let me put colleges 
and universities on notice: if you can't stop tuition from 
going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. 
Higher education can't be a luxury--it's an economic imperative 
that every family in America should be able to afford.
    Let's also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, 
hardworking students in this country face another challenge: 
the fact that they aren't yet American citizens. Many were 
brought here as small children, are American through and 
through, yet they live every day with the threat of 
deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and 
science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, 
we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs 
somewhere else.
    That doesn't make sense.
    I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on 
illegal immigration. That's why my Administration has put more 
boots on the border than ever before. That's why there are 
fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.
    The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be 
working on comprehensive immigration reform right now. But if 
election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a 
comprehensive plan, let's at least agree to stop expelling 
responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new 
businesses, and defend this country. Send me a law that gives 
them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right 
away.
    You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage 
the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country. That 
means women should earn equal pay for equal work. It means we 
should support everyone who's willing to work; and every risk-
taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve 
Jobs.
    After all, innovation is what America has always been 
about. Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small 
businesses. So let's pass an agenda that helps them succeed. 
Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from 
getting the financing to grow. Expand tax relief to small 
businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs. Both 
parties agree on these ideas. So put them in a bill, and get it 
on my desk this year.
    Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the 
discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and 
universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer 
cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests 
for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don't gut these 
investments in our budget. Don't let other countries win the 
race for the future. Support the same kind of research and 
innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to 
new American jobs and new American industries.
    Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in 
American-made energy. Over the last three years, we've opened 
millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, 
I'm directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of 
our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, 
American oil production is the highest that it's been in eight 
years. That's right--eight years. Not only that--last year, we 
relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen 
years.
    But with only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, oil 
isn't enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above 
strategy that develops every available source of American 
energy--a strategy that's cleaner, cheaper, and full of new 
jobs.
    We have a supply of natural gas that can last America 
nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every 
possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe 
this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the 
decade. And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on 
public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will 
develop this resource without putting the health and safety of 
our citizens at risk.
    The development of natural gas will create jobs and power 
trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that 
we don't have to choose between our environment and our 
economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over 
the course of thirty years, that helped develop the 
technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale 
rock--reminding us that Government support is critical in 
helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.
    What's true for natural gas is true for clean energy. In 
three years, our partnership with the private sector has 
already positioned America to be the world's leading 
manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal 
investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And 
thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.
    When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making 
furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him 
a second chance. But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine 
manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory 
only made luxury yachts. Today, it's hiring workers like Bryan, 
who said, ``I'm proud to be working in the industry of the 
future.''
    Our experience with shale gas shows us that the payoffs on 
these public investments don't always come right away. Some 
technologies don't pan out; some companies fail. But I will not 
walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk 
away from workers like Bryan. I will not cede the wind or solar 
or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to 
make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies 
for a century. That's long enough. It's time to end the 
taxpayer giveaways to an industry that's rarely been more 
profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that's 
never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and 
create these jobs.
    We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The 
differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a 
comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there's no 
reason why Congress shouldn't at least set a clean energy 
standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you 
haven't acted. Well tonight, I will. I'm directing my 
Administration to allow the development of clean energy on 
enough public land to power three million homes. And I'm proud 
to announce that the Department of Defense, the world's largest 
consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to 
clean energy in history--with the Navy purchasing enough 
capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.
    Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less 
energy. So here's another proposal: help manufacturers 
eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses 
incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will 
be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will 
have less pollution, more manufacturing, and more jobs for 
construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates 
these jobs.
    Building this new energy future should be just one part of 
a broader agenda to repair America's infrastructure. So much of 
America needs to be rebuilt. We've got crumbling roads and 
bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy. An 
incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small 
business owner in rural America from selling her products all 
over the world.
    During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam 
and the Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected 
our States with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican 
administrations invested in great projects that benefited 
everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses 
that still use them today.
    In the next few weeks, I will sign an Executive Order 
clearing away the red tape that slows down too many 
construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. 
Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it 
to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-
building right here at home.
    There's never been a better time to build, especially since 
the construction industry was one of the hardest-hit when the 
housing bubble burst. Of course, construction workers weren't 
the only ones hurt. So were millions of innocent Americans 
who've seen their home values decline. And while Government 
can't fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners 
shouldn't have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit 
bottom to get some relief.
    That's why I'm sending this Congress a plan that gives 
every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a 
year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low 
interest rates. No more red tape. No more runaround from the 
banks. A small fee on the largest financial institutions will 
ensure that it won't add to the deficit, and will give banks 
that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of 
trust.
    Let's never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and 
play by the rules every day deserve a Government and a 
financial system that do the same. It's time to apply the same 
rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no 
copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility 
from everybody.
    We've all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to 
people who couldn't afford them, and buyers who knew they 
couldn't afford them. That's why we need smart regulations to 
prevent irresponsible behavior. Rules to prevent financial 
fraud, or toxic dumping, or faulty medical devices, don't 
destroy the free market. They make the free market work better.
    There is no question that some regulations are outdated, 
unnecessary, or too costly. In fact, I've approved fewer 
regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my 
Republican predecessor did in his. I've ordered every federal 
agency to eliminate rules that don't make sense. We're revising 
over 500 more, just a fraction of reforms that will save 
business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five 
years. We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have 
forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that 
they could contain a spill--because milk was somehow classified 
as an oil. With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying 
over spilled milk.
    I'm confident a farmer can contain a milk spill without a 
federal agency looking over his shoulder. But I will not back 
down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of 
oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago. I will not back 
down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution, or making 
sure that our food is safe and our water is clean. I will not 
go back to the days when health insurance companies had 
unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or 
charge women differently from men.
    And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was 
allowed to play by its own set of rules. The new rules we 
passed restore what should be any financial system's core 
purpose: getting funding to entrepreneurs with the best ideas, 
and getting loans to responsible families who want to buy a 
home, start a business, or send a kid to college.
    So if you're a big bank or financial institution, you are 
no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers' 
deposits. You're required to write out a ``living will'' that 
details exactly how you'll pay the bills if you fail--because 
the rest of us aren't bailing you out ever again. And if you're 
a mortgage lender or a payday lender or a credit card company, 
the days of signing people up for products they can't afford 
with confusing forms and deceptive practices are over. Today, 
American consumers finally have a watchdog in Richard Cordray 
with one job: to look out for them.
    We will also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly 
trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and 
protect people's investments. Some financial firms violate 
major anti-fraud laws because there's no real penalty for being 
a repeat offender. That's bad for consumers, and it's bad for 
the vast majority of bankers and financial service 
professionals who do the right thing. So pass legislation that 
makes the penalties for fraud count.
    And tonight, I am asking my Attorney General to create a 
special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys 
general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending 
and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing 
crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the 
law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on 
an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.
    A return to the American values of fair play and shared 
responsibility will help us protect our people and our economy. 
But it should also guide us as we look to pay down our debt and 
invest in our future.
    Right now, our most immediate priority is stopping a tax 
hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is 
still fragile. People cannot afford losing $40 out of each 
paycheck this year. There are plenty of ways to get this done. 
So let's agree right here, right now: No side issues. No drama. 
Pass the payroll tax cut without delay.
    When it comes to the deficit, we've already agreed to more 
than $2 trillion in cuts and savings. But we need to do more, 
and that means making choices. Right now, we're poised to spend 
nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary 
tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Right now, 
because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of 
all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-
class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax 
rate than his secretary.
    Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest 
Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything 
else--like education and medical research; a strong military 
and care for our veterans? Because if we're serious about 
paying down our debt, we can't do both.
    The American people know what the right choice is. So do I. 
As I told the Speaker this summer, I'm prepared to make more 
reforms that rein in the long term costs of Medicare and 
Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those 
programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors.
    But in return, we need to change our tax code so that 
people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay 
our fair share of taxes. Tax reform should follow the Buffett 
rule: if you make more than $1 million a year, you should not 
pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom 
Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing 
millionaires. In fact, if you're earning a million dollars a 
year, you shouldn't get special tax subsidies or deductions. On 
the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 
percent of American families, your taxes shouldn't go up. 
You're the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant 
wages. You're the ones who need relief.
    Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But 
asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary 
in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.
    We don't begrudge financial success in this country. We 
admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my 
fair share of taxes, it's not because they envy the rich. It's 
because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don't need 
and the country can't afford, it either adds to the deficit, or 
somebody else has to make up the difference--like a senior on a 
fixed income; or a student trying to get through school; or a 
family trying to make ends meet. That's not right. Americans 
know it's not right. They know that this generation's success 
is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility 
to each other, and to their country's future, and they know our 
way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of 
shared responsibility. That's how we'll reduce our deficit. 
That's an America built to last.
    I recognize that people watching tonight have differing 
views about taxes and debt; energy and health care. But no 
matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are 
thinking the same thing right now: nothing will get done this 
year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because 
Washington is broken.
    Can you blame them for feeling a little cynical?
    The greatest blow to confidence in our economy last year 
didn't come from events beyond our control. It came from a 
debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay 
its bills or not. Who benefited from that fiasco?
    I've talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main 
Street and Wall Street. But the divide between this city and 
the rest of the country is at least as bad--and it seems to get 
worse every year.
    Some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of 
money in politics. So together, let's take some steps to fix 
that. Send me a bill that bans insider trading by Members of 
Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow. Let's limit any elected 
official from owning stocks in industries they impact. Let's 
make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress 
can't lobby Congress, and vice versa--an idea that has 
bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.
    Some of what's broken has to do with the way Congress does 
its business these days. A simple majority is no longer enough 
to get anything--even routine business--passed through the 
Senate. Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now 
both parties should put an end to it. For starters, I ask the 
Senate to pass a rule that all judicial and public service 
nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.
    The executive branch also needs to change. Too often, it's 
inefficient, outdated and remote. That's why I've asked this 
Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal 
bureaucracy so that our Government is leaner, quicker, and more 
responsive to the needs of the American people.
    Finally, none of these reforms can happen unless we also 
lower the temperature in this town. We need to end the notion 
that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of 
mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid 
ideologies instead of building consensus around common sense 
ideas.
    I'm a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham 
Lincoln believed: that Government should do for people only 
what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more. That's 
why my education reform offers more competition, and more 
control for schools and States. That's why we're getting rid of 
regulations that don't work. That's why our health care law 
relies on a reformed private market, not a Government program.
    On the other hand, even my Republican friends who complain 
the most about Government spending have supported federally-
financed roads, and clean energy projects, and federal offices 
for the folks back home.
    The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective 
Government. And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest 
philosophical differences this year, we can make real progress. 
With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that 
help the economy grow. But I can do a whole lot more with your 
help. Because when we act together, there is nothing the United 
States of America can't achieve.
    That is the lesson we've learned from our actions abroad 
over the last few years.
    Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows 
against our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda 
operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can't 
escape the reach of the United States of America.
    From this position of strength, we've begun to wind down 
the war in Afghanistan. Ten thousand of our troops have come 
home. Twenty-three thousand more will leave by the end of this 
summer. This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we 
will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it 
is never again a source of attacks against America.
    As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed 
across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; 
from Sana'a to Tripoli. A year ago, Qadhafi was one of the 
world's longest-serving dictators--a murderer with American 
blood on his hands. Today, he is gone. And in Syria, I have no 
doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces 
of change can't be reversed, and that human dignity can't be 
denied.
    How this incredible transformation will end remains 
uncertain. But we have a huge stake in the outcome. And while 
it is ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their 
fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our 
own country so well. We will stand against violence and 
intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all 
human beings--men and women; Christians, Muslims and Jews. We 
will support policies that lead to strong and stable 
democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for 
liberty.
    And we will safeguard America's own security against those 
who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests. Look 
at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was 
once divided about how to deal with Iran's nuclear program now 
stands as one. The regime is more isolated than ever before; 
its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as 
they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not 
relent. Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent 
Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options 
off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution 
of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran 
changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the 
community of nations.
    The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the 
globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger 
than ever. Our ties to the Americas are deeper. Our iron-clad 
commitment to Israel's security has meant the closest military 
cooperation between our two countries in history. We've made it 
clear that America is a Pacific power, and a new beginning in 
Burma has lit a new hope. From the coalitions we've built to 
secure nuclear materials, to the missions we've led against 
hunger and disease; from the blows we've dealt to our enemies; 
to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back.
    Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that 
America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't 
know what they're talking about. That's not the message we get 
from leaders around the world, all of whom are eager to work 
with us. That's not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from 
Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than 
they've been in years. Yes, the world is changing; no, we can't 
control every event. But America remains the one indispensable 
nation in world affairs--and as long as I'm President, I intend 
to keep it that way.
    That's why, working with our military leaders, I have 
proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the 
finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a 
trillion dollars in our budget. To stay one step ahead of our 
adversaries, I have already sent this Congress legislation that 
will secure our country from the growing danger of 
cyberthreats.
    Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women 
in uniform who defend it. As they come home, we must serve them 
as well as they served us. That includes giving them the care 
and benefits they have earned--which is why we've increased 
annual VA spending every year I've been President. And it means 
enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our Nation.
    With the bipartisan support of this Congress, we are 
providing new tax credits to companies that hire vets. Michelle 
and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a 
pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families. And 
tonight, I'm proposing a Veterans Job Corps that will help our 
communities hire veterans as cops and firefighters, so that 
America is as strong as those who defend her.
    Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who've 
been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our 
troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn't matter if 
you're black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or 
liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you're marching 
into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the 
mission fails. When you're in the thick of the fight, you rise 
or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.
    One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL 
Team took with them on the mission to kill bin Laden. On it are 
each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be 
Republicans. But that doesn't matter. Just like it didn't 
matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob 
Gates--a man who was George Bush's defense secretary; and 
Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.
    All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought 
about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the 
young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn't 
deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, 
because every single member of that unit did their job--the 
pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the 
translator who kept others from entering the compound; the 
troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the 
SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission 
only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each 
other--because you can't charge up those stairs, into darkness 
and danger, unless you know that there's someone behind you, 
watching your back.
    So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I'm 
reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those fifty 
stars and those thirteen stripes. No one built this country on 
their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. 
This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation 
is great because we get each other's backs. And if we hold fast 
to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge 
too great; no mission too hard. As long as we're joined in 
common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our 
journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of 
our Union will always be strong.
    Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United 
States of America.

                                                      Barack Obama.
    The White House, January 24, 2012.