Saturday, February 28, 2009

Jindal's Strange Past of Spiritual Warfare

Wowsa. Hard right conservative republicans seem to have the devil in common. Sarah Palin participated in her own exorcism of sorts.

They like to draw hard and fast lines between good and evil, Us vs. Them.

Remember the hard time evangelicals gave Obama at Rick Warren's little get together when Warren asked if evil exists and what do we do about it?

McCain was applauded for his simplistic (simpleton) answer: "Defeat it." While Obama was more thoughtful. He talked about the evil in Darfur, child abuse and approaching evil with humility.

I guess good vs. evil makes it easy for them. Everything in their life falls into one of those categories, which could cause wingnuttery. 

Does the devil turn them into crazy republicans or does being a right winger make them believe in devil-y things? 
NYT: In 1994 Jindal penned a piece for the New Oxford Review, under the title “Beating a Demon: Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare,” in which he recounted what happened.

The account is straight out of the movies.

According to Jindal, Susan was a “charismatic Christian.” She had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Weeks before the diagnosis, one of her “closest friends from home” had committed suicide. She was hysterical and erratic (I wonder why), and started having “visions” and smelling like sulfur “which supposedly accompanies the devil.”

Everything came to a head at a prayer meeting organized for Susan. Here are some excerpts from Jindal’s article:

“Suddenly, Susan emitted some strange guttural sounds and fell to the floor. She started thrashing about, as if in some sort of seizure. Susan’s sister must have recognized what was happening, for she ordered us to gather around and place our hands on Susan’s prostrate body.”

“I tentatively ap proached the group and placed the edge of my finger tip on her shoulder … In a voice I had never heard before or since, Su san accused me: “Bobby, you cannot even love Susan.”

“The students, led by Susan’s sister and Louise, a member of a charismatic church, engaged in loud and desperate prayers while holding Susan with one hand. Kneeling on the ground, my friends were chanting, ‘Satan, I command you to leave this woman.’ Others exhorted all ‘demons to leave in the name of Christ.’” Check it out. 

The comments on Jindal's exorcism story in the NYT kept me entertained for quite some time. People come up with some funny stuff.

A Scary Debt to GDP Chart Suggests Depression

Former banker and professor David Beim says the real problem with the economy is that we over borrowed. I think we all realize that. He says that household debt is now 100% of gross domestic product (the measure of all of our goods and services). It's usually 50% of GDP. 
Some say GDP is over rated. But if we're going to listen to Beim, he says the only other time in history that was the case was 1929. Perhaps this is why banks aren't lending -- because there are few people left who are worthy of a loan. People are up to their eyeballs in debt.  
Planet Money: He has a chart illustrating how much debt American citizens owe, how much we all owe — with our mortgages and credit cards — compared with the economy as a whole. For most of American history, that consumer debt level represented less than 50 percent of the total U.S. economy, as measured by gross domestic product.

And then …

"From 2000 to 2008, it's almost a hockey stick. It just goes dramatically upward," Beim says. "It hits 100 percent of GDP. That is to say, currently, consumers owe $13 trillion when GDP is $13 trillion. That is a ton."

This has happened before. The chart shows two peaks when consumer debt levels equaled the GDP: One occurred in 2007, the other in 1929.

And that scares Beim.

"That chart is the most striking piece of evidence that I have that what is happening to us is something that goes way beyond toxic assets in banks. It's something that has little to do with the mechanics of mortgage securitization, or ethics on Wall Street, or anything else," Beim says. "It says: The problem is us. The problem is not the banks, greedy though they may be, overpaid though they may be. The problem is us."

We have overborrowed, Beim says: "We've been living very high on the hog. 
Beim also says that there is no solution that will punish only those who over borrowed. All of us will have to suffer. He says lending more money is not the answer but he doesn't suggest any solutions. Everyone predicts doom and gloom and throws tomatoes at Obama for his multi-pronged strategy, but no one actually presents a solution. At least the republicans are consistent -- tax breaks. I'm not sure that's the answer but it would be nice to live in a parallel world where we could try both. Beim does say that the federal government needs to buy up all of the banks' bad assets, sooner rather than later. It seems we all just need to get used to living without borrowing so much. If we need a car, we should save a big down payment or buy a used car. If we want a house, we should put down at least 20%. We should pay off our credit card balances every month. We shouldn't go back to the way it was. It would also be nice if the very wealthy (who really are the winners in terms of how little they will need to sacrifice compared to everyone else) would trickle down some of that money to their workforce instead of hording it in overseas bank accounts and paying exorbitant salaries to executives. Obama's "redistribution of wealth" (that's right all the Joe the Plumbers out there) should be a help in creating a more equitable tax system. Reforming healthcare and education will go a long way toward a more stable economy in the future. The stimulus should plug some holes. But who really knows what the answers are. I think the one thing we've learned is that there really is no such thing as an expert. 

These were the good ol' days when Lending Tree would lend you money to pay off your debt. I'll bet they made themselves a fortune for a while. 

Christina Romer Says Stimulus Will Stimulate

By April, we should see reduced taxes in our paychecks and states are now receiving stimulus money. The idea is for the stimulus to work simultaneously with the bank recovery. 

Washington Week Extra Feb. 28

The news of the week with Gwen Ifill:

It's Official: Kathleen Sebelius for Health and Human Services

I'd say Obama has a rather awesome cabinet.
There was buzz about Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius mid-February, now it's official.
MSNBC: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is President Barack Obama's choice for secretary of health and human services, NBC News has confirmed.

Obama will formally announce the nomination on Monday, a White House source said Saturday.

Obama's first choice for HHS, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, withdrew after disclosing he had failed to pay $140,000 in taxes and interest.
Sebelius was an early Obama supporter. Many thought she might be chosen for VP. Here is her bio.
Sebelius' views on healthcare issues. 

Sean Hannity's Favorite Whine Now Moot

Hannity, Rush and the rest of the small minded ilk have been whining about the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, saying that the "liberal machine" wants to get them off the air. Well, it was all for naught and it was all for theater, riling up listeners for no good reason other than to line their pockets with more money. When will listeners realize they're being played?
AP: The Senate voted Wednesday to bar federal regulators from reimposing a policy, abandoned two decades ago, that required balanced coverage of issues on public airwaves. The pre-emptive strike against the so-called Fairness Doctrine has been actively pushed by conservative radio talk show hosts who have warned that Democrats would seek to revive the policy to ensure that liberal opinions get equal time.
The 87-11 vote added the measure as an amendment to a bill giving District of Columbia residents a vote in the Houses.
Most Democrats voted along with the amendment, pushed by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., but said it was unneeded because President Barack Obama has stated he has no intention of reviving the Fairness Doctrine. They added that it is generally recognized that it is no longer relevant with the proliferation of television networks, some 14,000 AM-FM radio stations and the Internet.
Perhaps no one expresses Hannity's irrelevancy better than Lord Tantrum:
Raging Tantrum: You fear-mongering asshole! For months you’ve shrieked indignantly about the return of the “Fairness Doctrine”– despite NO INDICATION that it had ANY chance of passing. Barack Obama did not want to re-institute it. Most Democrats in Congress had no interest in bringing it back.

But you needed something to talk about. Far be it from you to paint your political opponents in anything but the worst possible light.

Your party got their butt kicked this election cycle because their policies failed. You didn’t have much to go on, so you started making things up.

We personally heard you say on your show a few weeks back that “they’ll have to tear the microphone out of my cold dead hands.”
The most meaningful way for Rush and Sean Hannity and the like to go off the air is for people to wise up and stop listening. 

Arne Duncan Wants Longer School Days

Educators worth their salt are dancing in the street. It's a wonder that kids get an education with all the holidays, the short school day, the teacher training days. Kids seem to go to school for about 10 days. An exaggeration but you get the idea.
CNN: Arne Duncan, the Cabinet secretary charged with overhauling America's educational system, is studying programs that keep kids in school longer to boost their academic achievements.

"When I go out and talk about that, that doesn't always make me popular with students. They like the long summers," Duncan said in an interview Wednesday with CNN conducted in the Education Department's library.

But Duncan said American students are "at a competitive disadvantage" because the United States has shorter school years than other countries such as India and China.

Republican Spin: Obama's Going to Bankrupt Charities

One of the ways Obama plans to fund healthcare is to cap itemized deductions, which would reduce the tax incentives for the wealthy to donate to charities. 
Republican Pete Hoekstra's tweet:
Philanthropy is one of the things that makes America unique and special!Why would Pres Obama try to reduce incentives for charitable giving?
Here's why: With his policies, Obama's trying to lift the poor and middle class so they don't have to depend so much on charity. Wouldn't it be nice if a charity could close its doors because it was no longer needed?
Life is not right when the poor are dependent on the kindness of the rich.
The U.S. has increasingly become a nation where the have-nots depend on their daily bread from the haves. As we've seen from some of the republican haves, lifting the poor is NOT a priority. They disdain the poor as wretches who don't work hard enough or long enough.
Also, are the rich merely giving to charities for the tax break? In some cases, the answer is probably yes. But in others, I'd bet that's not their reason for giving.
If it is, all the more reason we need to have policies, such as healthcare for all, which helps create more self sufficient people. One of the main reasons people file bankruptcy is they can't pay onerous medical expenses.
To Hoeksra, I'd add this: Charitable giving isn't meant to be a way for rick folk to pat themselves on the backs, or for rich people to get a tax break. Charities are set up to help people.

Obama Attends Washington Wizards Game

Obama watched last night. Today he played at the Department of Interior
Politico: Obama attends Washington Wizards basketball game last night as they pummel his Chicago Bulls – AP's Christine Simmons: 'Obama got a hearty welcome from Wizards fans when he arrived at the Verizon Center. Officials slightly delayed the game, waiting for his entrance. Once he entered, fans gave him a standing ovation and flashed their cameras. ...Obama sat courtside across the court from the Wizards in seats that are usually taken by season ticket holders.

'White House senior adviser David Axelrod chose his seat in another section right before Obama entered. Once the game was under way, Obama chatted much of the time with a Chicago friend, and shook hands with fans as they passed in front of him. He stayed in his courtside seat for most of the game, but he left with 47.8 seconds left in the first half to make a visit to Wizards owner Abe Pollin's suite. ... Obama got up to leave with just under 4 1/2 minutes left, not staying to endure the 113-90 final score of the winning Wizards. Obama had already welcomed the Bulls into town Thursday, when the team visited him at the White House and presented him with a jersey.' 
The Chicago Bulls lost:
Antawn Jamison scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead eight double-digit scorers, as the lowly Washington Wizards used a strong fourth quarter to hold on for a 113-90 win over the playoff-hopeful Chicago Bulls at Verizon Center.

The game was delayed three minutes as President Barack Obama made his entrance into the building to watch the game. Although Obama was cheering for his hometown Bulls, the fans applauded him as he made his way to his court-side seat.

"We wanted to perform well in front of the president," said Jamison. "The most important thing was getting the win." SN

Bankers Complain That They're Being Trashed

Hmmmm, wonder why they're being trashed?
Maybe because banks -- and it wasn't the toothpaste factory -- irresponsibly sold bad mortgages and brought the country to its knees. I think we can safely say that the banking industry as a whole is tragic. The shoe fits. Wear it.

I think we all understand that community banks aren't the culprit here. It's the Big Bankers with the capacity to do what they did. During Obama's speech to congress he heralded an exceptional banker, Leonard Abess, who split the profits from the sale of his bank with all of his employees.

With that, Obama said not all bankers are bad but the industry needs serious regulations because when tempted with fast, easy money, they'll take it without thinking twice about the consequences.

Unfortunately, for the banking industry, it has to suffer for its bad apples. Just like we have to suffer for the bad apples who bought into those mortgages the bankers sold -- the people who bought bigger houses than they could afford, the people who irresponsibly bought houses.
Politico: The American Bankers Association has a message for the president: Stop talking trash about banks.

In his unofficial State of the Union address Tuesday night, Barack Obama said that it's "unpopular ... to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions."

In a letter to the White House, ABA CEO Edward Yingling says bankers across the country were "disappointed and concerned" with rhetoric like that.

"Mr. President, of the over 8,000 banks in this country, very few ever made a single subprime loan, and they did not engage in the highly leveraged activities that brought down Wall Street firms," Yingling said.

Yingling referred the president to statements made by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the powerful chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, in which he said that the toxic mortgage lending that sparked the current crisis was done by mortgage brokers and others not subject to the strict rules that govern commercial banks.
If it wasn't for Barney Frank, who demanded money back from Northern Trust which took the bailout money and went partying, we wouldn't be getting $1.6 billion back. How many people's lives could actually be saved with $1.6 billion?

Obama's Weekly Address Feb. 28

2/28/09: Your Weekly Address from White House on Vimeo.
Read the transcript.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Obama Greets Marines at Camp Lejeune

I love this photo. 
Check out some comprehensive local video coverage here. Soldiers say they're glad that they have an end date.
If you missed the speech, it was one of his best, so check it out here. Here's what Obama's improving for the troops:
We also know that service does not end with the person wearing the uniform. In her visits with military families across the country, my wife Michelle has learned firsthand about the unique burden that your families endure every day. I want you to know this: military families are a top priority for Michelle and me, and they will be a top priority for my administration. We’ll raise military pay, and continue providing quality child-care, job-training for spouses, and expanded counseling and outreach to families that have known the separation and stress of war. We will also heed the lesson of history – that those who fight in battle can form the backbone of our middle class – by implementing a 21st century GI Bill to help our veterans live their dreams. Read the transcript

Britain's Greedy Banker Fred The Shred Goodwin

Fred the Shred refuses to give up his nearly $1 million (in U.S. dollars) a year pension after busting his bank that the taxpayers bailed out. Sound familiar. It looks like greedy bankers around the world conspired to make themselves rich.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown is going after his pension:
THE banker who presided over the biggest loss in British corporate history last night defiantly refused to give up his £693,000- a-year pension in the face of extraordinary pressure from the top level of Government.
Sir Fred Goodwin is blamed for the collapse of the once-mighty Royal Bank of Scotland, which yesterday posted a record annual loss of £24.1bn and again was forced to rely on massive taxpayer support to ensure survival.

But the 50-year-old former chief executive nicknamed Fred The Shred has written to the Treasury indicating he will not give up his £16m retirement package despite the threat of legal action from the Prime Minister.

Last night his staunch refusal to give up his £693,000-a-year Royal Bank of Scotland pension was branded "unfortunate and unacceptable" by City minister Lord Myners. Read more

Obama's Interview With Jim Lehrer

This interview took place today. Obama says he's invigorated by the challenges:

Obama responds to complaints from democrats on the Iraq withdrawal:

What's left to do in Iraq:

Newt Gingrich Speaks at Conservative Gathering

He enters the room to "Eye of the Tiger." His immediate target: Obama, Holder and the "left wing machine."
Gingrich goes hard after Eric Holder. He challenges Holder to a "dialogue." It's interesting how much conservatives have attacked Holder. He also belittled Nancy Pelosi. I'm not the biggest Pelosi fan but he shouldn't be belittling the Speaker of the House, especially since that was once what he used to do.
Remember, this is a man who had an affair after attacking Bill Clinton for having an affair. This is a man who was forced to resign for bad leadership.
It's not a fun video to stomach.
Fortunately, these folks have been largely marginalized because of their awful leadership and their bad behavior.

Michael Steele the Hip Hop RNCer

ABC conservative radio host and Guardian Angel founder, Curtis Sliwa interviewed Michael Steele, RNC chair, and made him look the fool:
Politico: On Meghan McCain (John McCain's daughter) saying Michael Steele's "hip-hop" strategy won't work

Michael Steele: I would think that she would understand what i meant when i used the term hip-hop. I wasn't talking literally the music industry -- Ludacris or Snoop Dog becoming Republicans. Look -- I'm not stupid I was born in DC on 8th Street. I know what's up. I know what time it is. I used to hang out in Brooklyn and in the Bronx as a teenager. I know what the real world is like.

On hip-hop strategy: Curtis tries to get Michael Steele "in the mood"

Curtis Sliwa: I gotta call for a little Jay-Z play to give you a little hand here -- so that you can go out with that (Jay-Z music playing).

Michael Steele: There you go, playa.
Steele was set up for this question, so it's surprising that he walked right into it:
SLIWA: Now, using a little bit of that street terminology, are you giving him any Slum love, Michael?

STEELE: (laughter)

SLIWA: Because he is — when guys look at him and young women look at him — they say oh, that's the slumdog millionaire, governor. So, give me some slum love.

STEELE: I love it. (inaudible) ... some slum love out to my buddy. Gov. Bobby Jindal is doing a friggin' awesome job in his state. He's really turned around on some core principles — like hey, government ought not be corrupt. The good stuff ... the easy stuff. Read more if you can stand it.
Who are the early GOP playas?
Swamp: Asked by Opinion Research Corp. and CNN to name the Republican whom they would be most likely to support in '12, Republicans lined up with:

-- Alaska Governor Sarah Palin: 29%
-- Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: 26%
-- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: 21%
-- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: 9%
-- Someone else: 10%
The republicans have a long, long way to go.

Stimulus Will Prop Up Economy Beginning in Second Quarter

Obama's Iraq Withdrawal Plan Gets Praise From Experts and Soldiers

Soldiers liked the fact that there were defined dates, a goal. They also liked the pay raise:


Gregg's Sketchy Business Dealings

Judd Gregg said he withdrew as commerce secretary because he had a change of heart. Turns out, he may not have made it through confirmation:
Swamp: Gregg steered federal tax dollars to his home state's redevelopment of a former Air Force Base even as he and his brother engaged in real estate deals on the property, the AP's Sharon Theimer reports -- also reporting that Gregg says the business dealings had nothing to do with his withdrawal from a Cabinet nomination. Read all of it.

Obama Speech at Camp Lejeune Feb. 27

I love the part where Obama tells them they're going to get a pay raise. Obama's announcement of a withdrawal date is brilliant. Here's why - it signals to Iraq that they need to do whatever it is they need to do to get up to speed.

Without a timetable, they don't have that sense. At the same time, Obama has shown that he will be flexible. If things change, he'll adapt.

Obama was kind enough to give a heads up to George Bush. Read about that here (the comments are funny).
I truly think this is one of Obama's best speeches:

Even John McCain is on board:

Iraq War Ends August 31 2010

Update: see the video announcement here.
CNN: "Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," Obama will say, according to the officials.

Congressional officials Thursday said the president told congressional leaders of his plan.

Under this plan, all combat troops will be withdrawn within 19 months of Obama's January inauguration, three months longer than his promise on the campaign trail.
Sounds like good news right?
But what is everyone complaining about? Obama's leaving behind 35,000 to 50,000 troops to do peaceful missions. They would be out by the end of 2011. And instead of being out in 16 months, we'll be out in 19 months.
Big whoop.
This is huge.
If George Bush were still in office, the war would go on endlessly. If McCain was our president, same thing.
I'll post video of the announcement, which will be live at 11:45 am eastern. Obama is headed to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina now. 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Michelle Obama Visits Environmental Protection Agency

MRS. OBAMA: Wow. (Applause.) What a crowd. (Applause.) No, look at you! (Laughter and applause.)

I am delighted to be here in this beautiful room with -- it's about a thousand of you all here. That's a good thing. (Applause.)

I want to thank Administrator Jackson for that kind introduction. With 16 years working here as one of your colleagues before moving to New Jersey and serving in its Department of Environmental Protection, Administrator Jackson is ideally suited to lead this department at this critical time for our nation and our planet. (Applause.) So Lisa, welcome home. (Applause.)

And to the hardworking men and women of the EPA: It's a new day. (Applause.) It's a new day. And the truth is, we can't wait one more minute. The recently signed recovery package includes billions of dollars for the EPA to continue to clean up our communities and improve the health of our fellow Americans. The time is now.

I've often spoken about my most important job –- being a mom –- and like mothers and fathers everywhere, the health and safety of our children is our top priority. This is what it is all about: the future.

And in many ways, it starts with all of you. You ensure that the water we drink is safe, that the air we breathe is clean, and that the polluted fields and abandoned factories in our neighborhoods all over this nation are cleaned up and restored.

Having grown up on the South Side of Chicago and spent a good part of my career working to help families in low-income communities, where I've seen brownfields piling up and affecting kids all over this nation, I know firsthand the role the EPA has in reducing illnesses such as asthma and lead poisoning that can start in childhood but have a long-lasting effect in adulthood. There are thousands and thousands of children across this country that are affected each and every day.

This new era also puts the EPA at the center of President Obama's highest priorities: securing America's energy independence and securing the future of our planet by combating climate change. (Applause.)

We now have a President who is going to put science at the heart of our environmental policies and decisions. (Applause.) By doing so, the President, the EPA, and other agencies working on energy and the environment are going to start to champion bold policies and make smart investments that are going to do a lot of things: first, create more energy-efficient buildings -- (cheering) -- see, now that's exciting -- (laughter) -- you know you're at the EPA -- (laughter); make our cars and trucks more fuel efficient -- (applause); and double the nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years. (Applause.)

Your work will not only save our planet and clean up our environment; it's going to transform our economy and create millions of well paying jobs. You know this better than anyone in the country. (Applause.) So there is a lot riding on your shoulders. So as Lisa said, what are you all doing here? (Laughter.) But I know that you are up to the challenge. I can feel it in this room.

As I have visited the agencies over the past few weeks -- and it has been a thrill, one of the best things I do every day -- I have been deeply moved by the character and commitment of the people that I meet during these sessions.

Men and women like you who have dedicated their careers, like the men and women standing behind me, many of whom have been working in this administration, for the EPA for longer than I've been alive. (Laughter.) They don't look it -- (laughter) -- but when you start adding up the time -- (laughter) -- there's some serious work going on back here. (Laughter.) But what they are is deeply passionate about the work that they do.

I understand where their desire comes from. I began my career as a corporate lawyer. And while that was rewarding professionally -– and personally, since that's where Barack and I met -- (laughter) -- it's a good thing -- I wanted to work on something though that I felt passionate about. That's when I decided to change careers and begin to work to improve public health in Chicago.

So let me deliver a simple message and a heartfelt message:

Thank you for making the health of our nation all of your passion. Thank you so much. (Applause.) All of our children will grow up in a healthier environment because of the work that you do and the dedication that you bring to the work that you do.

And while the challenges facing our nation are great and there's a lot of work to be done, I am so confident, so very confident, that we'll succeed because we've got devoted professionals like all of you in this room, ready and eager and willing to make the sacrifices to work on behalf of the American people.

But know that you are not alone in this effort. You have a great administrator in Lisa Jackson -- (applause) -- and partners in the White House. (Applause.) You have partners in the White House who believe and understand these issues. And you also have the unwavering support of a phenomenal President, Barack Obama. (Applause.)

So Barack Obama is going to need you, Michelle Obama is going to need you, Malia and Sasha Obama are going to need you, and millions of children just like them are going to need you rolling up your sleeves and rededicating and recommitting, knowing that the work is going to be tough. But everything you do, every piece of blood, sweat and tears that you pour into the work is going to make the difference in our nation, in our planet.

So get to work. (Laughter.) Thank you so much.

Mayo Clinic CEO Says Healthcare Reform Needed

Healthcare summit coming next week.

Judd Gregg Bashes Budget

You remember him, the guy who couldn't make up his mind.

Marc Ambinder Highlights Obama's Budget

NY Has Broadway Chicago Has Political Theater

Scott Simon explains:

Boehner: The Era of Big Government is Back

John Boehner!
The budget is a job killer! Big government is back! So predictable:

Andrea Mitchell asks Sen. Robert Bennett, republican, what would you cut? Bennett agrees with Obama on entitlement cuts.

Ban Lifted on Photos of Soldier Caskets

The argument for lifting the ban is that it lets people see the soldiers' sacrifice. I, for one, don't need to see a photo to know the sacrifice. I'm on the fence on this one. But it looks like photos can be taken only if the family agrees, which is respectful. Robert Gates is expected to announce the new policy at 2 pm eastern. 
AP: News organizations will be allowed to photograph the homecomings of America's war dead under a new Pentagon policy, defense and congressional officials said Thursday.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decided to allow photos of flag-draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base, Del., if the families of the fallen troops agree, the officials told The Associated Press.
Gates planned to announce his decision later Thursday, they said. The current ban was put in place in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush.


Wealthiest Will Get First Tax Hike in 16 Years in Obama's Budget

Healthcare reform is an integral part of the budget. See highlights of Health and Human Services funding here.
People like Michelle Bachmann (you remember her) are going to hate this budget because it hikes taxes for those who make $250K or more. Bachmann thinks rich people are an endangered species. Expect that to be the big whine today and tomorrow. The wealthiest haven't had a tax hike in 16 years!
President Barack Obama is proposing the first tax increase on high-income earners in 16 years to help pay for sweeping health-care reforms, asking the U.S. Congress to cap the tax deductions for affluent Americans.

The move would reverse a course set by former President George W. Bush of lowering taxes for high-income people, the cornerstone of his administration’s economic program. Bloomberg
Check out the budget online here.
Peter Orszag's first blog post:
Welcome to my first blog post at the Office of Management and Budget.

In this blog, I want to open up OMB even more to the public and share with you what we’re doing to address the many challenges that we face as a nation. I know that, for many people, blogs are the easiest way of receiving information – so this blog may prove to be useful even if it simply provides a convenient way of keeping up with information from OMB that is already available in other formats. President Obama is committed to ensuring a direct link between citizens and our federal government. Especially in light of our difficult economic times, I am committed to ensuring that OMB’s work is accessible. Although OMB is extensively discussed in the media and elsewhere, the blog will allow me to communicate and explain our work directly.
Today, we’re releasing the overview of the President’s Fiscal Year 2010 Budget.
Read the rest
Read the transcript of Obama's budget talk here.
Early republican reaction:
Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, the No. 3 Republican leader in the House, said Obama can expect a wall of opposition to his proposed tax increase. Roughly half of Americans earning $250,000 are small-business owners, and the proposed increase will stifle the troubled economy, he said.

“There will be overwhelming opposition from the American people and House Republicans to the idea that we should raise taxes during a recession,” Pence said in an interview. “Raising taxes in a recession is not a strategy for recovery.”

Representative Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, said in an e-mail, “You cannot help the job seeker by punishing the job creator. This is exactly the wrong time to be raising taxes on anyone, not the least of which are our small businesses that create new jobs in America.” Bloomberg

Kenneth Responds to Bobby Jindal on Jimmy Fallon's Show

I love Kenneth.

Santelli Says He Felt Threatened By Gibbs

Cable guy exposed.
Ranting Rick can spew it but he can't take it. On the Today Show, Ranting Rick said he was threatened when Robert Gibbs called him out by name. He said even Santelli's wife thought Gibbs' body language was threatening. Gibbs? Come on. Is this guy for real? Yep.
Matt Lauer challenged him and he was serious. He really got his feelings hurt. He objected to the "direct confrontation," of being pointed out by name. He just lost any credibility that he had.

Here's the "threatening" video:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Signed Sealed Delivered: It's Stevie At the White House

Obama honors Stevie Wonder. See Michelle's intro of Stevie here.

Obama To Cut Funding for Yucca Mountain

This is amazing. Harry Reid of Searchlight must be very, very pleased. Even republicans in Nevada hate the idea of a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. 
AP: President Barack Obama is taking the first step toward blocking a nuclear waste dump at Nevada's Yucca Mountain by slashing money for the program in his first budget, according to congressional sources.
Obama's budget to be announced Thursday will eliminate virtually all funding for the Yucca project with the exception of money needed for license applications submitted last year to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
"The Yucca Mountain program will be scaled back to those costs necessary to answer inquiries from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission while the administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear-waste disposal," the Energy Department will say as part of the budget document, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because the document had not been made public.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who has fought the Yucca dump for years, said Obama's decision to cut funding "represents our most significant victory to date in our battle to protect Nevada from becoming the country's toxic wasteland."
Alternatives will be reviewed:
Obama is expected to establish a commission to examine alternatives to Yucca Mountain, even as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission continues to consider the license application for the waste repository that was submitted by the Bush administration last year.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said he has no plans to withdraw the license application, a move that could draw lawsuits from the nuclear industry.
The NRC has up to four years to review the application. The Bush administration had hoped to have the Yucca dump available for waste shipments in 2020.

Los Alamitos Mayor Sends Out Racist Email

I tracked down Mayor Creep's (Dean Grose) phone: (562) 431-3538. Give him a call. Lets fill up the voice mail or call him in the morning to say Hi. This was on Twitter too (I now see it's been everywhere) so his box might be full. Here's his email: These people need to know that we're tired of this kind of stuff:

Here's his apology letter. He's sorry for offending anyone in the African American community. Hey, Mayor Creep, how about the rest of us? What an arse.

Stevie Wonder Plays the White House

Here's a Stevie Wonder tidbit - he didn't actually support Obama during the campaign. He was diplomatic and supported both Hillary and Obama, that is until Obama won the nomination.
Michelle Obama introduces Stevie, who was at the White House to receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song:

Love was in the air at the White House tonight, as the President and First Lady hosted a concert to honor Stevie Wonder, a man whose music they said brought them together.

FLOTUS opened the event, and explained that she grew up listening to Stevie Wonder's music with her grandfather. Years later, she said she "discovered what Stevie meant when he sang about love. Barack and I chose the song, 'You and I' as our wedding song." A chorus of "awws" from the crowd. FLOTUS continued, that Wonder's music has been connecting with fellow artists and fans for 40 years, adding that he recently performed with the Jonas Brothers, "thrilling a new generation of young girls, including our own."

The pool left the room as a series of artists (list below) played various hits from Wonder's collection. We returned to the room in time for POTUS to present the Gershwin award. He called Stevie Wonder's music "the soundtrack of my youth," saying he found in it "peace and inspiration, especially in difficult times." He then mirrored his wife's comments, saying: "I think it's fair to say that had I not been a Stevie Wonder fan, Michelle might not have dated me. We might not have married. The fact that we agreed on Stevie was part of the essence of our courtship."

The award was presented, and after a long ovation, Wonder spoke. "President and Mrs. Obama, I'm so excited to know that I was a part of" - he said, pausing for some laughter from the audience. "I needn't say more." POTUS, standing to Wonder's left, sported a broad smile, and then looked down to his wife in the front row.

Wonder thanked his friends and family, and said he accepted the award for his mother. If she were here, Wonder said, "She'd say, 'Let me give him a peach cobbler.'" Wonder then spoke of his excitement over the president who honored him tonight, saying that through him "America has a chance to again live up to the greatness that it deserves to be seen and known as."

He closed by saying that he looked forward to the president being able to unite the world, "so that in my lifetime I can write some more songs about love, about unity, and real songs of passion." And then he added: "You know, maybe I'll be a part of creating some more of those babies." The audience roared with laughter and applause.

Pool exited shortly after, but as we were leaving we could hear Wonder saying that he had thought about inviting POTUS to sing "Michelle My Belle" with him. Sadly, he did not. Instead, Wonder struck up "Signed Sealed Delivered," a staple of the campaign trail. There's more to read.

Geithner Talks Stress Tests on Planet Money

Listen here.

Obama's Iraq Speech Slated for Feb. 27

Update 2-27: Watch the speech here. 
Obama will give the speech in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune.
IHT: President Barack Obama will deliver an address on Friday on "the way forward" in Iraq, officials said, in which he is widely expected to announce steps to begin pulling out U.S. combat troops from Iraq.

"We're keeping a campaign commitment," Vice President Joe Biden told NBC television in an interview on Wednesday when asked the substance of Obama's address at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina.

Obama Gears Up to Overhaul Healthcare

Ms. Pepette's painting

Good news people.
Paul Krugman says $634 billion has been designated for healthcare reform, not quite enough but a good start.
CQ Politics: While the Obama administration and congressional Democrats are poised to press ahead with a sweeping health care overhaul, they are having to do it without some of the key players they hoped would be leading the charge.

President Obama spoke about a health care overhaul this week as part of a broader message on fiscal stability. Next week he will continue the drive with a White House summit focused on health care that will include key members of Congress.

“The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform,” Obama said in his address to Congress on Tuesday. “Health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.”

Obama said his budget, to be outlined later this week, would include a “down payment” on his health overhaul plans. But he also acknowledged the political difficulties and past failures of overhaul efforts.

But while Obama appears ready to move, it’s not clear that all the pieces are on the board. Now that former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. (1987-2005), has withdrawn his nomination, Obama still has no Health and Human Services secretary, nor even a nominee. And his new White House Office of Health Reform, intended to manage overhaul efforts, has no official leader. Other key agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also have no nominee.
I don't understand why can't Daschle be an advisor and work hand in hand with whomever is selected for Health and Human Services.
How is Obama going to pay for healthcare reform?
NYT: Administration officials said the president would seek in the budget he releases on Thursday to cap itemized tax deductions for high-income people, such as couples earning more than about $250,000 a year.

The officials said the resulting revenues would account for about half of a $634 billion “reserve fund” that Mr. Obama will set aside in his budget to begin addressing health care. The other half would come from Medicare savings, including an end to billions of dollars in subsidies to insurance companies under the Medicare Advantage program, and other possible tax-law changes.
Already the naysayers are saying Obama can't work on the economy and healthcare at the same time. To all the people who say Obama is too ambitious, I say bah! This is a man who swooped onto the scene and became president against some serious odds. This is a man serious about change. It's never been just a campaign slogan.

This is a man seriously underestimated ever since people started yakking about him. He's too young. Blah Blah. He's too black. Blah Blah. He's too inexperienced. Blah Blah. And they still drone on and on. You'd think by now people would realize that Obama is seriously ambitious for all the right reasons. He's a natural leader, who's been able to attract the best people to government.

And one other thing, a goal never set is a goal never achieved. Duh. At least he's setting goals. I can't remember George Bush expressing a goal that he wanted to achieve.

Obama: Serious Bank Risk Means Serious Oversight

Obama talks regulatory reform today. Read about it here. Watch:

Looking at the nationalization debate, which is really a time waster. It doesn't matter what you call it:

Former FDIC chair Bill Isaac's 2 cents:

Holder Announces Major Drug Bust

Today Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., announced the arrest of more than 750 individuals on narcotics-related charges and the seizure of more than 23 tons of narcotics as part of a 21-month multi-agency law enforcement investigation known as "Operation Xcellerator." The Attorney General was joined in announcing the current results of Operation Xcellerator by DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.

Today, 52 individuals in California, Minnesota and Maryland were arrested as part of Operation Xcellerator, which targeted the Sinaloa Cartel, a major Mexican drug trafficking organization, through coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as cooperation with authorities in Mexico and Canada.

The Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for bringing multi-ton quantities of narcotics, including cocaine and marijuana, from Mexico into the United States through an enterprise of distribution cells in the United States and Canada. The Sinaloa Cartel is also believed to be responsible for laundering millions of dollars in criminal proceeds from illegal drug trafficking activities. Individuals indicted in the cases are charged with a variety of crimes, including: engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise by violating various felony provisions of the Controlled Substances Act; conspiracy to import controlled substances; money laundering; and possession of an unregistered firearm.

"International drug trafficking organizations pose a sustained, serious threat to the safety and security of our communities," said Attorney General Holder. "As the world grows smaller and international criminals step up their efforts to operate inside our borders, the Department of Justice will confront them head on to keep our communities safe."

To date, Operation Xcellerator has led to the arrest of 755 individuals and the seizure of approximately $59.1 million in U.S. currency, more than 12,000 kilograms of cocaine, more than 16,000 pounds of marijuana, more than 1,200 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 8 kilograms of heroin, approximately 1.3 million pills of Ecstasy, more than $6.5 million in other assets, 149 vehicles, 3 aircraft, 3 maritime vessels and 169 weapons. Read more here

Obama Announces Gary Locke Commerce Secretary

We've tried this a couple of times, Obama said. Read more about Locke here.

Obama's Task Force Meets With Chrysler Seeking $22 Billion More

Forbes: Top executives of Chrysler LLC were meeting Wednesday with members of the Obama administration's auto task force, discussing requests for billions in new loans to keep the troubled automaker afloat.

Chrysler Chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli, Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda and Chief Financial Officer Ron Kolka were meeting with the administration panel, said a Chrysler official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

What they're asking for:
Struggling to survive, Chrysler and General Motors Corp. (nyse: GM - news - people ) have received $17.4 billion in federal loans. They are seeking an additional $21.6 billion to keep operating during a difficult recession and a major plunge in auto sales.

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler has received $4 billion in loans and wants another $5 billion in federal aid and the approval of an alliance with Italian automaker Fiat (nyse: FIA - news - people ) SpA.

The company said in a Feb. 17 progress report to the Obama administration that it needed the loans to stave off a liquidation of the company. The automaker lost $8 billion last year.

Brooks: Jindal's Attack On Government Was a Disaster

I have always liked Bobby Jindal, relative to some of the other republicans out there (Palin, Cantor, Boehner), but he lost me last night when he spoke as if we were all kindergartners. Read/see his speech here.
Conservative columnist David Brooks is even more harsh in his criticism:

Even Fox panel pans Jindal. Now, I kind of feel bad for the guy. But if he wants to be the Prez, then he'll have to become a better speech giver, especially after Obama, and he'll have to be able to wear the armor with grace.

Frank to Bank: Give Us The Money Back

Apparently, there are bankers that still have the nerve to throw lavish parties, despite receiving bailout money. Our new loser bank: Northern Trust, which received $1.6 BILLION. 
The bank claimed that the money was for marketing and wasn't taxpayer money:
Holt also said that the sponsorship is an "integral part of Northern Trust's global marketing activities," and as with all marketing, advertising, corporate sponsorship or charitable activities, no taxpayer money was used to fund the weekend events.
The fact that banks differentiate between bailout money and other money is idiotic. If you're taking money to stay afloat, it's all the same money. That would be like me accepting welfare checks (is there such a think anymore?), putting it in my bank and then going on a vacation. Then when someone asks me: How can you spend your welfare money to travel, I'd say, I didn't. I spent my other money. Not a single dime of welfare money went to that vacation, I'd say. Do they think we're all a bunch of dumb dumbs?
Barney Frank is asking for the money that was spent:
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, the House Financial Services Committee chairman, is writing a letter to Northern Trust asking the bank to pay back the money it spent, according to Frank's spokesman.

"We are asking Northern Trust to repay the government the equivalent of the funds they spent on the tournament and related events," Steve Adamske of Frank's staff told CNN. Read all about it at CNN

Don't Mess With Joe

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bobby Jindal Speaks to Kindergartners Around America

Bobby Jindal's response speech was really weird. It kind of had an infomercial feel. Cheesy.
He sounded like he was speaking to 5 year olds, or reading them a book.
"We believe Americans can do anything," he said cheerfully. It reminded me of McCain's infamous speech with the green back drop: "That's not change we can believe in."

Obama's Speech to Congress Feb. 24

Here are the words:
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Address to Joint Session of Congress
Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady of the United States:

I’ve come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven’t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has – a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities – as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

It’s an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t. Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited – I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That’s why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut – a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.

Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we’ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort – because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family’s well-being. You should also know that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern.

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.

You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education; how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.

But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. With so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or to each other. When there is no lending, families can’t afford to buy homes or cars. So businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.

That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, restore confidence, and re-start lending.

We will do so in several ways. First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.

Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and re-finance their mortgages. It’s a plan that won’t help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values – Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped bring about. In fact, the average family who re-finances today can save nearly $2000 per year on their mortgage.

Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.

I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions. But such an approach won’t solve the problem. And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government – and yes, probably more than we’ve already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade. That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.

I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was I.

So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you – I get it.

But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job – our job – is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility. I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can’t pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can’t get a mortgage.

That’s what this is about. It’s not about helping banks – it’s about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan too, maybe they’ll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.

So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary. Because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

For history tells a different story. History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.

Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.

Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And it’s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.

Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I’m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.

I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.

In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.

Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress.

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country – Senator Edward Kennedy.

These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home.

There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.

I’m proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we’re starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you’ll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut – that’s right, a tax cut – for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.

To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

Finally, because we’re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules – and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.

We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.

And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support. To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.

In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.

To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century – from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty – we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.

And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe. For the world depends on us to have a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world’s.

As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us – watching to see what we do with this moment; waiting for us to lead.

Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege – one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans. For in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or for ill.

I know that it is easy to lose sight of this truth – to become cynical and doubtful; consumed with the petty and the trivial.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.

I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ''I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't feel right getting the money myself."

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."

And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.

I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

And if we do – if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, "something worthy to be remembered." Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.