Tonight, there is only one thing everybody agrees upon:
The 'State of Our Union' is DIVIDED.
America, once the world’s leading economy, is at a crossroads.
Unfettered, unmitigated, and unregulated corporate greed has crippled the middle class, all but erasing the American Dream.
The top 65 richest people in this nation make as much as half of the rest of us, all put together.
And if you dare question it, they'll put you out of office--with a barrage of TV ads and smear campaigns financed by those who have the most to gain, by keeping everything just like it is.
Well, I am here to tell you tonight:
The government hand-outs and free rides are over.
Not for the people at the bottom of the economic ladder...but for those at the top.
THEY are the greatest 'Welfare Queens' of all, always insisting upon we "let the free market decide" ...until it collapses, like it did in 2008--and then, like hungry pups, they gather around the teat of the very same federal government they'll tell you they despise...begging for a hand-out.
If we had let their 'free market' truly decide things for them, they'd all be on the streets today.
The things they despise--unions, workers' rights, higher minimum wages, liveable pensions, decent and affordable health care for all, paying their fair share of taxes, and government oversight of Wall Street's shenannigans--all those things have been under direct attack, by a certain faction that claims to know what is best for America.
The same faction that nearly took us all down, just five short years ago.
Tonight, around the world we are watching developing countries--many of them with slave labor, the kind of which we eliminated nearly a century ago--manufacture all that we once created and invented.
But once upon a time, America invented the television you folks are watching at home, right now.
Humungous dams, for the taming of waterways, and the creation of energy.
Nuclear power itself, for the good of mankind, not the bad.
And rock ‘n’ roll.
We introduced these things to the world, and the world embraced them.
But we also introduced the free marketplace, a more robust constitutional democracy than anybody had ever seen before, and the workplace and intellectual property rights that literally changed the world, brought it into the industrial age, and empowered workers at all levels to literally walk out without losing their jobs, if conditions on that job were so miserable as to constitute a form of slavery.
The right to organize? WE invented it, folks!
If terms were not agreed to by both parties--employers and workers--they, the workers, had a right to strike. And the simple protections, that allow for children not to be sitting over sewing machines, making clothing for the rest of us, 16 hours a day, in sweat shops and slave-like conditions? We invented them.
Yes, we are 'capitalists.'
But we always recognized that the little guy needed protection… BY the people--their government; FOR the people--these workers, who actually drive the economy; and OF the people-- to shield them from the theft of their inventions, innovations, ideas, and incomes.
Everybody in this room--in fact everybody in every living room across America tonight-- knows that we have been under direct attack, by economic pressures that reward corporations who seek out the lowest common denominator, simply to improve their 'quarterly projections.'
As a result, even our minimum wage cannot compete with the near-nothing pittance provided to a peasant, somewhere overseas.
Tonight, every one of us has heard the cry: WHERE ARE THE JOBS?
The sad truth is that too many "jobs," if you can even call them that anymore, have moved overseas.
And the shortfall can never be made up, no matter what we do here, until or unless we get serious about not allowing that to continue to happen.
My fellow Americans, I'm going to say out loud, what I think we all already know:
Our nation is bleeding jobs overseas.
In order to compete, we will need to begin to demand some loyalty from the bedrock American corporations who are shamelessly taking our tax breaks and financing overseas, not domestic, expansion.
Americans need not apply.
This would be bad enough, if we had the resolve--or the unity--to tackle it.
But we don’t.
Tonight, as hard as it is to believe in America, there are actually voices within this very chamber, who have advocated possibly abandoning our workers' protections; scuttling the minimum wage; and loosening our safety and environmental regulations beyond recognition.
But the answer is not to lower America's standard of living, to meet that of a peasant, in some faraway place. It's to PROTECT the integrity of our domestic industrial system, at least enough to end the downward spiral in wages and benefits. The answer is NOT to further crush unions, nor to undo decades of collective bargaining advances, or relax our health and safety standards, in the name of creating jobs.
That hasn't worked.
Neither have the trillions in corporate tax loopholes, or the so-called 'free trade' plans that have shrunk our automobile industry, to the very brink of extinction.
Either I lay out a bold plan I knew would fail to pass both Houses of Congress...or I gingerly navigate the nooks and crannies, along the edges, hoping that even the most intransigent naysayers would somehow find it in their hearts not to be offended, and to help.
To help America, that is.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I have a greater responsibility still.
I was told, “Hey, if you say certain things about the stubbornness of Congress, you might just see some of those members get up and stage a walk out!”
So for the longest time, I labored to craft something I thought might somehow avoid offending the radical elements in this room, who have held America hostage through even the simplest discussions, even about things like whether to provide emergency assistance, to the victims of Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy, and even veterans' benefits.
In short, I could have bored you all silly walkin’ on eggshells tonight, to try to appear more reasonable, more pliable, more ‘compromisey’ than the other guys.
I could have shaped my entire jobs program--knowing ahead of time, because they’ve said so--that it’ll be rejected out-of-hand…and simply delivered it like a good boy, and gone home--happy nobody walked out, I guess.
Happy for myself.
Happy to have avoided yet another, in the preposterous series of disgraceful confrontations provoked by radicals, in the House of Representatives.
But tonight, my fellow Americans…I am speaking as one of YOU.
Because saving MY job is not nearly as important as saving yours.
So, to those naysayers who’ve held a gun to America’s head-- on everything from debt ceilings, to health care, to simple corporate regulations that would preclude another 2008 meltdown, to the most basic government function of all--raising the revenue needed to provide for its citizens in time of need, and to defend our borders…
Tonight I say to you, right here in this chamber, if this offends you...go ahead.
If you have no plan to stand with us, and fight for the resurgence of America, go ahead:
Walk out on your country.
Walk out on your constituents.
Walk out on our future.
Because your days of holding us hostage are OVER.
You have become America's "enemy within."
And with every last bone in my body, I will fight you.
On the issues of workers’ rights, minimum wage, religious freedoms, closing tax loopholes and givewaways to the rich, protecting consumers, and rebuilding our schools and bridges, I will fight you.
I will fight your intransigence until you cry 'uncle,’ and every American is protected from the exporting of our jobs and our livelihoods.
I will fight your insistence that the mega-wealthy--let’s not even call them millionaires, I’m talking about ZILLIONAIRES, here--not pay an equal percentage of taxes that average workers do.
I will fight your very well-funded insistence that they not pay their fair share, under the false ruse that they are “job creators,” one and all--when in fact no jobs have come from the trillions in gifts we’ve offered up to the mega-rich for over a decade, on that collection plate they passed out to us in 2003, that some of you in this House insisted we extend in 2010.
There will be NO MORE GIFTS FROM THE POOR TO THE RICH.
There are some who like to say our stimulus packages didn’t work.
They said I was 'socializing' GM, in a government takeover.
'Socializing' medicine, they said...
Every possible boogeyman term has been attached to our programs, in order to both declare and predict, as well as encourage failure. But they conveniently forget the unprecedented mess we were handed, when we took the keys to the office of the presidency.
Once upon a time, you knew every soul in this House--no matter what party they belonged to--wanted to see America succeed, regardless of our politics.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to say it:
Tonight, that is not true.
There are those within this House who have outwardly spoken about wanting to see our country default on its obligations; shut down the government; change medicare to a voucher system; close the department of education, the environmental protection agency, even FEMA!
Yes…those things have been said--by idealogues so lost, they can only smell their own political victories in these proposals, not America’s own defeat.
No more, I say!
No more obstructionism, while America crumbles!
No more running the country like it’s a radio talk show!
No more tearing down of the bedrock safety nets--like Social Security and Medicare, which assure us all that there is life after work.
Read my lips:
I will not replace our Chevrolet retirement system with a Yugo, no matter how often you tell me “We’re broke.”
If we’re broke, then let’s raise some money to fix ourselves!
I'll give you one clear example of something that has shut down more stores than any other single factor: The internet.
In recent years, nearly every American has purchased a growing percentage of our Christmas gifts and other items, online.
But do any of you recall paying any SALES TAX on those items until very recently, at amazon.com?
Very few states demand it.
The federal government still allows these purchases to go scot-free, in most cases.
And yet, American workers in stores from coast to coast have seen retail shops close by the thousands, and lost their jobs--simply because of the unfair advantage given online buyers and sellers, who for the most part STILL pay no sales tax.
Think of the trillions in government revenue, totally lost, because of this simple loophole!
Are you telling me we cannot charge sales tax for online purchases, in this country?
If not, I ask you...why not???
Why should old fashioned stores and shops all over this country pay their fair share, and then be put at a potentially fatal pricing disadvantage, while the online market runs like a third-world street bazaar, answering to no one?
To my friends on the right, it seems ALL tax revenues are some sort of philisophical poison, or anethma.
But good government needs revenue to survive--to serve, to protect, and to advance its people.
We have had ENOUGH "cuts" forced upon this country lately, simply because we've been bullied into it, at every turn.
American workers want to know that the American Dream will be there for them, if they work hard. Continually moving the goalposts by reducing benefits, tearing up union contracts, or shortening school days does not constitute reform.
It’s a cheat--it cheats us out of a promise we made to ourselves, as enlightened people...and I will not do it.
Yes, we’re on the canvas...and there are many complicated reasons why.
But I believe we will get ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and fight back harder than ever--and if you don’t... If your idea of success is to make us fail, then go ahead--take insult at my words, and walk out on America.
We want to know who you are, so we can get on with the task at hand, and repair what’s wrong--not cower in the face of your constant, never-ending threats.
Bob Dylan once said, “Your old road is rapidly aging. So get out of the new one, if you can’t lend a hand, cause the Times They Are A-Changin.”
He was right.
We need you to get out of the way, if your vision is one of failure, and of this endless hacking away at the budget of our federal government, which protects us all.
We tired of hearing that we're "too broke" to build a firehouse or a schoolhouse in Ohio, but just fine with building one in Iraq, or elsewhere.
We've had enough of being told we're "too broke" to raise the pay of our teachers and soldiers, but never too broke to pay shadowy mercenaries like Blackwater and Haliburton billions upon billions, to do our business under the table, in foreign lands.
That is NOT the America we grew up in.
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight I can tell you:
AMERICA IS NOT "BROKE"...IT'S BROKEN.
RAISE the revenues to PAY for our wars, and bridges and schools, and stop relying on bake sales for books, as if America can't find a dime to invest in its future.
How pathetic is that, as a vision of America?
Give us all a break from your radio talk show rhetoric and your "No, we can't" philosophy.
I still say YES WE CAN.
And we will.
As I said at the start of this talk, we've been in a dive, lately. But any pilot can tell you, you do not correct that situation by giving up control of the airplane to people who want to re-write the entire pilots' handbook, then and there, on the way down. The only way to 'right the ship' is to provide the professionals in control the tools and the resources to do the job right.
You, at home: Tell your congressman or woman you will vote them out of office, if they continue to refusing all compromise--including on taxes--and obstructing all progress, going forward.
By constantly threatening to crash this plane, they have paralyzed this nation in recent times, with fear. In the world of private enterprise they like to tout, THEY'D BE FIRED if they used anything even remotely like these tactics.
The fear to act. The fear to tax. The fear to regulate. The fear to reform.
I say we fire them at the polls.
Enough is enough.
We need to shine a bright light on the cowards who've held us at gun point, on such basic matters as meeting the federal payroll.
Let us never forget: Government workers are Americans, too.
And tonight, my fellow public servants--both within this chamber, and at every station and department around this land...
I SALUTE YOU, AND THE WORK YOU DO!
You are patriots. And we will no longer stand for the denigration of your contribution, to our society.
The obstructionists like to say, "Business wants certainty."
I say, let them be certain that we WILL regulate safety and environmental issues; that we WILL tax the export of our jobs; that we WILL track down the unseen profits hidden offshore and drained from our economy by heartless thieves, stealing us blind, and not paying their fair share.
We WILL close every loophole they've snaked around, to avoid paying into our system, at home.
Enough is enough.
You want America to succeed, or fail?
Tonight, when we leave here--or even before we leave here--the pundits will set about legitimizing two points of view, but in truth, there is only one. Either you want America to stand up and fight the tyranny of intransigence and economic stagnancy and succeed, or maybe you just aren't on our side, at all.
Tomorrow morning, I will submit a major stimulus program--even larger than the one my opponents have claimed was a failure, but which kept us from sliding into a depression.
America, we need to FIGHT.
The enemy is among us.
Now is the time.
We need to get this done.
Oh, and one more thing.
You might be wondering why there's been no mention of immigration reform, or the gun control we so desperately need, now that school and mall shootings are a near-daily occurance.
I'll tell you why I'm not going to waste the peoples' time talking anymore:
Because regardless of what I do or you do here in this body, the public HAS spoken.
And the demographic train will get done what you and I have failed to do, which includes not only those vital issues, but eventually driving your radical movement of oppression right into extinction.
I truly trust America will do the right thing, at the ballot box next year.
So good night, America...
And for those of you seated here in this chamber I'll see you right here, in the morning.
It's about time we got to work, so everybody else can return to work, too.
Be here at 9 a.m....ALL of you...
And may God bless the United States of America.
Copyright 2011 by Peter Rodman. All Rights Reserved.