Thom's State of the Union

My fellow Americans…

The state of our union is strong, but it could be so much stronger. Over the past year, we’ve continued to see how our politicians are bought off by Big Oil tycoons, Wall Street billionaires, and giant transnational corporations. And that’s the first challenge facing America right now.

Our Conservative-controlled Supreme Court has said that spending money to buy politicians is protected by the First Amendment. Thanks to the disastrous Citizen’s United decision, the Conservatives in the Supreme Court chambers have made it easy for billionaires to flood our democracy with the corporate cash which is slowly destroying the democratic principles that our founding fathers fought and died for.

In the 2014 midterm elections, we saw yet again how America truly has the best politicians money can buy. Estimates suggest that nearly $4 billion was spent during the midterms to elect the politicians the rich folks want in Washington DC and statehouses around the country. Just imagine how much stronger our nation would be if we were to get money out of politics, and thus prevent corporations and billionaires from corrupting our democracy.

The second problem our nation is facing is at the core of why we have a government in the first place. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said that, “governments are instituted among Men" to "secure" the "unalienable" rights of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

So, why do we have government? To provide life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Unfortunately, millions and millions of Americans are finding “the pursuit of happiness” to be more of a myth than a reality. Right now, our country is facing record levels of wealth inequality. Wages are stagnant. And millions of Americans who are ready and willing to work are still finding it hard to get a job and to put food on the table for their families. But we can change all of that.

Back in 1944 – FDR suggested that we should put into law a Second Bill of Rights that would codify what he was already doing with the New Deal. And one of the most important among those rights was the right to a job.

When capitalism fails to provide for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, when the so-called "free market" fails to provide for the General Welfare, which happens regularly because those things are not the job of capitalism, then logically those responsibilities fall to government.

It's why we created our government. And that means making the government the employer of last resort.

But it’s not enough to just have a job. Americans need to be able to make good wages and have good benefits so that they can take care of their families – and not have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from.

That’s why we need to raise the minimum wage to at least $10.10 per hour – so that everyone has a chance to live comfortably and to make a decent living. It’s insane that giant corporations like WalMart are raking in billions and billions of dollars in profits each year, but are paying their workers bottom-of-the-barrel wages that are impossible to survive on.

While working-class Americans get back on their feet, we need to ensure that America’s wealthy elite are doing their fair share to support the economy and our country. We need to roll back the Reagan tax cuts, and make sure that a family struggling to survive day-to-day isn’t paying a greater share of their income in taxes than a Wall Street billionaire bankster. And we can use some of the ill gotten gains of America’s billionaires to help rebuild our nation’s crippling infrastructure.

Right now, over 600,000 bridges in America are considered “structurally deficient.” Our roads are buckling, our electrical grids are crashing, and are transportation systems look like ancient relics. According to the America Society of Civil Engineers, we need to spend at least $3.5 trillion by 2020 just to bring ourselves up-to-date. We need to stop playing politics, and start making the investments needed to prevent our country from literally falling apart.

And, of course, we won’t even have a country to invest in if we don’t do more to fight the devastating effects of climate change and global warming. While lawmakers in Washington were still arguing over settled-science, 2014 was the warmest year in known human history on the planet. This must be the year that we introduce a carbon tax that puts a price on the carbon that’s polluting our skies and driving climate change.

New research suggests that if we want to have any hope of preventing catastrophic climate change, then we have to leave nearly all of the world’s fossil fuel reserves buried underground. It’s that simple. By introducing a carbon tax, renewable energies will instantly become less expensive than dirty fossil fuels. In other words, it won’t be cost-efficient for Big Oil to take fossil fuels out of the ground. Creating a carbon tax will be a great first step to ensuring the future of our planet and of the human race.

But none of this, from rebuilding our infrastructure and putting Americans back to work to fighting for the future of our planet, will be possible if we don’t protect American lives. We need to continue making investments in our healthcare system, so that all Americans have access to affordable and life-saving healthcare. Being able to go to the doctor’s office when you’re sick and being able to get a potentially life-saving prescription shouldn't be luxuries.

Despite what Republicans may argue, Obamacare is working, and millions of Americans are getting access to healthcare that they've never had before. We need to build on this progress, not roll it back.

So, my fellow Americans, that's the state of our union. We are not broke, we are the richest nation in the world. We don't have a deficit or a spending problem, we have a jobs problem and a trade deficit from our crazy trade policies. And we must not continue to let Reaganomics turn us into a Third World nation.

We should rebuild and update our critical infrastructures, and ensure that all Americans have an equal chance at living the American Dream. And, in the process, we can save ourselves from extinction. These are the challenges before us, and while they are many, we can meet them.

It’s time for “We The People” to get behind the issues that really matter – and get America back on the path to success and shared prosperity.


PaulScott 8 years 18 weeks ago

I keep reading these pleas from Thom and others to "change things", but little action results. Because of Citizen's United, the corporatists will have a lock on our political system, but much of the money they get comes from those people who refuse to vote with their money. American's transfer over a trillion dollars every year from their collective bank accounts to the oil, coal and NG industries to provide dirty energy for their cars, homes and businesses.

It's now quite easy, and affordable, to switch your energy to renewable electricity and your cars to electric. When you do both of those things, you eliminate over 90% of the pollution for which you are responsible, and you stop giving them your money. The money you save by using clean, renewable energy is yours to spend on local goods and services generating thousands of good jobs in your community instead of sending it out of state to those corporatists.

You can then donate a portion of your savings to politicians who support your positions. When enough people do this, things will change. We will not succeed if our side continues to fund our enemies.

Gator Girl 8 years 18 weeks ago

First, PaulScott, I think you are deluded that we could do much to have changed much - or can do so now.

Purchasing an energy newewal auto is fine for those who can afford it - most can't plus the return on your investment will take so long that it is a joke. If you were to purchase electric, they are so sadly lacking in distance on a single charge - not to mention the lack of charging stations - that you'd also have to have - or rent - another vehicle for any trip over 100 miles - and that's IF what they quote as the mileage is even close. Where we live it is 8 miles each way to the charging station so that is 16 of the 100 before we even start. Tesla about 5 months ago put in 8 free charging stations which, I understand, are useable for all electric vehicles but they are almost 14 miles each way from us.

We did purchase a newer auto which does get fairly good mileage but we do occasionally make trips far over the distnce of an electric auto - and the 0thers are too expensive. Plus our age means that we are not going to live long enough to realize the savings from either the hybrid or the electric vehicle.

I will not be watching for several reasons. Number 1 is that anything President Obama says tonight he should have said and been trying to do 6 years ago. And, 2nd, because this is a "legacy speech" and that angers me to no end. The GOP will not care one way or the other and will continue to do as they have for the past 6 years - along with some people who falsely call themselves Democrats - and block any and everything. I do not care to hear how much more we have been sold out and I am sure that in the coming days we will be bombarded ad nauseum and thus, no need to upset myself tonight. I will be in my bedroom with my music and AtheistTV to watch.

I voted for President Obama both times - especially since the opposition was not even a possibility. But, the fact that he just didn't "get it" shortly after the election, MCDonald and Boner told him that they were not going to allow him to get anyting done. Yes, I know their names are not accurately spelled but that's who they are to me.

At that point in time President Obama should have taken the tact that he was going to ignore them and do what he is now trying to do with a bit of limited success. Imagine how much more he could have done in the 1st 2 years if he had not continually caved to that F _* # KIing GOP!!

Have fun, peeps, listening to the fairy tales and legacy building however much time is spent on that speech tonight.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 18 weeks ago

WARNING!! The Presidents plan is going to cripple the middle class. The tax loophole that he wants to abolish concerning living Trusts will only save $320 Billion over 10 years. That is less than 1/3 of our military budget for one year. Yet it will cost the recipients of Trusts in this country an average of 25% of their inheritance. Since the inheritance of Billionaires usually take the form of real estate, businesses, or Swiss bank accounts this law will have no effect on them whatsoever. It will only affect law abiding US middle class citizens. Shame on the Democratic party for entertaining this abomination!

PaulScott 8 years 18 weeks ago

Gator girl, you can buy a used LEAF or Volt for as little as $12K. That's affordable for millions of people. If you drive further than the range of the EV, then the Volt is the car for you. All of your daily driving is on renewable electricity, and you only use gas when you need to go long distance.

As for chargers, there are thousands being installed all over the country. If you don't have them where you live, become and activist and get them installed in your community. My city of Santa Monica has installed dozens of free chargers so people can get free renewable energy while they shop, see a movie, or eat in a restaurant. The city gets the tax revenue, the consumer gets free energy, and the only loser is the oil company.

Alvord Al's picture
Alvord Al 8 years 18 weeks ago

Hate to be a broken record, but as I posted a while back, nothing much will change until we push hard for a constitutional amendment making it the law of the land that ONLY public funds can be used for the public vote? NO outside money allowed. With all funding coming from a small obligatory yearly tax chipped in by all citizens, each candidate would receive the same amount of money and time on public radio and television, effectively leveling the playing field. In one fell swoop, that would take care of the problem of corrupting big money flowing into our election system.

Until that happens, as Thom commented, we'll keep getting "the best leaders money can buy"----who of course won't represent us regular citizens.

Alvord Al

delster's picture
delster 8 years 18 weeks ago

I think it's important to point out that our so called conservatives today are cut from a different bolt of material. Russell Kirk, a critical conservative thinker who established the 10 points of conservatism and was author of the The Conservative Mind I believe would have been appaulled by the current crop who call themselves conservative. Some have referred to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity as NEO LIBERAL CAPITALIIST which is what Kirk would have referred to someone who had no respect for moral order, tradition, and was corrupted by the influence of wealth and power. Unfortunatley I think this describes our government on both sides both Republicans and Democrats.

upperrnaz12348's picture
upperrnaz12348 8 years 18 weeks ago

delster, good point. Conservatives "conserve" , maintain what is there so it works, understand there is a cost to keeping what you have in working order, not to be wasteful, to know what you have now has to be preserved, to ensure what you have now will be there for the next generations.

That costs money, often tax money, and thems that profit from the results are obliged to pay for it. It "makes sense" that the people that benefit the most ought to pay more. Yeah, the owner of the concern that earns a bigger income ought to bear the burden for the road, or the school, or post office, or the utility that enables them to live at a higher standard of living. As well, if something is needed in the community that isn't directly covered by "taxes", thems that have more, ought to contribute more. It is said that in some nations, the better off understand that and call it noblesse oblige, or the obligation of the nobility. There is no nobility in the States, but the idea is the same.

interesting, too, how the most otherwise "egregious" captains of industry at the turn of the twentieth century, Rockefeller, "tithed" his income, and and then some. Rockefeller's alter ego, lived on ten percent of his income leaving the rest to philanthropy. Henry Ford I, as well as his grandson, "the deuce", Henry Ford II, also weren't so bad. A cursive reading of the bio of Herbert Hoover, one of the most unappreciated presidents, tells that he was the beneficiary of one of the first scholarships offered by Stanford Univesity, founded by another philantropist, Leland Stanford. Hoover believied in Voluntarism, that people would understand the needs, and each one gave according to their ability to "give" for the sake of the Welfare of society.

Yeah, conservatives in those days supported public education, public roads, public libraries, anything that promoted the Commons. Somehow today that ethic has been replaces with "Greed". We see the results--when is the next bridge going to fall, and who is going to get the blame, the neo-Conservatives that called for lower taxes, or big government that wasted dwindling tax dollars on subsidies to neo-Conservatives to help them get through their day.

All we can do most of the time is pray. Then again, if we speak up . . . something might be done.

Willie W's picture
Willie W 8 years 18 weeks ago

There was a time when government had enough money to do it's job, but they let it go. Their fault! That money is still there for the taking but no one will take the initiative to get it back. The money is not gone. It's just been diverted. Instead, they're trying to justify a bailout funded by the poor and the elderly. As usual, they take the path of least resistance.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 8 years 18 weeks ago

Prof Richard Wolff often touts the obvious successes of Franklin Roosevelt but he does hold out some criticism for his failure to take steps to make permanent changes to our system of government that would prevent a future replay of the economic disaster that we came to label as the Great Depression ! Roosevelt's death in 1945 opened the flood gates for those economic interests who had great wealth and the motivation to retain control of that great wealth by buying unrestricted access to the levers of power in Washington. Post WWII America held all the cards as our manufacturing base and infrastructure were the only ones completely untouched by the ravages of war. Yet, political forces were rallied that began a vicious attack on growing Communist and Socialist organizations whose right to free speech was protected by the Constitution. Labor Unions who had risen to power in the 1930s to represent a growing chorus of oppressed workers in this country were immediately assailed by the Taft Hartley Act of 1947 that severely limited the rights of working class Americans and that act remains in place today. The 91% tax levied on the wealthy to pay for the New Deal, the restoration of America from the effects of the Great Depression, and the funding required to fight WWII came back to the wealthy Capitalist manufacturers and bankers ten times over in the early fifties when America was the only fully functioning economy on the planet ! What did we do with that enormous advantage, we started a forty year long Cold War against Russia, one of our allies in WWII. The Capitalist paranoia over the potential loss of their total control over the economy of the entire planet has kept us at war ever since, and this has continued at the risk of our potential economic peril even though Communist Russia ceased to exist twenty three years ago. It appears that even the rich have bogey men that they cannot deal !

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