29 January 2014

VIDEO: Congressman Threatens To Throw Reporter Off Balcony 29JAN14

EX fbi special agent, sounds like he could have worked for the likes of whitey, I mean on the fbi whitey bulger detail. mikey grimm shows off his ignorance in several other post on this blog, just do a search for rep michael grimm. From NPR & NY1......
The post-State of the Union reviews of have been hijacked a bit this morning by reports about Rep. Michael Grimm's angry response last night to a reporter's question.
If you haven't seen the video by now, , which has also posted a transcript of the exchange between its reporter — Michael Scotto — and the Republican congressman from Staten Island. We'll embed with its report about the incident.
After talking to the congressman about the president's address, Scotto started to ask another question. Viewers wouldn't have known what the subject was because Grimm cut the reporter off. What Scotto wanted to ask about, as the congressman knew, was an ongoing investigation into possible fundraising violations by a donor to Grimm's 2010 campaign.
Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., right, as he confronted NY1 reporter Michael Scotto on Tuesday in the Capitol.
Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., right, as he confronted NY1 reporter Michael Scotto on Tuesday in the Capitol.
"I'm not speaking about anything's that off-topic, this is only about the president," Grimm told Scotto before walking away.
Then, while the camera was still recording, Grimm returned to say:
"Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I'll throw you off this f——-g balcony."
Scotto asked: "Why? Why? This is a valid question."
To which Grimm said: "No, no, you're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy."
Later, Grimm issued a statement that says, in part, "I was extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests." He also accused the reporter of "taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview."
NY1's political director, Bob Hardt, says in a statement that the news outlet is "certainly alarmed and disappointed by the behavior of Representative Grimm and demands a full apology from him. This behavior is unacceptable."
Scotto tells CNN that "I'm a New York City reporter. I'm used to push back, but I never encountered anything like that." He also says "I'm not taking it personal."
NY1 adds that:
"The FBI earlier this month charged 47-year-old Diana Durand with using straw donors to exceed the maximum allowable contribution to Grimm's campaign committee. After contributing $4,800, the maximum amount allowed under federal law, Durand allegedly offered to reimburse four friends if they contributed to the campaign.
"Grimm is not charged with any wrongdoing in connection with the probe."
Grimm was first elected to Congress in 2010. He's and the founder of a health food restaurant in Manhattan. Grimm turns 44 next month.

Wonkbook: A policy 101 for the 2014 State of the Union 29JAN14

WONKBOOK'S roundup of analysis of Pres Obama's State of the Union Speech, from the Washington Post.....
The Washington Post Wednesday, January 29, 2014
WONKBOOK: Your morning policy news primer
Welcome to Wonkbook, Wonkblog's morning policy news primer by Evan Soltas. Send comments, criticism, or ideas to Wonkbook at Washpost dot com. To read more by the Wonkblog team, click here.
Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 6,786. That's how many words were in President Barack Obama's State of the Union address last night, at least in the version as prepared for delivery.
Wonkbook's Graph of the Day: The language of the State of the Union speeches.
Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) a summary of last night's State of the Union speech; with special attention to (2) the role of executive actions; (3) policies to address inequality; (4) meanwhile, a look and the economy; and (5) why Congress is surprisingly functional.
1. Top story: A starting-point summary of last night's State of the Union
What Obama said in the 2014 State of the Union. "President Obama sought Tuesday to restore public confidence and trust in his presidency after a dispiriting year, pledging to use his White House authority with new force to advance an agenda that Congress has largely failed to support. In his fifth prime-time State of the Union address, Obama returned to a familiar problem--Washington's bitter and stalemated politics, the complaint that drove his insurgent campaign for president in 2008. But now, after five weary years in office, it was clear he saw it differently. Instead of pledging to fix the mess, the president was now promising to find ways around it, and change policies on his own authority." David Nakamura and David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post.
Transcript: Full text of Obama's 2014 State of the Union address. The Washington Post.
Watch: The full video. The New York Times.
Transcript: The Republican response, by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, to the State of the Union address. The Washington Post.
Watch: The full video. PBS NewsHour.
Liveblogs: Read the continuous coverage provided by The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
The facts: Glenn Kessler checks the speech line-by-line. The Washington Post.
The profile of Sergeant Remsburg, the veteran featured in last night's speech, that you should read. "In more than four years in office, Mr. Obama has met privately with nearly 1,000 men and women injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet his repeated encounters with Sergeant Remsburg stand out for bringing a president face to face with the resilience of the wounded and the brutal costs of the wars...Aides could not name any other wounded service member whom Mr. Obama has met three times, nor any other who first stood before the commander in chief in battle-ready prime." Jackie Calmes in The New York Times.
Looking back: Obama's 2013 State of the Union proposals: What flopped and what succeeded. Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post.
Multiple GOP responses to State of the Union: Are they a sign of party division? "When it comes to rebutting President Obama's national address Tuesday night, Republicans have four different approaches from four different corners of the party's ideological wings. This four-vs.-one approach, to some, is the result of the expanding media universe that allows many different views to be heard, reaching so many different voters. Yet others see the various responses as a sign of a divided Republican Party that cannot unite around the single idea or a single voice to respond to Obama's State of the Union address." Paul Kane and Robert Costa in The Washington Post.
How Obama dealt with Obamacare in the address. "Obama focused instead on the benefits of the law that already have taken effect, and their potential to protect Americans from crippling medical expenses. He likened the health care law to proposals he made on subjects including raising the minimum wage, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and boosting retirement savings...Obama also highlighted the contributions of Democratic Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear." Jeffrey Young in The Huffington Post.
@sarahkliff: What's different about this SOTU: Obama can actually talk about people gaining from the insurance expansion. Not true up til now.
How the State of the Union could make a difference on immigration reform. "With those recent developments in mind, House Democrats told reporters Tuesday that they anticipate Obama will be "respectful" of the GOP's apparent thawing in his State of the Union. They don't believe he'll challenge Republicans on the issue, make too explicit demands or announce any executive orders that would indicate he plans to circumvent Congress on immigration policy." Dylan Scott in Talking Points Memo.
@jimgeraghty: Cold night for all the diehard State of the Union fans tailgating in the U.S. Capitol parking lot.
Gun control was almost gone. "A year after making a call for his broad gun control agenda the emotional big finish, Obama devoted just two sentences to preventing gun violence...The gun control movement has focused its attention away from Washington, to the state and local level where progress can be easier to come by." Reid J. Epstein in Politico.
History: When the State of the Union was controversial. "A little more than 100 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson had Washington, D.C., "agape" at his decision to deliver the State of the Union address in-person to Congress. It was the first time in more than a century that a president had the gall to do such a thing. Since the early 1800s, the address was delivered in writing." Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.
History chart: The language of the State of the Union speeches. Kennedy Elliott in The Washington Post.
THE WASHINGTON POST: Opportunities to work together. "[What ideas] have at least a chance at passage: updating patent law, authority to pursue tariff-slashing trade deals in Asia and Europe and Mr. Obama's welcome pitch for housing finance reform all should win some GOP backing. The president proposed expanding the earned-income tax credit to include childless workers, which would improve work incentives and lift many single men and women out of poverty. This idea also has the virtue, politically, of taking what was originally a GOP program and reshaping it in a way that's at least not inconsistent with recent anti-poverty proposals from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). If Republicans are serious about their avowed concern for poverty and inequality, they'll take the president up on this proposal. Immigration reform is another area where both parties should be able to find common ground." The Washington Post Editorial Board.
THE NEW YORK TIMES: The state of our union is diminished. "Obama's speech on Tuesday night acknowledged the obvious: Congress has become a dead end for most of the big, muscular uses of government to redress income inequality and improve the economy for all, because of implacable Republican opposition. As a result, the remainder of Mr. Obama's presidency will be largely devoted to a series of smaller actions that the White House can perform on its own...But he left out an executive ban on discrimination by contractors against employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That would have made a strong statement about fairness in spending taxpayer money." The New York Times Editorial Board.
@ObsoleteDogma: Did I miss the part where Obama called for a Progressive Kristallnacht?
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Pitch number six. "The State of the Union address in the sixth year of any Presidency is rarely compelling. The White House tries to portray a renewed sense of vigor and perhaps a fresh proposal or two, while the public has begun to tune the familiar man out...The puzzle of the speech is that he far spent less time on the issues that might get done--immigration and tax reform, freer trade--than he did on the liberal priorities that are unlikely to pass." The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board.
FAVREAU: How Obama prepares for the State of the Union. "I have worked on five State of the Union addresses, and they never get easier. The President starts thinking about this speech in late November, and each year, he would begin with a few bold pronouncements: "This will not be a laundry list!" and "This one will be shorter than all the rest!" By the weekend before, we'd be cutting furiously, fending off additions from the rest of the administration (and the President!) in a desperate attempt to keep this monster under an hour. Obama himself would clock consecutive 2 a.m. nights editing and revising. And if anyone's looked at the White House Instagram feed lately, you'll notice that Director of Speechwriting Cody Keenan hasn't had time to shave a single hair from his face since late in 2013." Jon Favreau in The Daily Beast.
@TPCarney: Citizenship means letting Obama read all your emails.
COHN: Who are you calling a lame duck? "[T]here may yet be opportunities. In the speech, Obama mentioned the need to reauthorize spending on highway and water infrastructure--both easy vehicles for infrastructure spending...[Incremental action from Obama] can showcase and reward the most successful programs--many of them already in operation, in conservative states like Georgia and Oklahoma. And those examples can build support for greater initiatives, even if it will take a future president to sign them into law." Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.
CHAIT: What Obama is really trying to do in the State of the Union address. "Those low approval ratings provide the impetus for Obama's splashy new message. Everything about Obama's messaging -- the image of vigorous unilateral action, the laser focus on jobs, the small but popular policy initiatives attached to it -- serve the goal of patching up the president's standing and framing the Washington story in the most favorable terms possible. The State of the Union address is not an effort to fundamentally reorient the administration's strategy. It's a campaign to mend the political damage from the botched Obamacare launch." Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.
@Goldfarb: The call to expand the EITC may be the most important and creative idea in the SOTU speech
KLEIN: The ground has shifted beneath Obama. "Obama distilled his vision into a series of small-bore ideas he's mostly presented before on ending tax loopholes, creating manufacturing hubs, increasing the minimum wage, and improving job training, among others. Though he urged Congress to act on these priorities (along with immigration, climate change, unemployment insurance, and universal preschool), he did so without much expectation that anything would pass through a Congress in which Republicans control the House of Representatives. He couldn't even muster up much passion to deliver his ritual indignant scoldings of GOP intransigence. Instead, he has resigned himself to bypassing Congress and taking limited executive actions where he can." Philip A. Klein in The Washington Examiner.
BARRO: Four ideas Obama should have pushed in the State of the Union. "Marijuana: Obama could have used the State of the Union to announce that he was directing the Drug Enforcement Administration not to interfere with the legal marijuana trade in Colorado and Washington, and to call on Congress to repeal federal laws against marijuana...Intellectual property: Obama could have laid down a marker: That the purpose of intellectual property law is not to reward and enrich inventors but to elevate standards of living. That principle would be a basis for a much broader rollback of IP protections." Josh Barro in Business Insider.
BERNSTEIN: First impressions. "The challenge for the President was to avoid ticking through a list ideas that had no chance of going anywhere. I think he largely avoided that...[T]he President cannot and should not let Congress block his every move and good for the administration for trying to find other ways to help working families overcome opportunity barriers in our increasingly unequal economy." Jared Bernstein on his blog.
In memoriam interlude: Pete Seeger, "Where have all the flowers gone?"
Top opinion
EMANUEL: Obamacare vs. the Republican alternative. "The largest difference is in cost control. Currently, employer-sponsored health insurance is tax free; the Republican plan would make employees pay income tax on at least 35 percent of what their company pays for their plan. The idea is to make patients pay more for their coverage, giving them an incentive to choose cheaper health insurance plans with more deductibles and co-payments, which, in turn, would encourage them to shop around for cheaper tests and treatments and forgo unnecessary ones." Ezekiel Emanuel in The New York Times.
ORSZAG: Why isn't comparative effectiveness research getting done? "[O]nly 37 percent of the institute's research funding has gone to comparing two or more treatments (including usual care or the option of doing nothing), according to a new report by Neera Tanden, Ezekiel Emanuel, Topher Spiro, Emily Oshima Lee and Thomas Huelskoetter of the Center for American Progress...[T]he Institute of Medicine has already identified the top 25 topics that should be assessed. Unfortunately, out of the 284 studies the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute has funded to date, only 34 (or 12 percent) address these priority topics." Peter Orszag in Bloomberg.
PORTER: Why we need a New Deal to tackle long-term unemployment. "Thirty-nine states used $1.3 billion from the fiscal stimulus package passed in 2009 to create more than 260,000 jobs by subsidizing private employers. A subsequent evaluation of the program found that two-thirds of these jobs would not have existed without the subsidy. Many of those jobs went to people who were difficult to employ, including workers who had been jobless for a long time, people on welfare and workers with criminal records. Yet after the program ended in September 2010, 37 percent of the formerly subsidized workers kept their jobs." Eduardo Porter in The New York Times.
SUNSTEIN: Why economic mobility is stuck in neutral. "hey find that certain factors are highly correlated with increased mobility. Areas with low percentages of single parents show higher mobility. There are also strong correlations between upward mobility and high-quality K-12 school systems. Higher mobility is highly correlated with indices of "social capital."...Levels of mobility are unusually low in regions with larger African-American populations. But whites show similarly low levels of mobility in such areas. The researchers suggest a possible explanation: Areas with large African-American populations are highly segregated, and segregation might have adverse effects on mobility for both groups." Cass R. Sunstein in Bloomberg.
EDSALL: How should economics respond to Piketty? "There are a number of key arguments in Piketty's book. One is that the six-decade period of growing equality in western nations - starting roughly with the onset of World War I and extending into the early 1970s - was unique and highly unlikely to be repeated. That period, Piketty suggests, represented an exception to the more deeply rooted pattern of growing inequality." Thomas B. Edsall in The New York Times.
DAVIDSON: Building a Harley faster. "Harley's York factory represents an alternative to the common narrative of American manufacturing. In recent decades, countless sleepy Northern manufacturers suddenly awoke to global competition. They often responded by breaking their unions, by moving to a Southern right-to-work state or out of the country altogether, and by employing robots on the assembly line. This strategy has been repeated so many times that even as overall manufacturing output has grown by nearly 25 percent, manufacturing jobs have fallen by 30 percent since 2000." Adam Davidson in The New York Times.
SWAGEL: Challenges for the Yellen Fed. "If a strong enough economy can bring people off the sidelines and back into the labor force, then there is more slack in the labor market than implied by the recent decline in the unemployment rate. In this case, the Fed could maintain easy monetary conditions in an attempt to drive up wages and the participation rate...If inflation picks up, however, this would signal that the labor market has reached a new normal in which wage and inflation pressures arise with lower participation and higher unemployment than in the past." Philip Swagel in The New York Times.
Labor interlude: This college football team is trying to form a union.

2. The executive-action strategy
Obama prepared to avoid Congress, go it alone on carrying out modest initiatives. "For the first time since taking office, Obama spoke to Congress on Tuesday evening from a clear position of confrontation. The areas he identified for possible cooperation with a divided Congress have shrunk, leaving an agenda filled out by a growing number of modest initiatives that he intends to carry out alone...The tone and approach reflect the White House's conclusion that Obama spent too much time last year in conflict with recalcitrant lawmakers, rather than using the unilateral powers in his grasp...But the strategy risks further antagonizing Congress and resting part of his legacy on executive actions that do not have the permanence, or breadth, of major legislation." Scott Wilson in The Washington Post.
Key explainer: Here are 7 things Obama just said he'd do without Congress. Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.
The Republican critique of Obama's executive-action push. ""He's governing by edict," said Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.). Republicans concede Mr. Obama has the authority to do things like raise the minimum wage for employees at federal contractors. But Mr. McCain argues such moves poison the well of bipartisanship: "He has the authority, but it's the spirit of the Constitution that he is violating."" Janet Hook in The Wall Street Journal.
Obama ordered a raise in the minimum wage for government contract workers. "President Obama will announce in the State of the Union address Tuesday that he will use his executive power to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for workers on new government contracts, fulfilling a top demand by liberal lawmakers and groups, according to a White House document...A survey by the National Employment Law Project of contractors who manufacture military uniforms, provide food and janitorial services, and truck goods found that 75 percent of them earn less than $10 per hour. One in five was dependent on Medicaid for health care, and 14 percent used food stamps. Obama's action will only slowly trickle out into workers' paychecks, beginning in 2015 and at the start of new contracts." Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.
How can he do that? "President Obama would issue an executive order giving preference in awarding federal contracts to companies that pay their workers at least $10.10 per hour. The rules would only affect new contracts signed in 2015 or later (and not companies on existing contracts)...By some estimates, around 200,000 people -- though this would only happen gradually, over time, as new federal contracts get awarded. That's about 10 percent of the federal contracting workforce." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.
Boehner didn't like Obama's decision. ""I suspect the president has the authority to raise the minimum wage for those dealing with federal contracts. But let's understand something: This affects not one current contract, it only affects future contracts with the federal government. And so I think the question is, how many people, Mr. President, will this executive action actually help? I suspect the answer is somewhere close to zero."" Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Obama also ordered the creation of a new middle-class savings tool. "The administration didn't provide many details about the new accounts, which President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address. The accounts would be called "myRAs," and be structured like a Roth Individual Retirement Account. Like savings bonds, the investment would be backed by the federal government. The White House plans to create the accounts through an executive action, meaning it wouldn't need congressional approval. The Treasury Department is expected to encourage employers to offer the investment vehicles to employees who would be automatically enrolled unless they specifically elected not to participate." Damian Paletta and Anne Tergesen in The Wall Street Journal.
We also got an executive action on education. "Obama talked about one such initiative on Thursday night. It's called "ConnectED"--a program to vastly increase the broadband access for public schools. The initiative is possible because funding comes from a small fee on cell phone bills, one that the FCC can set without congressional authorization. It's not much money to the typical consumer--the figure I've seen suggests it'd be no more than $12 per person over the course of three years. But that money can make a huge difference to the schools." Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.
The limits of executive authority. "[W]ith some notable exceptions, only so much can be delivered through the president's pen if he is not using it to sign legislation. He cannot raise the minimum wage for most workers, overhaul the Social Security system, grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants, reorder spending and taxes, or even make necessary fixes to the health care law...At the same time, anyone who succeeds him can use the stroke of a pen to undo Mr. Obama's actions just as Mr. Obama did to some Bush-era policies one day after his inauguration in 2009." Carl Hulse in The New York Times.
Another drawback on executive actions. "Because executive orders are intended first and foremost to direct the conduct of the executive branch, they must be sensitive to diverse opinions and interests within the executive branch. Typically, the interagency consultation needed to produce executive orders is neither quick nor simple." William A. Galston in The Wall Street Journal.
Geniuses interlude: Watch Bill Gates lose a chess match in 79 seconds.

3. Inequality in focus
Inequality was one of the core themes of the State of the Union. "President Barack Obama pledged to address deepening inequality in the US, with a volley of directives covering everything from higher wages for low-paid federal workers to new government-backed retirement accounts...The minimum wage move dovetails with the primary theme of the speech and Mr Obama's second term - his campaign to reduce growing inequality in the US, although the speech focused more on creating "opportunity" than on the gap between the rich and poor. After four years of economic growth "corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled."" Richard McGregor in The Financial Times.
Obama won't talk about the biggest thing he's done to fix inequality: Raise taxes. ""Changing tax rates is likely to have small effects on supply of labor and capital and on output," the Congressional Research Service reported earlier this month. Wealth managers dealingLydia DePillis in The Washington Post.
Obama also proposed widening eligibility for the EITC. "The way EITC works now is that it offers a substantial economic boost to a population largely composed of working single moms and some married couples with kids, but very little for people who don't have kids at home. As this report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities details, changing that to make EITC benefits more broadly available would do a lot to boost incomes in a way that encourages and rewards work and employment. They also think it might boost marriage rates, by boosting the incomes of male low-wage workers and making marriage and family formation more feasible." Matthew Yglesias in Slate.
Meanwhile, Americans feel they are slipping out of the middle class. "If you actually take a close look at the numbers, it turns out that of the people who identified as middle class in 2008, nearly a third of them now identify as lower middle or lower class...Class self-identification is deeply tied up with culture, not just income, and this decline means that a lot of people--about one in six Americans--now think of themselves as not just suffering an income drop, but suffering an income drop they consider permanent. Permanent enough that they now live in a different neighborhood, associate with different friends, and apparently consider themselves part of a different culture than they did just six years ago." Kevin Drum in Mother Jones.
Internet interlude: An award show for GIFs.
4. Meanwhile, mixed economic data
Durable goods orders tumble 4.3 percent, suggesting business caution. "Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had a median forecast that durable-goods orders would rise by 1.5% in December. The decline, the biggest since July, was driven by a sharp drop in demand for civilian aircraft. Excluding the volatile transportation sector, durable-goods orders fell 1.6%--itself the biggest decline since March." Josh Mitchell in The Wall Street Journal.
U.S. home prices rise in November. "The home price index covering 10 major U.S. cities increased 13.8% in the year ended in November, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price report. The 20-city price index increased 13.7%, close to the 13.8% advance expected by economists. The two indexes indicate home prices are back to levels seen in mid-2004." Kathleen Madigan in The Wall Street Journal.
Global markets are freaking out. Here's what the Fed should say. "The worldwide rout is unlikely to deter the Fed from continuing to reduce the amount of money it is pumping into the U.S. economy by $10 billion to $65 billion a month as officials convene in Washington Tuesday and Wednesday. The central bank wants to move deliberately, minutes of its last meeting show, out of "concern about the potential for an unintended tightening of financial conditions." That covers both the United States and the rest of the world." Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.
Out of bounds interlude: "I'll break you in half. Like a boy."
5. Congress is working. Wait, what?
Republicans surrender on debt ceiling imminent. "House Republicans are getting ready to surrender: There will be no serious fight over the debt limit. The most senior figures in the House Republican Conference are privately acknowledging that they will almost certainly have to pass what's called a clean debt ceiling increase in the next few months, abandoning the central fight that has defined their three-year majority...The reason for the shift in dynamics in this fight is clear. Congress has raised the debt limit twice in a row without drastic policy concessions." Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan in Politico.
Graph: The $956 billion farm bill, in one graph. Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.
House poised to vote on farm bill. "The House cleared the way for a Wednesday showdown vote on the new farm bill agreement, even as Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to dedicate a portion of the savings to help pay for extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. The 222-194 vote Tuesday made for a sharp contrast with the broad support now enjoyed by the farm bill itself. And after two years of struggle, the Agriculture Committee leadership is increasingly confident that the giant measure will now prevail--almost exactly six months after it was upended by the same chamber last June." David Rogers in Politico.
Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.
Wonkblog Roundup
Did Sen. Coburn lose his cancer doctor because of Obamacare? Sarah Kliff.
Here are 7 policies Obama just said he'd pursue without Congress. Brad Plumer.
The $956 billion farm bill, in one graph. Brad Plumer.
Obama won't talk about the biggest thing he's done to fix inequality: Raise taxes. Lydia DePillis.
Global markets are freaking out. Here's what the Fed should say. Ylan Q. Mui.
Obama is boosting the minimum wage for federal contractors. Here's how. Brad Plumer.
Et Cetera
Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail us.
Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

State of the Union surprise: What John Boehner did 28JAN14

I did not hear most of the policies I support because I believe in social justice and the American social contract in Pres Obama's State of the Union speech. I make my differences with the president and both parties in congress very clear, but I have not lowered myself, even during the bush administrations, to r OH rep john boehner's level when he said what he did yesterday. From DFA.....
You won't believe what came out of Speaker John Boehner's mouth earlier today. According to Roll Call, Boehner said that:
Maintaining his composure during the State of the Union, while sitting on camera and directly behind the president as Obama delivers his remarks, makes for the “hardest day of the year.”
Well, if Mr. Boehner thinks sitting behind the President is too hard -- while millions of Americans struggle in this economy because of his obstructionism -- we would be more than happy to help Boehner pack his bags and retire.

28 January 2014

FULL TRANSCRIPT: Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address 28JAN14

If you missed it, here is theFULL TRANSCRIPT: Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address
Video: State of the Union attendees applaud as President Obama praises John Boehener in his State of the Union address.

How presidential rhetoric in the State of the Union address has changed over the past 100 years
Click Here to View Full Graphic Story
How presidential rhetoric in the State of the Union address has changed over the past 100 years
State of the Union 2014

TRANSCRIPT: Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address

TRANSCRIPT: Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address
President Obama delivered his 2014 State of the Union address on Jan. 28 at the U.S. Capitol.

Are GOP responses a sign of division?

Are GOP responses a sign of division?
The official response will come from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, but Sens. Paul and Lee will have a say.

Obama calls for ‘year of action’

Obama calls for ‘year of action’
President Obama sought Tuesday to restore public confidence and trust in his presidency after a dispiriting year.

Obama prepared to avoid Congress

Obama prepared to avoid Congress
Tone of speech reflects view that he spent too much time battling lawmakers, not enough using powers.

A weak batting average for Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech

A weak batting average for Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech
The Fact Checker’s annual round-up of what happened to President Obama’s proposals in the last State of the Union.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, my fellow Americans, today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it and did her part to lift America's graduation rate to its highest levels in more than three decades.
An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup and did her part to add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years. (Applause.)
An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil.
A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history.
A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. (Applause.) A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities all across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades and give thanks for being home from a war that after twelve long years is finally coming to an end. (Applause.)
Tonight this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: It is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong. (Applause.)
And here are the results of your efforts: the lowest unemployment rate in over five years; a rebounding housing market -- (applause) -- a manufacturing sector that's adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s -- (applause) -- more oil produced -- more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that's happened in nearly twenty years -- (applause) -- our deficits cut by more than half; and for the first time -- (applause) -- for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world's number one place to invest; America is.
(Cheers, applause.) That's why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.
The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress. For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It's an important debate -- one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy -- when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States -- then we are not doing right by the American people. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, as president, I'm committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. And I believe most of you are, too. Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans,Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year's severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country's future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way.
But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.
And in the coming months -- (applause) -- in the coming months, let's see where else we can make progress together. Let's make this a year of action. That's what most Americans want, for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all, the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead in America. (Applause.)
Now, let's face it: That belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all.
So our job is to reverse these trends.
It won't happen right away, and we won't agree on everything.
But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require congressional action, and I'm eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still, and neither will I. (Applause.) So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do. (Cheers, applause.)
As usual, our first lady sets a good example. Michelle's -- (applause) -- well. (Chuckles.) (Cheers, applause.) Yeah. Michelle's Let's Move! partnership with schools, businesses, local leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in thirty years, and that's an achievement -- (applause) -- that will improve lives and reduce health care costs for decades to come. The Joining Forces alliance that Michelle and Jill Biden launched has already encouraged employers to hire or train nearly 400,000 veterans and military spouses. (Applause.)
Taking a page from that playbook, the White House just organized a College Opportunity Summit, where already 150 universities, businesses, nonprofits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education and to help every hardworking kid go to college and succeed when they get to campus.
And across the country -- (applause) -- we're partnering with mayors, governors and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality.
The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That's what drew our forebears here. It's how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America's largest automaker -- (applause) -- how the son of a barkeeper is speaker of the House -- (cheers, applause) -- how the son of a single mom can be president of the greatest nation on Earth. (Cheers, applause.)
Now -- (sustained cheers and applause) -- opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation must be to restore that promise.
We know where to start. The best measure of opportunity is access to a good job. With the economy picking up speed, companies say they intend to hire more people this year.
And over half of big manufacturers say they're thinking of insourcing jobs from abroad. (Applause.)
So let's make that decision easier for more companies. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let's flip that equation. Let's work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home. (Cheers, applause.)
Moreover, we can take the money we save from this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes -- because in today's global economy, first- class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We'll need Congress to protect more than 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. (Cheers, applause.) That can happen.
But -- but I'll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible. (Applause.)
We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. And my administration's launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Youngstown, Ohio, where we've connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies.
Tonight, I'm announcing we'll launch six more this year. Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create. So, get those bills to my desk and put more Americans back to work. (Applause.)
Let's do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other. And when 98 percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create even more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment and open new markets to new goods stamped "Made in the USA." (Applause.)
Listen, China and Europe aren't standing on the sidelines; and neither -- neither should we. We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. And that's why Congress should undo the damage done by last year's cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery. (Cheers, applause.)
There are entire industries to be built based on vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria or paper-thin material that's stronger than steel. And let's pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation. (Applause.)
Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The "all the above" energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades. (Applause.)
One of the reasons why is natural gas. If extracted safely, it's the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. (Applause.) Businesses plan to invest almost a hundred billion dollars in new factories that use natural gas. I'll cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. (Applause.)
Meanwhile, my administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and jobs growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities. And while we're at it, I'll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations. (Applause.)
Now, it's not just oil and natural gas production that's booming; we're becoming a global leader in solar too.
Every four minutes another American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can't be outsourced. Let's continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don't need it so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do. (Cheers, applause.)
And even as we've increased energy production, we've partnered with businesses, builders and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months I'll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.
And taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. (Applause.)
But we have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods. That's why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.
The shift -- (applause) -- the shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it will require some tough choices along the way.
But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. (Applause.) And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did. (Cheers, applause.)
Finally, if we're serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement -- and fix our broken immigration system. (Cheers, applause.) Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted, and I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: When people come here to fulfill their dreams -- to study, invent, contribute to our culture -- they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let's get immigration reform done this year. (Cheers, applause.) Let's get it done. It's time.
The ideas I've outlined so far can speed up growth and create more jobs. But in this rapidly-changing economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.
The good news is, we know how to do it. Two years ago, as the auto industry came roaring back, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make those parts. She just needed the workforce. So she dialed up what we call an American Job Center; places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or a better job. She was flooded with new workers, and today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees. And what Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for every employer and every job seeker.
So tonight, I've asked Vice President Biden to lead an across- the-board reform of America's training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now. (Cheers, applause.) That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life. It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs. And if Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.
I'm also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it's more effective in today's economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people. (Cheers, applause.)
Let me tell you why.
Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She'd been steadily employed since she was a teenager, put herself through college. She'd never collected unemployment benefits, but she's been paying taxes.
In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home. A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved. Last month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and wrote me a letter, the kind I get every day. "We are the face of the unemployment crisis," she wrote. "I'm not dependent on the government. Our country depends on people like us who build careers, contribute to society, care about our neighbors. I am confident that in time I will find a job, I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love. Please give us this chance."
Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance. (Cheers, applause.) Give them that chance. Give them the chance. They need our help right now, but more important, this country needs them in the game. That's why I've been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at new jobs, a new chance to support their families. And in fact, this week many will come to the White House to make that commitment real.
Tonight I ask every business leader in America to join us and do the same because we are stronger when America fields a full team. (Applause.)
Of course, it's not enough to train today's workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow's workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education. (Applause.)
Estiven Rodriguez couldn't speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age 9. But last month, thanks to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his classmates through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors from their high school to the post office, where they mailed off their college applications. And this son of a factory worker just found out he's going to college this fall. (Applause.)
Five years ago we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing students with the skills for the new economy -- problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, math.
Now, some of this change is hard.
It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it is worth it -- and it is working.
The problem is we're still not reaching enough kids, and we're not reaching them in time, and that has to change.
Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child's life is high-quality early education. (Applause.) Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old. And as a parent as well as a president, I repeat that request tonight.
But in the meantime, 30 states have raised pre-k funding on their own. They know we can't wait. So just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year we'll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children. And as Congress decides what it's going to do, I'm going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K that they need. (Applause.) It is right for America. We need to get this done.
Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we've got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit. (Cheers, applause.)
We're working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career. We're shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle- class kid is priced out of a college education. We're offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to 10 percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt. (Applause.)
And I'm reaching out to some of America's leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.
The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us. But we know our opportunity agenda won't be complete, and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise, unless we also do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.
You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment.
Women deserve equal pay for equal work. (Cheers, applause.)
You know, she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. (Cheers, applause.) A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. (Applause.) And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a "Mad Men" episode. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) This year let's all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity she deserves, because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs, but they're not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people will earn more money than others, and we don't resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. That's what America's all about. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. (Applause.)
In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs.
Many businesses have done it on their own. Nick Chute is here today with his boss, John Soranno. John's an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the dough. (Laughter.) Only now he makes more of it. (Laughter.) John just gave his employees a raise to 10 bucks an hour, and that's a decision that has eased their financial stress and boosted their morale.
Tonight I ask more of America's business leaders to follow John's lead. Do what you can to raise your employees' wages. (Applause.) It's good for the economy; it's good for America. (Sustained applause.)
To every mayor, governor, state legislator in America, I say, you don't have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on. And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. In the coming weeks I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour because if you cook -- (cheers, applause) -- our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty. (Sustained applause.)
Of course, to reach millions more, Congress does need to get on board.
Today the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. And Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. It's easy to remember: 10.10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It does not involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise. (Cheers, applause.) Give 'em a raise.
There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, and few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families pull themselves up through hard work than the Earned Income Tax Credit. Right now, it helps about half of all parents at some point. Think about that. It helps about half of all parents in America at some point in their lives.
But I agree with Republicans like Senator Rubio that it doesn't do enough for single workers who don't have kids. So let's work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, help more Americans get ahead.
Let's do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today most workers don't have a pension. A Social Security check often isn't enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn't help folks who don't have 401(k)s. That's why tomorrow I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It's a -- it's a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg.
MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little or nothing for middle-class Americans, offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everybody in this chamber can.
And since the most important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations. (Applause.)
One last point on financial security. For decades, few things exposed hard-working families to economic hardship more than a broken health care system. And in case you haven't heard, we're in the process of fixing that. (Scattered laughter, applause.)
Now -- a pre-existing condition used to mean that someone like Amanda Shelley, a physician's assistant and single mom from Arizona, couldn't get health insurance. But on January 1st, she got covered. (Applause.) On January 3rd, she felt a sharp pain. On January 6th, she had emergency surgery. Just one week earlier, Amanda said, that surgery would've meant bankruptcy. That's what health insurance reform is all about, the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don't have to lose everything.
Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 3 million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents' plans. (Applause.)
More than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage -- 9 million. (Applause.)
And here's another number: zero. Because of this law, no American, none, zero, can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a pre-existing condition like asthma or back pain or cancer. (Cheers, applause.) No woman can ever be charged more just because she's a woman. (Cheers, applause.) And we did all this while adding years to Medicare's finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.
Now, I do not expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. (Laughter.) (Chuckles.) (Laughter.) But I know that the American people are not interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice, tell America what you'd do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up. (Applause.) But let's not have another 40- something votes to repeal a law that's already helping millions of Americans like Amanda.
(Cheers, applause.) The first 40 were plenty. We all owe it to the American people to say what we're for, not just what we're against.
And if you want to know the real impact this law is having, just talk to Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who's here tonight. Now, Kentucky's not the most liberal part of the country. That's not where I got my highest vote totals. (Laughter.) But he's like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth's families. They're our neighbors and our friends, he said. They're people we shop and go to church with -- farmers out on the tractor, grocery clerks. They're people who go to work every morning praying they don't get sick. No one deserves to live that way.
Steve's right. That's why tonight I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31st. Help them get covered. (Applause.) Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It'll give her some peace of mind, and plus, she'll appreciate hearing from you. (Laughter.)
After all, that -- that's the spirit that has always moved this nation forward.
It's the spirit of citizenship, the recognition that through hard work and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation can pursue its dreams as well.
Citizenship means standing up for everyone's right to vote. (Applause.) Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened, but conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it. And the bipartisan commission I appointed, chaired by my campaign lawyer and Governor Romney's campaign lawyer, came together and have offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote. Let's support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy. (Cheers, applause.)
Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say "we are not afraid," and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters and our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook. (Applause.)
Citizenship demands a sense of common purpose; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve to our communities.
And I know this chamber agrees that few Americans give more to their country than our diplomats and the men and women of the United States armed forces. (Extended applause.) Thank you.
Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops and civilians who risk and lay down their lives to keep us free, the United States is more secure. When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America's longest war will finally be over. (Applause.)
After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future.
If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al-Qaida. For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country. (Applause.)
The fact is that danger remains. While we've put al-Qaida's core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al-Qaida affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks. In Syria, we'll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks. Here at home, we'll keep strengthening our defenses and combat new threats like cyberattacks. And as we reform our defense budget, we have to keep faith with our men and women in uniform and invest in the capabilities they need to succeed in future missions. (Applause.)
We have to remain vigilant.
But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our outstanding military alone. As commander in chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office. But I will not send our troops into harm's way unless it is truly necessary, nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles -- (applause) -- that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us -- large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.
So even as we actively and aggressively pursue terrorist networks, through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners, America must move off a permanent war footing. (Applause.) That's why I've imposed prudent limits on the use of drones, for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence.
That's why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that privacy of ordinary people is not being violated. (Applause.) And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay -- (applause) -- because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals and setting an example for the rest of the world.
You see, in a world of complex threats, our security, our leadership depends on all elements of our power -- including strong and principled diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than 50 countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles.
American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria's chemical weapons are being eliminated. (Applause.) And we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve -- a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear.
As we speak, American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in the difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the state of Israel -- a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side. (Applause.)
And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran's nuclear program -- and rolled back parts of that program -- for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium.
It's not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify every day that Iran is not building a bomb. And with our allies and partners, we're engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)
These negotiations will be difficult; they may not succeed. We are clear-eyed about Iran's support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and we're clear about the mistrust between our nations, mistrust that cannot be wished away. But these negotiations don't rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today. (Applause.)
The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. (Applause.) For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.
(Applause.) If Iran's leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. But if Iran's leaders do seize the chance -- and we'll know soon enough -- then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.
And finally, let's remember that our leadership is defined not just by our defense against threats but by the enormous opportunities to do good and promote understanding around the globe, to forge greater cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want. And no one is better positioned to take advantage of those opportunities than America.
Our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known. From Tunisia to Burma, we're supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy. In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully and to have a say in their country's future. Across Africa, we're bringing together businesses and governments to double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty. In the Americas, we're building new ties of commerce, but we're also expanding cultural and educational exchanges among young people.
And we will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies, shape a future of greater security and prosperity and extend a hand to those devastated by disaster, as we did in the Philippines, when our Marines and civilians rushed to aid those battered by a typhoon, and were greeted with words like, "We will never forget your kindness" and "God bless America."
We do these things because they help promote our long-term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. And next week the world will see one expression of that commitment when Team USA marches the red, white and blue into the Olympic stadium and brings home the gold. (Cheers, applause.)
My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might but because of the ideals we stand for and the burdens we bear to advance them.
No one knows this better than those who serve in uniform. As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life. We'll keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they've earned and our wounded warriors receive the health care -- including the mental health care -- that they need. (Applause.) We'll keep working to help all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs here at home, and we will all continue to join forces to honor and support our remarkable military families.
Let me tell you about one of those families I've come to know.
I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he walked me through the program, the ceremony. He was a strong, impressive young man, had an easy manner. He was sharp as a tack. And we joked around, and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.
A few months later, on his 10th deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.
For months, he lay in a coma. And the next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn't speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he's endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, hours of grueling rehab every day.
Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He still struggles on his left side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. Day by day, he's learned to speak again and stand again and walk again, and he's working toward the day when he can serve his country again.
"My recovery has not been easy," he says. "Nothing in life that's worth anything is easy."
Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit. (Cheers, applause.) Cory. (Extended cheers and applause.)
My fellow Americans -- my fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged.
But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress: to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice and fairness and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.
The America we want for our kids -- a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us -- none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, the way Cory summoned what is best in him, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it's within our reach.
Believe it.
God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

Executed. Sign our petition to the American Pharmaceutical Association: Petition Text: Ban your members from participating in executions in any way." 27JAN14

I have been against the death penalty, capital punishment, for years. I know there are some people on death row who have committed horrible crimes and have been cruel and sadistic and even taken pleasure when they have killed others. That does not justify doing the same to them, especially in a nation that describes itself as a Christian nation. I am not opposed to keeping these people in prison for the rest of their lives as punishment for their crimes, but I will never be in favor of the death penalty. Let them live out their life in prison and maybe at some point they will make their peace with God before they die. A Christian nation would hold out that hope for these people. The following is from SumOfUs about the cruel execution last week of Dennis McGuire, guilty of murder, undeserving of cruel and unusual punishment. Please click the link to sign the petition calling on the American Pharmaceutical Association to ban their members from participating in executions. 
Two weeks ago, the state of Ohio executed a man using a method that witnesses say was one of the most cruel and unusual in recent history. Dennis McGuire suffered for 24 long minutes before finally passing away -- because Ohio decided to use an untested drug to kill him.
As his adult children sobbed a few feet away, Dennis McGuire suffered for 24 long minutes while Ohio used an untested drug to execute him.
A small group of pharmacists are keeping executions running on experimental drugs after everyone else has refused to participate.
Let's demand that the American Pharmaceutical Association bans their members from participating, and end these cruel executions.

With doctors, nurses, and pharmaceutical companies all refusing to participate in executions, a small group of pharmacists are experimenting with untested, lethal injection cocktails to gruesomely kill people like Dennis McGuire and keep executions happening.
If the American Pharmaceutical Association would ban their members from participating in executions, we could stop lethal injections and end almost all executions in the US.
Tell the American Pharmaceutical Association: Stop your involvement in executions now.
Electric chairs, gas chambers, hangings, and firing squads have been banned by almost all states, leaving lethal injection as the only legal method of killing left. But lethal injection by its very nature requires medical professionals to be involved. Doctors and nurses have long since barred themselves from participating in executions, and they haven’t participated for decades. More recently, all major pharmaceutical companies have banned their drugs from being used.
So states have been been forced to turn to so-called “compounding pharmacists” -- who are not regulated by the FDA -- to develop untested cocktails like the one used to kill McGuire.
Ahead of the American Pharmaceutical Association’s annual meeting this spring, let's tell pharmacists in the US to do something that they should have done decades ago: ban pharmacists from executions and effectively end capital punishment in most states. 
American Pharmaceutical Association: Ban your members from participating in executions.
McGuire was injected with a lethal cocktail that a federal judge conceded ahead of time was an "experiment in lethal injection processes". As his adult children sobbed a few feet away in a witness room, McGuire suffered for 24 long minutes -- calling out to his children and struggling loudly for air. It was one of the longest executions since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999.
Without medical professionals, it would be impossible for states to produce lethal injection cocktails. Doctors and nurses in the US are already banned by their professional associations from participating in state killings. But some pharmacists, a profession that is meant to help and save people, are participating in these killings for a few extra dollars. Let’s call on pharmacists to ban their profeession from participating in capital punishment.
Call on pharmacists to take a stand against any involvement in capital punishment.
Thank you for all you do,
Angus, Kelsey, Martin, and the rest of the team at SumOfUs

More Information:
Ohio executes inmate using untried, untested lethal injection method, The Guardian, 16 January 2014
Did Ohio's New Lethal-Injection Cocktail Lead to a Cruel and Unusual Death For Dennis McGuire?, Slate, 16 January 2014
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