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My State of the Union

If I were the President’s voice, this is the speech I would give next Wednesday.

Ladies and Gentleman, Good Evening.

Let us get straight to the point: the State of our Union is dire.

We are on a precipice and we are teetering. Our past is catching up to us, and our future is uncertain. Our politics is constrained by nihilism and cowardice, and we have spent too long not getting anything done.

It is time for that to change. We must stand together and face our problems, or we allow ourselves to be swept over the edge into the abyss.

We face a host of problems and we should be clear about what they are. For too long we have allowed the screaming heads on television to cloud the issues and pretend that the status quo is good enough; to confuse us into inaction; to slow down the arc of history’s slow bending toward justice.

We face a deficit that is too large, with income cut too small by an overzealous era of tax cutting when we couldn’t afford it and expenses growing too large as health care speeds us toward the brink.

We have an economy that is overbalanced, with fat cats in finance earning obscene amounts of money while too many of our fellow citizens lose their jobs, their homes, and their security.

We have ignored too long a looming disaster as our actions change the very world around us and hurt our planet, with effects that will cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

But most dangerous of all, we have a divided country that cannot even agree on what the problems are. We are too blinded by ideology and too constrained by our struggle for power to come together to even talk about solutions. We cannot find it in ourselves to put aside our childish bickering and come to an accord on how to move forward, so instead we chase each other around in circles in hopes that the other guy is smiling at the cameras when the world explodes.

It is time for that to change.

During the course of the campaign and during my presidency, I have traveled all across this country and heard heart-breaking stories about families who were bankrupt because they got sick. I have heard stories of families who lacked insurance and needed it, who had health insurance that disappeared when they needed it, who could not get insurance because they needed it. And those people are the reason that I have spent the first year of my presidency trying to make our health care system better with the bill that the House now can and should pass, because the people of this great nation deserve it.

The people.

Remember the people? They’re the one’s we’re supposed to be here for. We’re the “people’s servants.” We’re not called into office as a game to see who can stick around the longest, or who can get the nicest office in the Capitol Building. We’re supposed to be working toward a More Perfect Union, providing for the Common Defense, and Promoting the General Welfare.

How much of that have we done lately?

It is time for that to change.

I am calling tonight for an end to the bickering. I am calling instead for the best and the brightest to come forward with your ideas and your commitment and to lay them on the line when your country needs them. It is time for us to come together and make our country work again by acting to solve our problems instead of acting like we don’t have any.

Making our country work again is not going to be easy and it is not going to be painless. It is going to hurt a lot and it is going to upset some people who are quite happy with the way that things are. But we must live up to the dreams we have instead of the fears we harbor. We must stop being afraid of our problems and instead work to end them.

That work starts by making it possible to act. Our current system is tied into knots trying to avoid action, and our first act must be to loosen those knots and set ourselves free to be a great country again.

We must streamline our legislature by ending the filibuster, which allows a tiny minority of the country–a bit less than ten percent–to turn a debate over the issues into a cul-de-sac. A majority of Americans elected me to my position, a majority of your constituents elected you, and a majority of you should be able to move us to a More Perfect Union. This is why I support ending the filibuster immediately, but fully support an elimination far enough in the future that no one party will be the guaranteed benefactor of the change.

So, too, must we eliminate the Senate’s practice of the “hold.” This is a procedural tactic that allows a single Senator to bring action to a halt. Holds are the reason why so much of my administration is working without heads of departments or proper staffs. Holds literally hollow out our nation’s ability to act. We should end holds not next Congress or next year, but immediately.

We must find a way to move toward a balanced budget. The health care bill has since its first draft been a budget reducing bill, but we need more. That is why I support a blue ribbon committee chartered with the goal of raising revenue by 2% and lowering expenses by 2% over the next five years. They should take a hard look at streamlining our tax system to remove some of the loopholes while lowering the tax rate. They should have a final proposal by December that would require a vote before the next Congress is seated. And the next Congress should have their own committee with the same goals, as should the congress after that, and the one after that, and the one after that until we find a way to live within our means.

The surest way to help our budget is to jumpstart the economy again. In dark times the government steps in–as it should–to fill the void. Medicare helps those who need health care. Social Security helps those whose retirements were consumed by catastrophe. Unemployment helps those who are hit directly with the loss of their job. Each of these helps our General Welfare; all of these are necessary and proper roles for us to fill, and all of them are cheaper when times are good and fewer people need a helping hand.

Toward that end I am proposing the creation of a permanent Infrastructure Bank. This new agency would finance large construction projects over the entire country, so that the nation that built Hoover Dam and the Eerie Canal can continue building great things that push us forward. Part of the agency’s charter would be counter-cyclical spending: when times are tough, the Infrastructure Bank should ramp up production to put unemployed people to work making our country a better place.

We must also work to limit the power held by a few financiers to put our economy in peril. If you are too big to fail, you are too big. We gave you a loan to avoid the worst possible outcomes, and now we want our money back, but we also need to make sure this can never happen again. My proposal to tax large banks and my request for authority to limit bank’s size will give us the tools needed to make that assurance. But we also need the ability to unwind those banks who are already too big in case they should find themselves once more imperiled and imperiling; Congress must empower the Department of the Treasury with that ability as soon as possible.

But what we must do more than anything is begin to listen to each other again. We must begin again to act like grown ups, to seize our Manifest Destiny and ride it to the greater heights that we can now only dream of.

For too long we have allowed our greater glories to be relegated to the past, to believe that our best days were behind us and that the world is too dangerous for us to brave the frontiers of the possible again.

And it is long past time for that to change.