Mark’s Advance Version of President Obama’s Recent Speech
A few days before President Obama gave his “jobs” address, Mark published his own version of what he would like to have heard, in “SNS: Getting Past 9.11” (9.8.11), reprinted here:
Obama’s Speech on Jobs [and Publisher’s Version]
For whatever reason, we are left in this Post-9.11 world with a legacy opposite what one would have guessed that first, clear morning. The world that suffered with us quickly turned against us as our war machine took over. The economy that had just been the most expansive in history rapidly turned to debits and debt as we became mired in unnecessary wars, instead of investing in 21st-century research and development.
This week, President Obama will give a(nother) speech on jobs. No doubt, it will be rousing, and go nowhere. Whether this is because the GOP has taken a Party Before Country attitude, requiring American suffering and failure in order to win the next election, or whether it’s just Obama’s lack of political courage, I don’t see any real movement toward solutions.
For that reason, I’d like to offer my own version of Obama’s speech, as a way to move the U.S. beyond 9.11.
My Fellow Americans:
We have dropped the ball. In every way possible, and in almost every sector, we are doing less, and doing a poorer job of it, than yesterday. As your leader, I have tried to warn you, issue by issue, but it’s not getting through.
For whatever reason, the wrong people, the wrong forces, are in sway, and they do not put American prosperity – or our ability to sustain that prosperity – first. Instead, they prioritize short-term profits, shareholder quarterly returns, and Party before Country.
It is as though some illness has fallen on the country – perhaps on the whole world – which, if not challenged directly, will overwhelm the great deeds done up to now.
Since this country’s beginnings, every generation has done better than the last. This is a critical part of what we call the American Dream. But one could also argue that, since this country’s founding, each new group of political, social, and business leaders was smarter, more able, better-educated, and more productive than before.
Too many of our leaders are opting for the quick lie, the fast hand, the easy buck, the made-up quarterly penny-per-share. Our media brazenly lie to us, without any cost, except that we lose the ability to know our own problems. Party leaders lie about their past or private lives; business leaders lie about climate change because they worry it will hit their bottom line. A very few rich men hire professional liars to influence modern elections, with discouragingly strong result. The Supreme Court allows unlimited corporate spending on electing our – your and my fellow citizens’ – democratically elected representatives, in the name of freedom.
No wonder no one trusts governments today. In Washington, D.C., we can’t even talk to one another without fear of reprimand by the “gray men” in the shadows behind us. Representatives, on their first day in town, are forced to sign iron pledges that deprive them of the right of compromise, and immediately put special interests ahead of common citizens. Debate is dead, corporations rule, the middle class is history, and the gulf between rich and poor widens at a breakneck daily pace.
I could lie to you about all this, but I’ve come to realize: what is the point? To get re-elected? No, thanks. I’d rather take the one year left before that election, and just tell you the truth. After over 200 years as a great country, and in this time of need, you deserve it.
Here are two things that are true about your country today:
First, you don’t own it anymore: corporations do. America is bought and paid for by corporations, and if you want it back, you are going to have to fight for it tooth and nail. Frankly, I don’t think you have it in you – and neither do your representatives, nor do their lobbyist friends on K Street.
Second, we have lost our way as a country.
America is a nation of inventors, and it always has been. This is what we are good at, this is what other nations buy – and steal – from us, and this is what pays for our growth.
Today, the global economy is driven by technology, by invention, by the commercial application s of pure science. China knows this, and works overtime to steal our inventions, by piracy, by reverse engineering, by espionage, by hacking into our computer systems, and through the forced disclosure of our inventions and trade secrets in return for access to her markets. How dare she!!
And how dare our executives give away this nation’s crown jewels, their companies’ most important designs and inventions, in return for the fraud of big sales most will never have the slightest chance of achieving.
This has to stop, and it has to stop now, while we still have the ability to stop it. America lies like a patient on a hospital table, the blood – the wealth from our own ideas and inventions – draining away through a tube. We have to get angry about this, we have to get up from the table, and we have to rip that tube out. We have to get paid for our inventions.
I will admit to you: we in Washington have been fiddling as America burns. Everyone talks about the importance of jobs, but ultimately there is only one place jobs come from, in a long-term and sustainable way: inventions.For that reason, I am putting forward the first in a series of bills tomorrow morning, called the “Intellectual Property Protection Act,” or IPPA. It requires corporations to re-value their inventions based on world competitors, and to protect these inventions more effectively. It makes the unpaid disclosure of IP a crime, regardless of whether by employee or CEO; and it provides extreme penalties for cyber theft of our nation’s secrets.
This illegal flow of our nation’s lifeblood has to stop, and I promise you, I will do everything in my power to stop it. I expect complete and quick agreement on this law, from both parties.
Here is another rude joke on those of you in the vanishing middle class: free trade agreements destroy jobs. You don’t believe me? Just look at what happened to American jobs after NAFTA: Ross Perot was absolutely right. And just watch what is happening now to Brazil, as it cozies up to China: currency manipulation, loss of manufacturing, loss of jobs.
Our theories on this were wrong; the card deck was stacked, and we were trying to play a fair hand. Well, it turns out, the world just doesn’t work that way.
Free trade deals are bad for jobs if your workers are middle-class, and great for jobs if your workers get slave wages. And that’s the truth.
For that reason, I am recommending that every trade agreement be referred first to the Congressional Budget Office for a strict report on the jobs expected to be won or lost by that agreement. We don’t need to lose any more jobs right now.
But we don’t have a lot of time to solve this jobs problem, so we need some interim solutions, even as we protect the jobs we have left, and try to create new, better long-term employment.
Short-term, we know from Keynes that we need to get our workforce to work, at almost any cost. In other words, the use of our human resources is more important than any argument about costs. We learned this again in the Great Depression, and I will not let any splinter group in any party keep us from this goal.
We will employ more people, starting now, even in short-term jobs. A productive human being is always more valuable to society than an unemployed one, and any system which does not recognize that fact is just plain wrong.
For that reason, I am putting forward a series of new bills that will drive unemployment down from near 10%, where it is today, to 7.5%, or half the distance we ultimately want to go. This money will be made available to any firm working in the fields of clean or alternative energy provision, with a preference for those inventing new ways of achieving low-cost energy independence.
And, before you ask, I will tell you exactly where this money is going to come from: the military.
We do not need to fight every nation in every war, and we do not need to be the world’s policeman – in fact, the world doesn’t want it, and neither, as far as I can tell, do American taxpayers. They don’t need to see their boys and girls coming back in boxes from places that have no military significance . This is a wrong path, and one we must now leave.
Every empire in history was forged using the financial rewards of empire to pay for it – until we came along. We are the only country that has tried to maintain a global military presence, not only at our own cost, but without charging a nickel. Even better, after we bomb our enemies, we rebuild their cities using American taxpayer money. Purely from a financial perspective, this is insane. This isn’t empire building, it’s a road straight to bankruptcy – and our current accounts prove it.
Today, America spends many times what the rest of the world, added together, spends per year on the military. We can cut 25% of that, bring our soldiers home from Germany, Japan, South Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and everywhere else they are unneeded, and still continue to have the largest military budget by far, and the most effective military in the world.
We need those men and women home, working on projects that benefit the American Economy: building a new power grid, building new roads, bridges, railways, and Internet connections, not for our enemies, but for us.
It takes courage to do these things, but they can be done, and done in a way that benefits all Americans.
We have to get back to what we do best: Inventing. And to invent, you have to be near the making of that thing, so, regarding those who assure us that we no longer need to make things, we must now strongly disagree.
We must keep our basic industries strong, or we cannot innovate around them. Steel, cars, energy, aerospace, electronics, chips, computers, televisions – we have given away many parts of these industries already, or let them be taken from us.
Now, we have to take at least some of them back.
From this day forward, our job together is to make jobs, by making things, the best things in the world, the things that we invent – and then getting paid for them. Re-energizing this “Invention Economy” – when backed by intelligent national policy – will provide us with the other things we miss today. Whether you want more jobs or better jobs, the return of income to the middle class, or the ability to dig ourselves out of this debt hole, all of the answers are driven by the same single thing:
We are inventors, and now we must rebuild our nation and our economy on this single idea.
Many people believe that inventions are the commercial application of pure or basic science. I think there is a good history of proof behind this idea. For decades, the great research corporations funded laboratories that yielded our most important inventions and discoveries, from AT&T’s Bell Labs to Xerox PARC, from IBM to HP. And while some of these efforts continue today, all are reduced or being eliminated, under the pressure of quarterly earnings and short-term thinking.
For that reason, I will also be sending a bill to Congress that helps beef up both sides of this equation, providing new funds for pure scientific research, while adding research tax credits for those corporations that undertake new large-scale efforts, as long as they are located inside the United States.
Even so, we cannot forget that Corporations do not serve nations, they serve shareholders; and their response to any crisis is to cut jobs, or move them to the cheapest place on Earth, wherever it might be that week.
This is exactly why I am putting forward a new piece of legislation tomorrow, which shall make it illegal for any corporation to give any money, whatsoever, to any elected official, from this day forward. This new law, the “Take Back America” law, will let us go forward to create the jobs that are so vital to our future. A Corporation is not a citizen – no matter what the Supreme Court may say. A Corporation is not a human being, with human rights. With your help, we are going to tell the world, and the Supreme Court, that this is so.
This law will also make it illegal not just for corporations, but for any group – unions, PACs, superPACs, any group at all – to give money to representatives. When it is passed, only citizens – only human beings – will have that right, and you will again be in control of your own government. You will have a real participatory democracy, as the Constitution intended, and not the sham of Rule by Lobby that you have today.
This problem is a coin with two sides: candidates feel they need those corporate funds, because they are forced to spend so much money on television ads. Today, we are going to resolve the other side of this issue.
The airwaves belong to the people: something your grandparents knew well, but which current TV network owners would rather have you forget. Today, candidates spend millions – and soon, perhaps billions – of dollars on television ads, to get access to those airwaves, your airwaves, in order to get elected. But you don’t get the money. Rather, this has become a top revenue producer for the TV industry.
In order to take this horrible financial pressure off of candidates, I am sending a separate bill to Congress this week that will solve this problem. Called the “People’s Airwaves” bill, this law will again provide free, prime-time TV slots for any candidate who qualifies for federal funds, regardless of whether he or she elects to take them.
The people own the airwaves, and they deserve to see and hear their candidates without forcing them to sell their souls.
I apologize to you, for whatever part I have personally played in letting things get so far out of control; but as you can see, this is a failed pattern that goes back decades, in both parties. And I ask you now, for whatever power and trust remains in you, the real citizens of this democracy, to rise up and take back the power you once had. I need you to insist on regaining the control of your own destiny.
The power of America has always been vested in, and flowed from, its people, through the Constitution, and through their willingness to put self-interest behind national success. On the beaches at D-Day, or in the factories of Detroit, Americans have always understood the power of working together to solve problems.
God bless America, and God bless those founders who invented it.