Thom Hartmann: What Obama Didn't Say, But Really Should Have -- The True State of Our Union
Last night, President Obama took to the halls of Congress to give his 5th State of the Union Address to the American people.
And while he did touch on many key issues that our country is facing today, there are many things he should have mentioned that he didn’t.
So, here’s what I would have said to Americans last night…
The State of the Union is strong.
But its politicians are stupid, and are bought off by Big Oil tycoons, Wall Street billionaires, and giant transnational corporations.
And that’s the first problem with America right now.
Our Conservative-controlled Supreme Court has said that money is protected by the First Amendment.
Thanks to the disastrous Citizen’s United decision, the Conservatives on the bench have made it possible for billionaires to flood our democracy with corporate cash, which is slowly destroying the democratic principles that our founding fathers fought and died for.
The Supreme Court has also said that corporations are protected by the 14th Amendment.
They’ve said that Wal-Mart and Apple are just like you and me.
They are not. They are voluntary associations. The Bill of Rights was not written to protect the East India Company, it was written to protect individual people.
We need to undo the damage that the Supreme Court has done, and amend our Constitution to clearly and explicitly say that "corporations are not people, and money is not speech."
The second problem our nation is facing is at the core of why we have a government in the first place.
Why did our founding fathers put their lives on the line, and fight and die, to create the United States? And why have people fought and died over and over again in the intervening years to keep this nation?
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said that, “governments are instituted among Men" to "secure" the "unalienable" rights of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
So, why do we have government?
Easy answer: To provide life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
And if the job of government is to protect the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, what the Constitution repeatedly refers to as the "General Welfare", then the real issue government should be laser-focused on is obvious.
Back in 1944, FDR suggested that we should put into law a Second Bill of Rights that would codify what he was already doing with the New Deal.
And one of the most important among those rights was the right to a job.
When capitalism fails to provide for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, when the so-called "free market" fails to provide for the General Welfare, which happens constantly, because those things are not the job of capitalism, then logically those responsibilities fall to government.
It's why we created our government.
And that means making the government the employer of last resort.
But it’s not enough to just have a job.
Americans need to be able to make good wages so that they can provide for their families, and not have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from.
That’s why we need to raise the minimum wage to at least $10.10 per hour, so that everyone has a chance to live comfortably and to make a decent living.
Meanwhile, while working-class Americans get back on their feet, we need to ensure that America’s wealthy elite are do their fair share to support the economy and our country.
We need to roll back the Reagan tax cuts, and make sure that a family struggling to survive day-to-day isn’t paying more in taxes than a Wall Street billionaire bankster.
And we can use some of the money that America’s billionaires pay in taxes to help rebuild our nation’s crippling infrastructure.=
There are over $2.5 trillion worth of infrastructure repair we need just to bring ourselves back to being in the same shape we were in when Reagan became President and began ignoring infrastructure.
Additionally, we need to be building out 21st century versions of our four most important forms of infrastructure.
Those four are our intellectual infrastructure, our communications infrastructure, our energy infrastructure, and our transportation infrastructure.
To build out our intellectual infrastructure we need to go back to our government policies of free education.
These were first proposed by Thomas Jefferson when he created the University of Virginia as a free college, then advanced by Abraham Lincoln when he granted huge swaths of land to create tuition-free Land Grant colleges across America.
They saw a large fulfillment during the Truman and Eisenhower years with the GI bill, which raised the percentage of Americans who'd attended college from around six percent to over twenty percent.
That intellectual infrastructure, built in the 1950s, was the basis of the invention explosion of the 60s and 70s and 80s that brought us the modern computer age.
It's time to fully fund our public schools, and to make college and trade schools free for any high school graduate who wants to attend.
To build out our communications infrastructure, we need to lay a national fiber-optic internet system.
We need to open it up to competition , so that any company can use it, and so we can have competitive pricing of high-speed broadband like Europe, Japan, South Korea and other countries do.
And yes, that means protecting net neutrality, so internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon can’t dictate what we can and can’t do on the World Wide Web.
To build and improve our energy infrastructure, we need to take a lesson from Germany and help homeowners across American put solar panels on their homes.
Meanwhile, we need to build a national energy smart-grid to handle all this new, and localized, power.
And, we need to backstop local communities and states in building wind farms, solar farms, wave-power installations, and other forms of renewable energy.
And, like Europe and even China, we need to make this all competitive by making the Carbon Industry pay for their own externalities, the cost of the militay to protect their oil lines, the cost of healthcare to pay for their cancers, the cost of environmental destruction.
We make them pay for this with a simple carbon tax, which then also instantly makes renewable energies less expensive than 19th century fossil fuels.
It’s that simple.
But why is creating a carbon tax so important?
Scientists tell us that our current burn rate of fossil fuels will raise the temperature of our planet 5 degrees Celsius.
That will warm our oceans enough to release trillions of tons of methane hydrate that's currently frozen deep underground, and those greenhouse gasses will raise the temperature of our planet another five degrees.
Ten degrees total.
The last time that happened was 250 million years ago when continents were being torn apart and a massive lava flow that covered most of what is now Siberia raised the Earth's temperature 5 degrees, triggering a melt of the methane crystals that raised it another five degrees.
That ten degree increase in temperature is what geologists now refer to as the Permian Extinction.
Ninety-five percent of all life on Earth, both on land and sea, died off.
It was the worst of all of the five major extinctions our planet has seen.
It took 80,000 years for life to begin to bounce back, and ushered in the age of the dinosaurs.
We are creating our own Permian Extinction, and we need to stop it right now.
Creating a carbon tax will be a great first step to ensuring the future of our planet and of the human race.
But none of this, from rebuilding our infrastructure and putting Americans back to work to fighting for the future of our planet, will be possible if we don’t protect American lives.
We need to address the gun violence epidemic that’s taken over country, and save American lives, by putting in place sensible gun control legislation.
And that starts by treating guns like cars.
If you have a gun, it’s your responsibility.
Gun owners need to be required to have insurance and pass a proficiency test, which proves that they are capable of being responsible gun owners.
Neither of those provisions violates the Second Amendment; they just make sure that those who “bear arms” are responsible citizens who will be held accountable for their actions.
So that's the state of our union.
We are not broke, we are the richest nation in the world.
We don't have a deficit or a spending problem, we have a jobs problem.
And we should not to continue to let Reaganomics turn us into a Third World nation.
We should rebuild, update our critical infrastructures, and ensure that all Americans have an equal chance at living the American Dream.
And, in the process, we will save ourselves from extinction.
These are the challenges before us, and while they are many, we can meet them.
It’s time for “We The People” to get behind the issues that really matter – and get America back on the path to success.