Tax reform should follow the Buffett Rule. If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if
you're earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn't get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes
shouldn't go up. (Applause.) You're the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages.
You're the ones who need relief.
Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.
We don't begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes,
it's not because they envy the rich. It's because they understand that when I get a tax break I
don't need and the country can't afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference -- like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet.
That's not right. Americans know that's not right. They know that this
generation's success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to the future of their country, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility.
That's how we'll reduce our deficit. That's an America built to last. (Applause.)
Now, I recognize that people watching tonight have differing views about taxes and debt, energy and health care. But no matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right about now: Nothing will get done in Washington this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken.
Can you blame them for feeling a little cynical?
The greatest blow to our confidence in our economy last year didn't come from events beyond our control. It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not. Who benefited from that fiasco?
I've talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad -- and it seems to get worse every year.
Some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of money in politics. So together,
let's take some steps to fix that. Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow. (Applause.)
Let's limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact.
Let's make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can't lobby Congress, and vice versa -- an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.
Some of what's broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days. A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything
-- even routine business -- passed through the Senate. (Applause.) Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it. (Applause.) For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a simple rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days. (Applause.)
The executive branch also needs to change. Too often, it's inefficient, outdated and remote. (Applause.)
That's why I've asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy, so that our government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people. (Applause.)
Finally, none of this can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town. We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common-sense ideas.
I'm a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more. (Applause.)
That's why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and states.
That's why we're getting rid of regulations that don't work. That's why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.
On the other hand, even my Republican friends who complain the most about government spending have supported federally financed roads, and clean energy projects, and federal offices for the folks back home.
The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective government. And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest philosophical differences this year, we can make real progress. With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow. But I can do a whole lot more with your help. Because when we act together,
there's nothing the United States of America can't achieve. (Applause.) That's the lesson
we've learned from our actions abroad over the last few years.
Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they
can't escape the reach of the United States of America. (Applause.)
From this position of strength, we've begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Ten thousand of our troops have come home. Twenty-three thousand more will leave by the end of this summer. This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America. (Applause.)
As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; from
Sana'a to Tripoli. A year ago, Qaddafi was one of the world's longest-serving dictators
-- a murderer with American blood on his hands. Today, he is gone. And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change cannot be reversed, and that human dignity cannot be denied. (Applause.)
How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we have a huge stake in the outcome. And while
it's ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well. We will stand against violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings
-- men and women; Christians, Muslims and Jews. We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.
And we will safeguard America's own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests. Look at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with
Iran's nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent.
Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. (Applause.)
But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.
The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to the Americas are deeper. Our ironclad commitment -- and I mean ironclad -- to
Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history. (Applause.)
We've made it clear that America is a Pacific power, and a new beginning in Burma has lit a new hope. From the coalitions
we've built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we've led against hunger and disease; from the blows
we've dealt to our enemies, to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back.
Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned,
doesn't know what they're talking about. (Applause.)
That's not the message we get from leaders around the world who are eager to work with us.
That's not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin, from Cape Town to Rio, where opinions of America are higher than
they've been in years. Yes, the world is changing. No, we can't control every event. But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs
-- and as long as I'm President, I intend to keep it that way. (Applause.)
That's why, working with our military leaders, I've proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget. To stay one step ahead of our adversaries,
I've already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of cyber-threats. (Applause.)
Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it. (Applause.) As they come home, we must serve them as well as
they've served us. That includes giving them the care and the benefits they have earned
-- which is why we've increased annual VA spending every year I've been President. (Applause.) And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our nation.
With the bipartisan support of this Congress, we're providing new tax credits to companies that hire vets. Michelle and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families. And tonight,
I'm proposing a Veterans Jobs Corps that will help our communities hire veterans as cops and firefighters, so that America is as strong as those who defend her. (Applause.)
Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who've been sent here to serve can learn a thing or two from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it
doesn't matter if you're black or white; Asian, Latino, Native American; conservative, liberal; rich, poor; gay, straight. When
you're marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When
you're in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind.
One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that
doesn't matter. Just like it didn't matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates -- a man who was George
Bush's defense secretary -- and Hillary Clinton -- a woman who ran against me for president.
All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he
didn't deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job -- the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other -- because you
can't charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that
there's somebody behind you, watching your back.
So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I'm reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each
other's backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
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