President Obama, in his second State of the Union address — his first before a divided Congress — characterized the nation's challenges as between the United States and the rest of the world, and not Democrats and Republicans.
State of the Union:
Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher and tighter sanctions than ever before. And on the Korean peninsula, we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons.
This is just a part of how we are shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity. With our European allies, we revitalized NATO, and increased our cooperation on everything from counter-terrorism to missile defense. We have reset our relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances, and built new partnerships with nations like India. This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances for progress in the Americas. Around the globe, we are standing with those who take responsibility – helping farmers grow more food; supporting doctors who care for the sick; and combating the corruption that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity.
Recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be our power – it must be the purpose behind it. In South Sudan – with our assistance – the people were finally able to vote for independence after years of war. Thousands lined up before dawn. People danced in the streets. One man who lost four of his brothers at war summed up the scene around him: "This was a battlefield for most of my life. Now we want to be free."
We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.
We must never forget that the things we've struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country.
Tonight, let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in support of our troops and their families. Let us serve them as well as they have served us – by giving them the equipment they need; by providing them with the care and benefits they have earned; and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation.
Our troops come from every corner of this country – they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.
We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our schools; changing the way we use energy; reducing our deficit – none of this is easy. All of it will take time. And it will be harder because we will argue about everything. The cost. The details. The letter of every law.
Of course, some countries don't have this problem. If the central government wants a railroad, they get a railroad – no matter how many homes are bulldozed. If they don't want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn't get written.
And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn't a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.
We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything's possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.
That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight. That dream is why a working class kid from Scranton can stand behind me. That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father's Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.
That dream – that American Dream – is what drove the Allen Brothers to reinvent their roofing company for a new era. It's what drove those students at Forsyth Tech to learn a new skill and work towards the future. And that dream is the story of a small business owner named Brandon Fisher.
Brandon started a company in Berlin, Pennsylvania that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. One day last summer, he saw the news that halfway across the world, 33 men were trapped in a Chilean mine, and no one knew how to save them.
But Brandon thought his company could help. And so he designed a rescue that would come to be known as Plan B. His employees worked around the clock to manufacture the necessary drilling equipment. And Brandon left for Chile.
Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000 foot hole into the ground, working three or four days at a time with no sleep. Thirty-seven days later, Plan B succeeded, and the miners were rescued. But because he didn't want all of the attention, Brandon wasn't there when the miners emerged. He had already gone home, back to work on his next project.
Later, one of his employees said of the rescue, "We proved that Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things."
We do big things.
From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That's how we win the future.
We are a nation that says, "I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company. I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree. I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try. I'm not sure how we'll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we'll get there. I know we will."
We do big things.
The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.
Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.
Rep. Paul Ryan's GOP response:
Good evening. I'm Congressman Paul Ryan from Janesville, Wisconsin — and Chairman here at the House Budget Committee.
President Obama just addressed a Congressional chamber filled with many new faces. One face we did not see tonight was that of our friend and colleague, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. We all miss Gabby and her cheerful spirit; and we are praying for her return to the House Chamber.
Earlier this month, President Obama spoke movingly at a memorial event for the six people who died on that violent morning in Tucson. Still, there are no words that can lift the sorrow that now engulfs the families and friends of the fallen.
What we can do is assure them that the nation is praying for them; that, in the words of the Psalmist, the Lord heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds; and that over time grace will replace grief.
As Gabby continues to make encouraging progress, we must keep her and the others in our thoughts as we attend to the work now before us.
Tonight, the President focused a lot of attention on our economy in general — and on our deficit and debt in particular.
He was right to do so, and some of his words were reassuring. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, I assure you that we want to work with the President to restrain federal spending.
In one of our first acts in the new majority, House Republicans voted to cut Congress's own budget. And just today, the House voted to restore the spending discipline that Washington sorely needs.
The reason is simple.
A few years ago, reducing spending was important. Today, it's imperative. Here's why.
We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy, and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead.
On this current path, when my three children — who are now 6, 7, and 8 years old — are raising their own children, the federal government will double in size, and so will the taxes they pay.
No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country.
Frankly, it's one of my greatest concerns as a parent — and I know many of you feel the same way.
Our debt is the product of acts by many presidents and many Congresses over many years. No one person or party is responsible for it.
There is no doubt the President came into office facing a severe fiscal and economic situation.
Unfortunately, instead of restoring the fundamentals of economic growth, he engaged in a stimulus spending spree that not only failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs, but also plunged us even deeper into debt.
The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25 percent for domestic government agencies — an 84 percent increase when you include the failed stimulus.
All of this new government spending was sold as "investment." Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9% and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt.
Then the President and his party made matters even worse, by creating a new open-ended health care entitlement.
What we already know about the President's health care law is this: Costs are going up, premiums are rising, and millions of people will lose the coverage they currently have. Job creation is being stifled by all of its taxes, penalties, mandates and fees.
Businesses and unions from around the country are asking the Obama Administration for waivers from the mandates. Washington should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. The President mentioned the need for regulatory reform to ease the burden on American businesses. We agree — and we think his health care law would be a great place to start.
Last week, House Republicans voted for a full repeal of this law, as we pledged to do, and we will work to replace it with fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage.
Health care spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt. And the President's law is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy.
Our debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis.
We cannot deny it; instead we must, as Americans, confront it responsibly.
And that is exactly what Republicans pledge to do.
Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified — especially when it comes to spending. So hold all of us accountable.
In this very room, the House will produce, debate, and advance a budget. Last year — in an unprecedented failure — Congress chose not to pass, or even propose a budget. The spending spree continued unchecked.
We owe you a better choice and a different vision.
Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you — to show you how we intend to do things differently … how we will cut spending to get the debt down… help create jobs and prosperity … and reform government programs. If we act soon, and if we act responsibly, people in and near retirement will be protected.
These budget debates are not just about the programs of government; they're also about the purpose of government.
So I'd like to share with you the principles that guide us. They are anchored in the wisdom of the founders; in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence; and in the words of the American Constitution.
They have to do with the importance of limited government; and with the blessing of self-government.
We believe government's role is both vital and limited — to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense ... to secure our borders ... to protect innocent life ... to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights ... to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity ... and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.
We believe that the government has an important role to create the conditions that promote entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and individual responsibility.
We believe, as our founders did, that "the pursuit of happiness" depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government.
Limited government also means effective government. When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn't do any of them very well. It's no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high.
The President and the Democratic Leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.
Whether sold as "stimulus" or repackaged as "investment," their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much.
And during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten — along with record deficits and debt — to the point where the President is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit.
We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end. We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.
Our nation is approaching a tipping point.
We are at a moment, where if government's growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America's best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.
Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked — and it won't work now.
We need to chart a new course.
Speaking candidly, as one citizen to another: We still have time ... but not much time. If we continue down our current path, we know what our future will be.
Just take a look at what's happening to Greece, Ireland, the United Kingdom and other nations in Europe. They didn't act soon enough; and now their governments have been forced to impose painful austerity measures: large benefit cuts to seniors and huge tax increases on everybody.
Their day of reckoning has arrived. Ours is around the corner. That is why we must act now.
Some people will back away from this challenge. But I see this challenge as an opportunity to rebuild what Lincoln called the "central ideas" of the Republic.
We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people, of every background, to succeed and prosper. Under this approach, the spirit of initiative — not political clout — determines who succeeds.
Millions of families have fallen on hard times not because of our ideals of free enterprise — but because our leaders failed to live up to those ideals; because of poor decisions made in Washington and Wall Street that caused a financial crisis, squandered our savings, broke our trust, and crippled our economy.
Today, a similar kind of irresponsibility threatens not only our livelihoods but our way of life.
We need to reclaim our American system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and sound money, which has blessed us with unprecedented prosperity. And it has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed. That's the real secret to job creation — not borrowing and spending more money in Washington.
Limited government and free enterprise have helped make America the greatest nation on earth.
These are not easy times, but America is an exceptional nation. In all the chapters of human history, there has never been anything quite like America. The American story has been cherished, advanced, and defended over the centuries.
And it now falls to this generation to pass on to our children a nation that is stronger, more vibrant, more decent, and better than the one we inherited.
Thank you and good night.
Rep. Michele Bachmann's Tea Party response:
Good evening, my name is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann from Minnesota's 6th District.
I want to thank the Tea Party Express and Tea Party HD for inviting me to speak this evening. I'm here at their request and not to compete with the official Republican remarks. The Tea Party is a dynamic force for good in our national conversation, and it's an honor for me to speak with you.
Two years ago, when Barack Obama became our president, unemployment was 7.8 percent and our national debt stood at what seemed like a staggering $10.6 trillion dollars. We wondered whether the president would cut spending, reduce the deficit and implement real job-creating policies. Unfortunately, the president's strategy for recovery was to spend a trillion dollars on a failed stimulus program, fueled by borrowed money.
The White House promised us that all the spending would keep unemployment under 8 percent. Well not only did that plan fail to deliver, but within three months the national jobless rate spiked to 9.4 percent. It hasn't been lower for 20 straight months. While the government grew, we lost more than 2 million jobs.
Let me show you a chart: Here are unemployment rates over the past ten years. In October of 2001, our national unemployment rate was at 5.3 percent. In 2008 it was at 6.6 percent. But just eight months after President Obama promised lower unemployment, that rate spiked to a staggering 10.1 percent. Today, unemployment is at 9.4 percent with about 400,000 new claims every week.
After the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money that we don't have. But instead of cutting, we saw an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt. It was unlike anything we have seen in the history of the country.
Well, deficits were unacceptably high under President Bush, but they exploded under President Obama's direction, growing the national debt by an astounding $3.1 trillion.
Well, what did we buy? Instead of a leaner, smarter government, we bought a bureaucracy that now tells us which light bulbs to buy, and which will put 16,500 IRS agents in charge of policing President Obama's health care bill.
Obamacare mandates and penalties may even force many job creators to just stop offering health insurance altogether, unless of course yours is one of the more-than-222 privileged companies or unions that has already received a government waiver under Obamacare. In the end, unless we fully repeal Obamacare, a nation that currently enjoys the world's finest health care might be forced to rely on government-run coverage. That could have a devastating impact on our national debt for even generations to come.
For two years, President Obama made promises just like the ones we heard him make tonight. Yet still, we have high unemployment, devalued housing prices and the cost of gasoline is skyrocketing. Well here are a few suggestions for fixing our economy:
* The president could stop the EPA from imposing a job-destroying cap-and-trade system.
* The president could support a Balanced Budget Amendment.
* The president could agree to an energy policy that increases American energy production and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.
* The president could also turn back some of the 132 regulations put in place in the last two years, many of which will cost our economy $100 million or more.
* And the president should repeal Obamacare and support free-market solutions, like medical malpractice reform and allowing all Americans to buy any healthcare policy they like anywhere in the United States.
We need to start making things again in this country, and we can do that by reducing the tax and regulatory burdens on job creators. America will have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Think about that. Look no further to see why jobs are moving overseas.
But, thanks to you, there's reason for all of us to hope that real spending cuts are coming. Because last November you went to the polls and you voted out big-spending politicians and you put in their place great men and women with a commitment to follow our Constitution and cut the size of government.
I believe that we are in the early days of a history-making turn in America. Please know how important your calls, visits, and letters are to the maintenance of our liberties. Because of you, Congress is responding and we are just starting to undo the damage that's been done the last few years. Because we believe in lower taxes. We believe in a limited view of government, and exceptionalism in America. And I believe that America is the indispensable nation of the world. Just the creation of this nation itself was a miracle. Who's to say that we can't see a miracle again?
The perilous battle that was fought during World War II in the pacific at Iwo Jima was a battle against all odds, and yet this picture immortalizes the victory of young GIs over the incursion against the Japanese. These six young men raising the flag came to symbolize all of America coming together to beat back a totalitarian aggressor.
Our current debt crisis we face today is different, but we still need all of us to pull together. But we can do this. That's our hope. We will push forward. We will proclaim liberty throughout the land. And we will do so because we the people will never give up on this great nation.
So God bless you, and God bless America.
This program aired on January 25, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.