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Thom Hartmann’s State of the Union

Thom Hartmann speaking on May 3, 2014 at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. (Photo: Tera Wages of Armosa Studios )

My fellow Americans…

The state of our union is strong, but it could be so much stronger.

During the past year, we’ve continued to see how our politicians are bought off by Big Oil tycoons, Wall Street billionaires and giant transnational corporations.

And that’s the first challenge facing the United States right now.

Our conservative-controlled Supreme Court has said that spending money to buy politicians is protected by the First Amendment.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

Thanks to the disastrous Citizen’s United decision, the conservatives in the Supreme Court chambers have made it easy for billionaires to flood our democracy with the corporate cash which is slowly destroying the democratic principles that our founding fathers fought and died for.

In the 2014 midterm elections, we saw yet again how the US truly has the best politicians money can buy. Estimates suggest that nearly $4 billion was spent during the midterms to elect the politicians the rich folks want in Washington DC and statehouses around the country.

Just imagine how much stronger our nation would be if we were to get money out of politics, and thus prevent corporations and billionaires from corrupting our democracy.

The second problem our nation is facing is at the core of why we have a government in the first place.

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?

To provide life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Unfortunately, millions and millions of Americans are finding “the pursuit of happiness” to be more of a myth than a reality.

Right now, our country is facing record levels of wealth inequality. Wages are stagnant. And millions of Americans who are ready and willing to work are still finding it hard to get a job and to put food on the table for their families.

But we can change all of that.

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 regularly 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 and have good benefits so that they can take care of 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.

It’s insane that giant corporations like Walmart are raking in billions and billions of dollars in profits each year, but are paying their workers bottom-of-the-barrel wages that are impossible to survive on.

While working-class Americans get back on their feet, we need to ensure that the United States’ wealthy elite are doing 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 a greater share of their income in taxes than a Wall Street billionaire bankster.

And we can use some of the ill-gotten gains of US billionaires to help rebuild our nation’s crippling infrastructure.

Right now, over 600,000 bridges in the US are considered “structurally deficient.”

Our roads are buckling, our electrical grids are crashing and are transportation systems look like ancient relics.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, we need to spend at least $3.5 trillion by 2020 just to bring ourselves up-to-date.

We need to stop playing politics, and start making the investments needed to prevent our country from literally falling apart.

And, of course, we won’t even have a country to invest in if we don’t do more to fight the devastating effects of climate change and global warming.

While lawmakers in Washington were still arguing over settled-science, 2014 was the warmest year in known human history on the planet.

This must be the year that we introduce a carbon tax that puts a price on the carbon that’s polluting our skies and driving climate change.

New research suggests that if we want to have any hope of preventing catastrophic climate change, then we have to leave nearly all of the world’s fossil fuel reserves buried underground. It’s that simple.

By introducing a carbon tax, renewable energies will instantly become less expensive than dirty fossil fuels. In other words, it won’t be cost-efficient for Big Oil to take fossil fuels out of the ground.

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 US lives.

We need to continue making investments in our health-care system, so that all Americans have access to affordable and life-saving health care.

Being able to go to the doctor’s office when you’re sick and being able to get a potentially life-saving prescription shouldn’t be luxuries.

Despite what Republicans may argue, Obamacare is working, and millions of Americans are getting access to health care that they’ve never had before.

We need to build on this progress, not roll it back.

So, my fellow Americans, 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 a trade deficit from our crazy trade policies.

And we must not continue to let Reaganomics turn us into a Third World nation.

We should rebuild and update our critical infrastructures, and ensure that all Americans have an equal chance at living the “American Dream.”

And, in the process, we can 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 the US back on the path to success and shared prosperity.

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