The Inaugural Address That Went Missing
My fellow Influencers and Tweeters, this is the fourth time I have taken the oath of office. Today, I will talk about what I hope to leave for my successor.
With humility we can say that, thanks to the generations who came before us, our country is the greatest that has ever existed. Our ancestors freed themselves from a colonial yoke, weathered a civil war, abolished slavery, helped achieve victory in two world wars, developed technological and engineering marvels and cherished the privilege of freedom of speech and civil liberties.
People around the world look at us and say the twentieth century was the time of the American Empire. Yet every great Empire eventually has crumbled. Our job is to make sure that the United States is the first country of the modern era to prosper for several centuries and – my friends – that means together we have much work to do.
We have made tremendous progress – both abroad and at home. We will soon have withdrawn our armies from their long campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have weakened the leadership of Al Qaeda.
Here at home the complexion and nature of our country is changing.
We are becoming a majority minority nation. By mid-century Hispanics, Asian Americans and blacks will account for a majority of the United States. Same sex marriages are now conducted in ten states.
Our geologists have recently uncovered greater reserves of oil beneath our land than we ever imagined. Private enterprise has figured out ways to build driver-less cars, put satellites in space and extract information from the genome that will transform medicine. Some manufacturing companies are even returning from overseas. And, our philanthropists have saved millions of people around the world from the scourge of malaria, polio and AIDS.
In the past few decades we have shown the world what we can do when we set our minds to it.
Thirty years ago American cars averaged 18 miles per gallon. By 2025 they will average over 54 miles per gallon.
Forty years ago some of our rivers were so polluted they caught fire. Today they are teeming with fish. Yes we can.
Fifty years ago nearly one in two of Americans smoked. Today only 19% do – and I am trying hard to quit that club. Yes I can.
Yet my fellow Americans we face profound challenges. Our country is becoming poorer not richer. Median household income has not moved since the late 1980s and our economy has been stagnant for more than a decade. When I first took office about 32 million people received food stamps. Today, sadly, food stamps are given to almost 50 million Americans. Furthermore, we face countries around the world whose people are eager to improve their lot in life and are brimming with the ambition that – once upon a time – fueled the dreams of Americans.
It is clear that we have a great task before us.
But first, I have some confessions to make. In my last my four years we did not have healthcare reform. Instead we expanded insurance coverage to every American. In my next four years I will actually embark on comprehensive healthcare reform. Does it make sense that at nearly 20% of GDP in 2009, our health spending is half as much again as any other country and nearly twice the average? Americans spend nearly $3000 per person per year more than in Switzerland which has about the same standard of living. We need to stop giving doctors and incentives to order tests, perform operations, prolong hospital stays and game the payment system. Instead, we need to provide citizens with first-rate healthcare at a fraction of today’s cost.
It sobers me to admit that our country and almost every state and city will drown in debt unless we do something profound. The great state of California – which by itself is the ninth largest economy in the world – is, because of hundreds of billions of dollars of unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities and unrealistic expectations about future investment returns, essentially insolvent. Our national debt today is $16 trillion – almost triple what it was in 2000. In 2008 we spent $2.5 trillion. This year, even though our economy has not grown, we will spend $3.5 trillion. We must ask ourselves would any sane person, who has seen his income shrunk and is struggling to devise a payment plan with his credit card company, go on a massive spending binge? It’s a formula that does not work.
For decades Democrats and Republicans have made promises that we now find cannot be honored. It pains me to say that we need to restructure our social security system, Medicare and Medicaid. We need to do so in a way that maintains the spirit of these systems without bankrupting our country. One change I will seek is an increase in the official retirement age. One hundred years ago – shortly before the dawn of our welfare system the average American man had a life expectancy of 46 years. We need to adjust to the fact that this is now almost 80 years.
We need to change our approach to taxes and ask whether it is fair for the wealthy and middle-class to get a break on their living expenses – via mortgage deductions – when the single mom paying rent for an apartment gets no such break. This costs our country almost half a trillion dollars a year or almost 15% of the federal budget. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, have no mortgage deductibility yet have higher home ownership rates than we do. We also should ask whether it is right for the buyout kings to have lower tax rates than the high school principal, librarian and nurse.
We have long lamented the decline of our educational system. In the next four years I want to make sure that half our student population – girls and young women – have the same opportunity as boys and young men. We need to encourage them women to study the sciences, engineering and math so that in a few decades half the brightest minds in our laboratories, research facilities and engineering departments are female.
I also intend to make sure the brightest young minds in the world come to America and stay in America. In the next four years we will engineer the immigration reform our country deserves. In addition, I plan to make sure that on the day a foreign student earns a Phd in the sciences, technology and engineering from a U.S. University they are automatically granted American citizenship.
While I will devote every fiber of my being to prevent more shooting atrocities, our nation, with hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, is an armed camp. Let me shoot straight: if we want to make real progress against armed violence we have to change the second amendment and allocate billions of dollars to a comprehensive gun amnesty. When, more than two centuries ago, are founding fathers drafted the second amendment they did not imagine that our government would spend $700 billion a year on a militia.
Americans have a higher risk of being murdered than do any other citizens in developed nations. Since that terrible day in Newtown, Connecticut more than 1,000 gun deaths have occurred in America. For over three decades more than 30,000 people a year have died in our country because of gun violence. Very soon more people will die because of guns than automobile accidents. Yes, we can and should outlaw assault rifles, ban the sale of magazines and conduct comprehensive background checks but this should just be the start of our campaign to remove the bullet from everyday life.
It pains me to say that we have super-sized ourselves. The weight of the average man in in American between the age of 20 and 74 was 166 pounds in 1960. Today, it is almost 200 pounds. Almost four in ten Americans are officially obese. In 2000 no state had an obesity prevalence of 30%. Today there are twelve. Obesity, which increases the chance of heart disease, strokes, diabetes and various forms of cancer, is an enormous shadow tax on our society. Obesity is what smoking once was – a catastrophe. We will devise ways to encourage soda manufacturers, snack makers fast food restaurant operators and supermarkets help put America on a diet. Most of all I ask everyone to join me and cut the sugar, watch the salt and avoid fat. Dunking should mean basketball not doughnuts.
Finally and most importantly – as though by divine providence – our nation has been given a second chance. In the last few years – thanks to advanced exploration and software – more oil has been discovered in America than we ever thought possible. There is a good chance that we become energy independent and stop borrowing money from China to pay for oil from the Middle East. This is the miracle we never expected and is an opportunity we will not squander. We will extract this oil responsibly, use it wisely and follow the example of Norway by taking some of the profits to establish The National Recovery Fund – which will be used as the foundation to restore the economic health of our country.
My fellow Americans, if in the next four years we accomplish these goals, we then can all proclaim with pride these three words, ‘Yes, we did’.
Photo credit: Spirit of America/Shutterstock.com.