I wish to welcome you tonight so that you can carefully consider “the new beginning” of the Obama Administration. I want to review where we have come from over the last two years and then briefly discuss where we must go over the next three years of my administration.
First, and let us not forget this, I ran for office in the midst of the greatest domestic and global crisis the United States has faced since the Great Depression and World War II. This crisis has its roots in the radical privatization of the U.S. and global economy that was largely initiated by the Reagan Administration and the global military agenda of the Reagan Doctrine. The globalization of American capitalism and military power was given full priority in the 1980s and continued in the administrations of two Bushes and one Clinton presidency. Frankly the Great Recession of 2007 and beyond and the multiple wars of this century are direct results of the policies and programs instituted by the United States presidents, administrations, and corporate elites over the last thirty years.
Second, as a candidate for president I was able to tap into the enormous frustration large majorities of Americans felt about their loss of power, their growing economic insecurity, and their fear of expanding worldwide hostility to the United States. I recognize that my candidacy offered hope, particularly for workers, people of color, youth, and women in our rapidly diversified society. I made a pact with the people to begin to change America politically and economically. I realize now, that while I did take steps to meet the expectations of the people, I fell far short of their needs and wants. Today I am launching “a new beginning,” to embrace again the promises of the presidential campaign.
The First Year
On reflection, the errors we have made over the last year include the following: 1) We prioritized saving the massive financial institutions who brought us the recent economic crisis over putting people back to work. 2) We gave too much influence in my administration to those from the financial community and not enough from representatives from labor and other communities.
3) We chose to campaign for health care reform first and let the jobs crisis fester and grow. 4) We embraced the most compromised, minimum conception of health care reform from the very beginning rather than to endorse a single payer health care system that remains enormously popular. 5) While we began our administration with symbolic moves in foreign policy-to embrace diplomacy, to begin to dialogue with traditional enemy nations, to show some minimal respect to countries of the Global South-we have shifted back to traditional U.S. hegemonic policies in the Western Hemisphere, adopted the Bush era “war on terrorism” as a priority, and expanded U.S. military involvement in the Afghanistan quagmire. 6) Perhaps, the most central misjudgment I have made over the year is to engage in a politics of “pragmatism” that involves seeking to compromise with enemies of the people in the Republican Party and corporate and financial elites. And, in addition, I have failed to respond vigorously to the various media who consistently have promoted their right-wing agenda.
A New Beginning
As a result of serious reflection, self-criticism, recent setbacks to our progressive agenda, and frankly our concerns about the 2010 elections, I announce this “new beginning” which will include the following policy programs:
1) First and foremost, we will launch a campaign in the legislature and among the public to address immediately and with the resources of the country the growing jobs crisis. I will be bringing to the Congress a proposed additional $700 billion economic stimulus that will target green jobs, public service jobs in the tradition of the Works Progress Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Federal Arts Projects and other programs that in the past were enormously successful in putting people back to work. Jobs programs will target all workers but particularly the most vulnerable among our people.
2) I have already launched a campaign to reregulate U.S. banking institutions. This campaign must revitalize local, community banks, and reduce the wealth and power of the handful of huge Wall Street institutions. Particularly, there must be regulations to virtually eliminate financial speculation, a system that has grown to monumental proportions since the 1970s. The U.S. economy today is less involved in the production of goods and services and more revolves around speculative activities. That must change and I am committed to the change. And I believe this task requires new economic advisors in my administration who are not personally committed to the huge Wall Street institutions.
3) I will work with key advocates in the Congress to secure the passage of legislation that establishes a single payer health care system. I have learned from my first year in office that we cannot on the one hand be advocates of the people and work in close collaboration with insurance companies, banks, auto makers and others in such a way that our principles get totally compromised.
4) I will reestablish dialogue with members of my administration on issues of national security with a goal of deescalating the U.S. military presence around the world, starting with Afghanistan. I will direct the Secretaries of Defense and State to begin planning a significant downsizing of the U. S. military budget. An immediate goal will be a forty percent reduction in the military budget by 2012.
5) I will reassemble a team of environmental experts, drawn from the broad array of environmental groups, to reconceptualize all of the policies above to meet the desperate needs of the physical survival of the planet.
I hope you will join me in this “new beginning.” I hope you can rekindle the passion, energy, and hope for a better future that was so critical to my election victory just one short year ago. And, in the end, I realize now more than ever that this “new beginning” is vital for our survival, economically and politically. This is a time of crisis but still a time of hope for "a new beginning.”