Throughout America’s history, there have been some years that simply
rolled into the next without much notice or fanfare. Then there are
the years that come along once in a generation – the kind that mark a
clean break from a troubled past, and set a new course for our nation.
This is one of those years.
We start 2009 in the midst of a crisis unlike any we have seen in
our lifetime – a crisis that has only deepened over the last few
weeks. Nearly two million jobs have now been lost, and on Friday we
are likely to learn that we lost more jobs last year than at any time
since World War II. Just in the past year, another 2.8 million
Americans who want and need full-time work have had to settle for
part-time jobs. Manufacturing has hit a twenty-eight year low. Many
businesses cannot borrow or make payroll. Many families cannot pay
their bills or their mortgage. Many workers are watching their life
savings disappear. And many, many Americans are both anxious and
uncertain of what the future will hold.
I don’t believe it’s too late to change course, but it will be if we
don’t take dramatic action as soon as possible. If nothing is done,
this recession could linger for years. The unemployment rate could
reach double digits. Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its
full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income
for a family of four. We could lose a generation of potential and
promise, as more young Americans are forced to forgo dreams of college
or the chance to train for the jobs of the future. And our nation
could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our
strength and standing in the world.
In short, a bad situation could become dramatically worse.
This crisis did not happen solely by some accident of history or
normal turn of the business cycle, and we won’t get out of it by simply
waiting for a better day to come, or relying on the worn-out dogmas of
the past. We arrived at this point due to an era of profound
irresponsibility that stretched from corporate boardrooms to the halls
of power in Washington, DC. For years, too many Wall Street executives
made imprudent and dangerous decisions, seeking profits with too little
regard for risk, too little regulatory scrutiny, and too little
accountability. Banks made loans without concern for whether borrowers
could repay them, and some borrowers took advantage of cheap credit to
take on debt they couldn’t afford. Politicians spent taxpayer money
without wisdom or discipline, and too often focused on scoring
political points instead of the problems they were sent here to solve.
The result has been a devastating loss of trust and confidence in our
economy, our financial markets, and our government.
Now, the very fact that this crisis is largely of our own making
means that it is not beyond our ability to solve. Our problems are
rooted in past mistakes, not our capacity for future greatness. It
will take time, perhaps many years, but we can rebuild that lost trust
and confidence. We can restore opportunity and prosperity. We should
never forget that our workers are still more productive than any on
Earth. Our universities are still the envy of the world. We are still
home to the most brilliant minds, the most creative entrepreneurs, and
the most advanced technology and innovation that history has ever
known. And we are still the nation that has overcome great fears and
improbable odds. If we act with the urgency and seriousness that this
moment requires, I know that we can do it again.
That is why I have moved quickly to work with my economic team and
leaders of both parties on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan
that will immediately jumpstart job creation and long-term growth.
It’s a plan that represents not just new policy, but a whole new
approach to meeting our most urgent challenges. For if we hope to end
this crisis, we must end the culture of anything goes that helped
create it – and this change must begin in Washington. It is time to
trade old habits for a new spirit of responsibility. It is time to
finally change the ways of Washington so that we can set a new and
better course for America.
There is no doubt that the cost of this plan will be considerable.
It will certainly add to the budget deficit in the short-term. But
equally certain are the consequences of doing too little or nothing at
all, for that will lead to an even greater deficit of jobs, incomes,
and confidence in our economy. It is true that we cannot depend on
government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this
particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost
necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe. Only
government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy
– where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less
spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads
to even less credit.
That is why we need to act boldly and act now to reverse these
cycles. That’s why we need to put money in the pockets of the American
people, create new jobs, and invest in our future. That’s why we need
to re-start the flow of credit and restore the rules of the road that
will ensure a crisis like this never happens again.
That work begins with this plan – a plan I am confident will save or
create at least three million jobs over the next few years. It is not
just another public works program. It’s a plan that recognizes both
the paradox and the promise of this moment – the fact that there are
millions of Americans trying to find work, even as, all around the
country, there is so much work to be done. That’s why we’ll invest in
priorities like energy and education; health care and a new
infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in
the 21st century. That’s why the overwhelming majority of the jobs
created will be in the private sector, while our plan will save the
public sector jobs of teachers, cops, firefighters and others who
provide vital services.
To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will
double the production of alternative energy in the next three years.
We will modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the
energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and
taxpayers billions on our energy bills. In the process, we will put
Americans to work in new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced –
jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; constructing
fuel-efficient cars and buildings; and developing the new energy
technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings, and a
cleaner, safer planet in the bargain.
To improve the quality of our health care while lowering its cost,
we will make the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within
five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized. This
will cut waste, eliminate red tape, and reduce the need to repeat
expensive medical tests. But it just won’t save billions of dollars
and thousands of jobs – it will save lives by reducing the deadly but
preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system.
To give our children the chance to live out their dreams in a world
that’s never been more competitive, we will equip tens of thousands of
schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century
classrooms, labs, and libraries. We’ll provide new computers, new
technology, and new training for teachers so that students in Chicago
and Boston can compete with kids in Beijing for the high-tech,
high-wage jobs of the future.
To build an economy that can lead this future, we will begin to
rebuild America. Yes, we’ll put people to work repairing crumbling
roads, bridges, and schools by eliminating the backlog of well-planned,
worthy and needed infrastructure projects. But we’ll also do more to
retrofit America for a global economy. That means updating the way we
get our electricity by starting to build a new smart grid that will
save us money, protect our power sources from blackout or attack, and
deliver clean, alternative forms of energy to every corner of our
nation. It means expanding broadband lines across America, so that a
small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their
counterparts anywhere in the world. And it means investing in the
science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical
breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries.
Finally, this recovery and reinvestment plan will provide immediate
relief to states, workers, and families who are bearing the brunt of
this recession. To get people spending again, 95% of working families
will receive a $1,000 tax cut – the first stage of a middle-class tax
cut that I promised during the campaign and will include in our next
budget. To help Americans who have lost their jobs and can’t find new
ones, we’ll continue the bipartisan extensions of unemployment
insurance and health care coverage to help them through this crisis.
Government at every level will have to tighten its belt, but we’ll help
struggling states avoid harmful budget cuts, as long as they take
responsibility and use the money to maintain essential services like
police, fire, education, and health care.
I understand that some might be skeptical of this plan. Our
government has already spent a good deal of money, but we haven’t yet
seen that translate into more jobs or higher incomes or renewed
confidence in our economy. That’s why the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Plan won’t just throw money at our problems – we’ll invest
in what works. The true test of the policies we’ll pursue won’t be
whether they’re Democratic or Republican ideas, but whether they create
jobs, grow our economy, and put the American Dream within reach of the
Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy,
decisions about where we invest will be made transparently, and
informed by independent experts wherever possible. Every American will
be able to hold Washington accountable for these decisions by going
online to see how and where their tax dollars are being spent. And as
I announced yesterday, we will launch an unprecedented effort to
eliminate unwise and unnecessary spending that has never been more
unaffordable for our nation and our children’s future than it is right
We have to make tough choices and smart investments today so that as
the economy recovers, the deficit starts to come down. We cannot have
a solid recovery if our people and our businesses don’t have confidence
that we’re getting our fiscal house in order. That’s why our goal is
not to create a slew of new government programs, but a foundation for
long-term economic growth.
That also means an economic recovery plan that is free from earmarks
and pet projects. I understand that every member of Congress has ideas
on how to spend money. Many of these projects are worthy, and benefit
local communities. But this emergency legislation must not be the
vehicle for those aspirations. This must be a time when leaders in
both parties put the urgent needs of our nation above our own narrow
Now, this recovery plan alone will not solve all the problems that
led us into this crisis. We must also work with the same sense of
urgency to stabilize and repair the financial system we all depend on.
That means using our full arsenal of tools to get credit flowing again
to families and business, while restoring confidence in our markets.
It means launching a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis
so that we can keep responsible families in their homes. It means
preventing the catastrophic failure of financial institutions whose
collapse could endanger the entire economy, but only with maximum
protections for taxpayers and a clear understanding that government
support for any company is an extraordinary action that must come with
significant restrictions on the firms that receive support. And it
means reforming a weak and outdated regulatory system so that we can
better withstand financial shocks and better protect consumers,
investors, and businesses from the reckless greed and risk-taking that
must never endanger our prosperity again.
No longer can we allow Wall Street wrongdoers to slip through
regulatory cracks. No longer can we allow special interests to put
their thumbs on the economic scales. No longer can we allow the
unscrupulous lending and borrowing that leads only to destructive
cycles of bubble and bust.
It is time to set a new course for this economy, and that change
must begin now. We should have an open and honest discussion about
this recovery plan in the days ahead, but I urge Congress to move as
quickly as possible on behalf of the American people. For every day we
wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their
jobs. More families will lose their savings. More dreams will be
deferred and denied. And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis
that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.
That is not the country I know, and it is not a future I will accept
as President of the United States. A world that depends on the
strength of our economy is now watching and waiting for America to lead
once more. And that is what we will do.
It will not come easy or happen overnight, and it is altogether
likely that things may get worse before they get better. But that is
all the more reason for Congress to act without delay. I know the
scale of this plan is unprecedented, but so is the severity of our
situation. We have already tried the wait-and-see approach to our
problems, and it is the same approach that helped lead us to this day
That is why the time has come to build a 21st century economy in
which hard work and responsibility are once again rewarded. That’s why
I’m asking Congress to work with me and my team day and night, on
weekends if necessary, to get the plan passed in the next few weeks.
That’s why I’m calling on all Americans – Democrats and Republicans –
to put good ideas ahead of the old ideological battles; a sense of
common purpose above the same narrow partisanship; and insist that the
first question each of us asks isn’t “What’s good for me?” but “What’s
good for the country my children will inherit?”
More than any program or policy, it is this spirit that will enable
us to confront this challenge with the same spirit that has led
previous generations to face down war, depression, and fear itself.
And if we do – if we are able to summon that spirit again; if are able
to look out for one another, and listen to one another, and do our part
for our nation and for posterity, then I have no doubt that years from
now, we will look back on 2009 as one of those years that marked
another new and hopeful beginning for the United States of America.
Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless America.