| | | |
By The Neville Awards
Posted Feb. 22, 2008
"Barack, the Great and Powerful has every intention of granting your requests.
Just bring me the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the Senate".
Submit to Him and He will come.
Don't think, don't ask, don't question....Resistance is Futile.
Repeat after me..."together...together...together...together...together..."
We must embrace the "we" so we can feel good about being part of the "we" so our "we-ness" will achieve a harmonic convergence and form a human conjunction of the collective
togetherness that will fill the "hole in our soul" that is preventing us from attaining a societal "we-ness nirvana". Only then will "we" recognize that our Saviour has arrived
to save the world and show us the error of our selfish, capitalist, imperialist, nativist ways.
"We" are the ones we've been waiting for. "We" can change the world.
Change "we" can believe in. Yes "we" can.
Are you feeling the "we-we" urge yet? If so you probably need to go to the bathroom. Like Chauncey Gardener, the character played by Peter Sellers in "Being There", the elite in the media are being taken in by the endless
series of platitudes by this "political gardener". "Spring and Summer are followed by Fall and Winter and then Spring and Summer again...and there will be "Growth in the Spring". Because Chauncey says this to the President everyone assumes he is commenting on economic policy.
The final scene in the film is that of Chauncey being considered for President and the gardener walking on water. No one has the guts to say the Gardener, or Obama for that matter, is an empty suit.
Seriously, "we" at the Neville Awards thought it would be nice to post just a portion (taken word for word from His website) of the utopian, socialist, progressive,
neo-Communist claptrap that our latest and greatest Dear Leader is proposing...a whopping $875 billion in new spending, according to estimates, and a plan for
capitulation to the enemy. (We considered doing this for Hillary as well...her plan is virtually identical to the Obama-Deity but she seems to be cratering in the primaries and we didn't want to waste the programming time. If she pulls off a miracle we will post her clap-trap too).
Obama is the teflon candidate...he as been accused of skating through the primaries, not talking specifics, talking in generalities, and having the dinosuar press tinkle all over him (didn't Chris "Hardball" Matthews feel something crawling up his leg?).
Of course, if Obama actually talked specifics
he would probably be hospitalized with a psychiatric diagnosis of "delusions of grandeur" and an acute Messiah complex. Pass the Prozac...I feel an attack of
saviour anxiety coming on.
So wade through all of His wonky word salad if you dare:
Provide Middle Class Americans Tax Relief
Obama will cut income taxes by $1,000 for working families to offset the payroll tax they pay.
Provide a Tax Cut for Working Families: Obama will restore fairness to the tax code and provide 150 million workers the tax relief they need. Obama will create a new "Making Work Pay" tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family. The "Making Work Pay" tax credit will completely eliminate income taxes for 10 million Americans.
Simplify Tax Filings for Middle Class Americans: Obama will dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans will be able to do their taxes in less than five minutes. Obama will ensure that the IRS uses the information it already gets from banks and employers to give taxpayers the option of pre-filled tax forms to verify, sign and return. Experts estimate that the Obama proposal will save Americans up to 200 million total hours of work and aggravation and up to $2 billion in tax preparer fees.
Obama believes that trade with foreign nations should strengthen the American economy and create more American jobs. He will stand firm against agreements that undermine our economic security.
Fight for Fair Trade: Obama will fight for a trade policy that opens up foreign markets to support good American jobs. He will use trade agreements to spread good labor and environmental standards around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement that fail to live up to those important benchmarks. Obama will also pressure the World Trade Organization to enforce trade agreements and stop countries from continuing unfair government subsidies to foreign exporters and nontariff barriers on U.S. exports.
Amend the North American Free Trade Agreement: Obama believes that NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people. Obama will work with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to fix NAFTA so that it works for American workers.
Improve Transition Assistance: To help all workers adapt to a rapidly changing economy, Obama would update the existing system of Trade Adjustment Assistance by extending it to service industries, creating flexible education accounts to help workers retrain, and providing retraining assistance for workers in sectors of the economy vulnerable to dislocation before they lose their jobs.
Technology, Innovation and Creating Jobs
Obama will encourage the deployment of the most modern communications infrastructure to reduce the costs of health care, help solve our energy crisis, create new jobs, and fuel our economic growth.
Support Job Creation: Barack Obama believes we need to double federal funding for basic research and make the research and development tax credit permanent to help create high-paying, secure jobs. Obama will also make long-term investments in education, training, and workforce development so that Americans can leverage our strengths - our ingenuity and entrepreneurialism - to create new high-wage jobs and prosper in a world economy.
Invest in U.S. Manufacturing: The Obama comprehensive energy independence and climate change plan will invest in America's highly-skilled manufacturing workforce and manufacturing centers to ensure that American workers have the skills and tools they need to pioneer the first wave of green technologies that will be in high demand throughout the world. Obama will also provide assistance to the domestic auto industry to ensure that new fuel-efficient vehicles are built by American workers.
Create New Job Training Programs for Clean Technologies: The Obama plan will increase funding for federal workforce training programs and direct these programs to incorporate green technologies training, such as advanced manufacturing and weatherization training, into their efforts to help Americans find and retain stable, high-paying jobs. Obama will also create an energy-focused youth jobs program to invest in disconnected and disadvantaged youth.
Boost the Renewable Energy Sector and Create New Jobs: The Obama plan will create new federal policies, and expand existing ones, that have been proven to create new American jobs. Obama will create a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that will require 25 percent of American electricity be derived from renewable sources by 2025, which has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs on its own. Obama will also extend the Production Tax Credit, a credit used successfully by American farmers and investors to increase renewable energy production and create new local jobs.
Deploy Next-Generation Broadband: Obama believes we can get broadband to every community in America through a combination of reform of the Universal Service Fund, better use of the nation's wireless spectrum, promotion of next-generation facilities, technologies and applications, and new tax and loan incentives.
Protect the Openness of the Internet: Obama supports the basic principle that network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some web sites and Internet applications over others. This principle will ensure that the new competitors, especially small or nonprofit speakers, have the same opportunity as big companies to innovate and reach large audiences.
Invest in Rural Areas: Obama will invest in rural small businesses and fight to expand high-speed Internet access. He will improve rural schools and attract more doctors to rural areas.
Obama will strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions. He will fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Obama will ensure that his labor appointees support workers' rights and will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers. Obama will also increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation to ensure it rises every year.
Ensure Freedom to Unionize: Obama believes that workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union without harassment or intimidation from their employers. Obama cosponsored and is strong advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan effort to assure that workers can exercise their right to organize. He will continue to fight for EFCA's passage and sign it into law.
Fight Attacks on Workers' Right to Organize: Obama has fought the Bush National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) efforts to strip workers of their right to organize. He is a cosponsor of legislation to overturn the NLRB's "Kentucky River" decisions classifying hundreds of thousands of nurses, construction, and professional workers as "supervisors" who are not protected by federal labor laws.
Protect Striking Workers: Obama supports the right of workers to bargain collectively and strike if necessary. He will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers, so workers can stand up for themselves without worrying about losing their livelihoods.
Raise the Minimum Wage: Barack Obama will raise the minimum wage, index it to inflation and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to make sure that full-time workers earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs.
Protect Homeownership and Crack Down on Mortgage Fraud
Obama will crack down on fraudulent brokers and lenders. He will also make sure homebuyers have honest and complete information about their mortgage options, and he will give a tax credit to all middle-class homeowners.
Create a Universal Mortgage Credit: Obama will create a 10 percent universal mortgage credit to provide homeowners who do not itemize tax relief. This credit will provide an average of $500 to 10 million homeowners, the majority of whom earn less than $50,000 per year.
Ensure More Accountability in the Subprime Mortgage Industry: Obama has been closely monitoring the subprime mortgage situation for years, and introduced comprehensive legislation over a year ago to fight mortgage fraud and protect consumers against abusive lending practices. Obama's STOP FRAUD Act provides the first federal definition of mortgage fraud, increases funding for federal and state law enforcement programs, creates new criminal penalties for mortgage professionals found guilty of fraud, and requires industry insiders to report suspicious activity.
Mandate Accurate Loan Disclosure: Obama will create a Homeowner Obligation Made Explicit (HOME) score, which will provide potential borrowers with a simplified, standardized borrower metric (similar to APR) for home mortgages. The HOME score will allow individuals to easily compare various mortgage products and understand the full cost of the loan.
Create Fund to Help Homeowners Avoid Foreclosures: Obama will create a fund to help people refinance their mortgages and provide comprehensive supports to innocent homeowners. The fund will be partially paid for by Obama's increased penalties on lenders who act irresponsibly and commit fraud.
Close Bankruptcy Loophole for Mortgage Companies: Obama will work to eliminate the provision that prevents bankruptcy courts from modifying an individual's mortgage payments. Obama believes that the subprime mortgage industry, which has engaged in dangerous and sometimes unscrupulous business practices, should not be shielded by outdated federal law.
Address Predatory Credit Card Practices
Obama will establish a five-star rating system so that every consumer knows the risk involved in every credit card. He also will establish a Credit Card Bill of Rights to stop credit card companies from exploiting consumers with unfair practices.
Create a Credit Card Rating System to Improve Disclosure: Obama will create a credit card rating system, modeled on five-star systems used for other consumer products, to provide consumers an easily identifiable ranking of credit cards, based on the card's features. Credit card companies will be required to display the rating on all application and contract materials, enabling consumers to quickly understand all of the major provisions of a credit card without having to rely exclusively on fine print in lengthy documents.
Establish a Credit Card Bill of Rights to Protect Consumers: Obama will create a Credit Card Bill of Rights to protect consumers. The Obama plan will:
- Ban Unilateral Changes
- Apply Interest Rate Increases Only to Future Debt
- Prohibit Interest on Fees
- Prohibit "Universal Defaults"
- Require Prompt and Fair Crediting of Cardholder Payments
- Reform Bankruptcy Laws
Obama will reform our bankruptcy laws to protect working people, ban executive bonuses for bankrupt companies, and require disclosure of all pension investments.
Cap Outlandish Interest Rates on Payday Loans and Improve Disclosure: Obama supports extending a 36 percent interest cap to all Americans. Obama will require lenders to provide clear and simplified information about loan fees, payments and penalties, which is why he'll require lenders to provide this information during the application process.
Encourage Responsible Lending Institutions to Make Small Consumer Loans: Obama will encourage banks, credit unions and Community Development Financial Institutions to provide affordable short-term and small-dollar loans and to drive unscrupulous lenders out of business.
Reform Bankruptcy Laws to Protect Families Facing a Medical Crisis: Obama will create an exemption in bankruptcy law for individuals who can prove they filed for bankruptcy because of medical expenses. This exemption will create a process that forgives the debt and lets the individuals get back on their feet.
Obama will double funding for after-school programs, expand the Family Medical Leave Act, provide low-income families with a refundable tax credit to help with their child-care expenses, and encourage flexible work schedules.
Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act: The FMLA covers only certain employees of employers with 50 or more employees. Obama will expand it to cover businesses with 25 or more employees. He will expand the FMLA to cover more purposes as well, including allowing workers to take leave for elder care needs; allowing parents up to 24 hours of leave each year to participate in their children's academic activities; and expanding FMLA to cover leave for employees to address domestic violence.
Encourage States to Adopt Paid Leave: As president, Obama will initiate a strategy to encourage all 50 states to adopt paid-leave systems. Obama will provide a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with start-up costs and to help states offset the costs for employees and employers.
Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities: Obama will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve a million more children. Obama will include measures to maximize performance and effectiveness across grantees nationwide.
Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit: The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit provides too little relief to families that struggle to afford child care expenses. Obama will reform the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by making it refundable and allowing low-income families to receive up to a 50 percent credit for their child care expenses.
Protect Against Caregiver Discrimination: Workers with family obligations often are discriminated against in the workplace. Obama will enforce the recently-enacted Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on caregiver discrimination.
Expand Flexible Work Arrangements: Obama will create a program to inform businesses about the benefits of flexible work schedules; help businesses create flexible work opportunities; and increase federal incentives for telecommuting. Obama will also make the federal government a model employer in terms of adopting flexible work schedules and permitting employees to request flexible arrangements.
Early Childhood Education
Zero to Five Plan: Obama's comprehensive "Zero to Five" plan will provide critical support to young children and their parents. Unlike other early childhood education plans, Obama's plan places key emphasis at early care and education for infants, which is essential for children to be ready to enter kindergarten. Obama will create Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote state "zero to five" efforts and help states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school.
Expand Early Head Start and Head Start: Obama will quadruple Early Head Start, increase Head Start funding and improve quality for both.
Affordable, High-Quality Child Care: Obama will also provide affordable and high-quality child care to ease the burden on working families.
Reform No Child Left Behind: Obama will reform NCLB, which starts by funding the law. Obama believes teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. He will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner. Obama will also improve NCLB's accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.
Make Math and Science Education a National Priority: Obama will recruit math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession and will support efforts to help these teachers learn from professionals in the field. He will also work to ensure that all children have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels.
Address the Dropout Crisis: Obama will address the dropout crisis by passing his legislation to provide funding to school districts to invest in intervention strategies in middle school - strategies such as personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction, and extended learning time.
Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities: Obama will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve one million more children.
Expand Summer Learning Opportunities: Obama's "STEP UP" plan addresses the achievement gap by supporting summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children through partnerships between local schools and community organizations.
Support College Outreach Programs: Obama supports outreach programs like GEAR UP, TRIO and Upward Bound to encourage more young people from low-income families to consider and prepare for college.
Support English Language Learners: Obama supports transitional bilingual education and will help Limited English Proficient students get ahead by holding schools accountable for making sure these students complete school.
Recruit, Prepare, Retain, and Reward America's Teachers
Recruit Teachers: Obama will create new Teacher Service Scholarships that will cover four years of undergraduate or two years of graduate teacher education, including high-quality alternative programs for mid-career recruits in exchange for teaching for at least four years in a high-need field or location.
Prepare Teachers: Obama will require all schools of education to be accredited. He will also create a voluntary national performance assessment so we can be sure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom and start teaching effectively. Obama will also create Teacher Residency Programs that will supply 30,000 exceptionally well-prepared recruits to high-need schools.
Retain Teachers: To support our teachers, Obama's plan will expand mentoring programs that pair experienced teachers with new recruits. He will also provide incentives to give teachers paid common planning time so they can collaborate to share best practices.
Reward Teachers: Obama will promote new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them. Districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as a mentor to new teachers with a salary increase. Districts can reward teachers who work in underserved places like rural areas and inner cities. And if teachers consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well.
Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit: Obama will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Obama will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior year's tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due.
Simplify the Application Process for Financial Aid: Obama will streamline the financial aid process by eliminating the current federal financial aid application and enabling families to apply simply by checking a box on their tax form, authorizing their tax information to be used, and eliminating the need for a separate application.
Reduce Carbon Emissions 80 Percent by 2050
Cap and Trade: Obama supports implementation of a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Obama's cap-and-trade system will require all pollution credits to be auctioned. A 100 percent auction ensures that all polluters pay for every ton of emissions they release, rather than giving these emission rights away to coal and oil companies. Some of the revenue generated by auctioning allowances will be used to support the development of clean energy, to invest in energy efficiency improvements, and to address transition costs, including helping American workers affected by this economic transition.
Confront Deforestation and Promote Carbon Sequestration: Obama will develop domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers, and ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands, or undertake farming practices that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Invest in a Clean Energy Future
Invest $150 Billion over 10 Years in Clean Energy: Obama will invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial-scale renewable energy, invest in low-emissions coal plants, and begin the transition to a new digital electricity grid. A principal focus of this fund will be devoted to ensuring that technologies that are developed in the U.S. are rapidly commercialized in the U.S. and deployed around the globe.
Double Energy Research and Development Funding: Obama will double science and research funding for clean energy projects including those that make use of our biomass, solar and wind resources.
Invest in a Skilled Clean Technologies Workforce: Obama will use proceeds from the cap-and-trade auction program to invest in job training and transition programs to help workers and industries adapt to clean technology development and production. Obama will also create an energy-focused Green Jobs Corps to connect disconnected and disadvantaged youth with job skills for a high-growth industry.
Convert our Manufacturing Centers into Clean Technology Leaders: Obama will establish a federal investment program to help manufacturing centers modernize and Americans learn the new skills they need to produce green products.
Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund: Obama will create a Clean Technologies Venture Capital Fund to fill a critical gap in U.S. technology development. Obama will invest $10 billion per year into this fund for five years. The fund will partner with existing investment funds and our National Laboratories to ensure that promising technologies move beyond the lab and are commercialized in the U.S
Require 25 Percent of Renewable Electricity by 2025: Obama will establish a 25 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 25 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2025.
Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology: Obama will significantly increase the resources devoted to the commercialization and deployment of low-carbon coal technologies. Obama will consider whatever policy tools are necessary, including standards that ban new traditional coal facilities, to ensure that we move quickly to commercialize and deploy low carbon coal technology.
Support Next Generation Biofuels
Deploy Cellulosic Ethanol: Obama will invest federal resources, including tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts into developing the most promising technologies with the goal of getting the first two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013.
Expand Locally-Owned Biofuel Refineries: Less than 10 percent of new ethanol production today is from farmer-owned refineries. New ethanol refineries help jumpstart rural economies. Obama will create a number of incentives for local communities to invest in their biofuels refineries.
Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard: Barack Obama will establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard to speed the introduction of low-carbon non-petroleum fuels. The standard requires fuels suppliers to reduce the carbon their fuel emits by ten percent by 2020.
Increase Renewable Fuel Standard: Obama will require 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be included in the fuel supply by 2022 and will increase that to at least 60 billion gallons of advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol by 2030.
Set America on Path to Oil Independence
Obama's plan will reduce oil consumption by at least 35 percent, or 10 million barrels per day, by 2030. This will more than offset the equivalent of the oil we would import from OPEC nations in 2030.
Increase Fuel Economy Standards: Obama will double fuel economy standards within 18 years. His plan will provide retooling tax credits and loan guarantees for domestic auto plants and parts manufacturers, so that they can build new fuel-efficient cars rather than overseas companies. Obama will also invest in advanced vehicle technology such as advanced lightweight materials and new engines.
Improve Energy Efficiency 50 Percent by 2030
Set National Building Efficiency Goals: Barack Obama will establish a goal of making all new buildings carbon neutral, or produce zero emissions, by 2030. He'll also establish a national goal of improving new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade to help us meet the 2030 goal.
Establish a Grant Program for Early Adopters: Obama will create a competitive grant program to award those states and localities that take the first steps to implement new building codes that prioritize energy efficiency.
Invest in a Digital Smart Grid: Obama will pursue a major investment in our utility grid to enable a tremendous increase in renewable generation and accommodate modern energy requirements, such as reliability, smart metering, and distributed storage
Restore U.S. Leadership on Climate Change
Create New Forum of Largest Greenhouse Gas Emitters: Obama will create a Global Energy Forum that includes all G-8 members plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa the largest energy consuming nations from both the developed and developing world. The forum would focus exclusively on global energy and environmental issues.
Re-Engage with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change: The UNFCCC process is the main international forum dedicated to addressing the climate problem and an Obama administration will work constructively within it.
Ending the War in Iraq
- Judgment You Can Trust: As a candidate for the United States Senate in 2002, Obama put his political career on the line to oppose going to war in Iraq, and warned of an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences. Obama has been a consistent, principled and vocal opponent of the war in Iraq:
- In 2003 and 2004, he spoke out against the war on the campaign trail;
- In 2005, he called for a phased withdrawal of our troops;
- In 2006, he called for a timetable to remove our troops, a political solution within Iraq, and aggressive diplomacy with all of Iraq's neighbors;
- In January 2007, he introduced legislation in the Senate to remove all of our combat troops from Iraq by March 2008.
- In September 2007, he laid out a detailed plan for how he will end the war as president.
- Bring Our Troops Home: Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.
- Press Iraq's leaders to reconcile: The best way to press Iraq's leaders to take responsibility for their future is to make it clear that we are leaving. As we remove our troops, Obama will engage representatives from all levels of Iraqi society in and out of government to seek a new accord on Iraq's Constitution and governance. The United Nations will play a central role in this convention, which should not adjourn until a new national accord is reached addressing tough questions like federalism and oil revenue-sharing.
- Regional Diplomacy: Obama will launch the most aggressive diplomatic effort in recent American history to reach a new compact on the stability of Iraq and the Middle East. This effort will include all of Iraq's neighbors including Iran and Syria. This compact will aim to secure Iraq's borders; keep neighboring countries from meddling inside Iraq; isolate al Qaeda; support reconciliation among Iraq's sectarian groups; and provide financial support for Iraq's reconstruction.
- Humanitarian Initiative: Obama believes that America has a moral and security responsibility to confront Iraq's humanitarian crisis two million Iraqis are refugees; two million more are displaced inside their own country. Obama will form an international working group to address this crisis. He will provide at least $2 billion to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, and ensure that Iraqis inside their own country can find a safe-haven.
The Problem: Iran has sought nuclear weapons, supports militias inside Iraq and terror across the region, and its leaders threaten Israel and deny the Holocaust. But Obama believes that we have not exhausted our non-military options in confronting this threat; in many ways, we have yet to try them. That's why Obama stood up to the Bush administration's warnings of war, just like he stood up to the war in Iraq.
Opposed Bush-Cheney Saber Rattling: Obama opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which says we should use our military presence in Iraq to counter the threat from Iran. Obama believes that it was reckless for Congress to give George Bush any justification to extend the Iraq War or to attack Iran. Obama also introduced a resolution in the Senate declaring that no act of Congress including Kyl-Lieberman gives the Bush administration authorization to attack Iran.
Diplomacy: Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.
Renewing American Diplomacy
The Problem: The United States is trapped by the Bush-Cheney approach to diplomacy that refuses to talk to leaders we don't like. Not talking doesn't make us look tough it makes us look arrogant, it denies us opportunities to make progress, and it makes it harder for America to rally international support for our leadership. On challenges ranging from terrorism to disease, nuclear weapons to climate change, we cannot make progress unless we can draw on strong international support.
Talk to our Foes and Friends: Obama is willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe. He will do the careful preparation necessary, but will signal that America is ready to come to the table, and that he is willing to lead. And if America is willing to come to the table, the world will be more willing to rally behind American leadership to deal with challenges like terrorism, and Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs.
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Obama will make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a key diplomatic priority. He will make a sustained push working with Israelis and Palestinians to achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state in Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security.
Expand our Diplomatic Presence: To make diplomacy a priority, Obama will stop shuttering consulates and start opening them in the tough and hopeless corners of the world particularly in Africa. He will expand our foreign service, and develop the capacity of our civilian aid workers to work alongside the military.
Fight Global Poverty: Obama will embrace the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty around the world in half by 2015, and he will double our foreign assistance to $50 billion to achieve that goal. He will help the world's weakest states to build healthy and educated communities, reduce poverty, develop markets, and generate wealth.
Strengthen NATO: Obama will rally NATO members to contribute troops to collective security operations, urging them to invest more in reconstruction and stabilization operations, streamlining the decision-making processes, and giving NATO commanders in the field more flexibility.
Seek New Partnerships in Asia: Obama will forge a more effective framework in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits, and ad hoc arrangements, such as the six-party talks on North Korea. He will maintain strong ties with allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia; work to build an infrastructure with countries in East Asia that can promote stability and prosperity; and work to ensure that China plays by international rules.
A Record of Results: The gravest danger to the American people is the threat of a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon and the spread of nuclear weapons to dangerous regimes. Obama has taken bipartisan action to secure nuclear weapons and materials:
He joined Senator Dick Lugar in passing a law to help the United States and our allies detect and stop the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction throughout the world.
He joined Senator Chuck Hagel to introduce a bill that seeks to prevent nuclear terrorism, reduce global nuclear arsenals, and stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
And while other candidates have insisted that we should threaten to drop nuclear bombs on terrorist training camps, Obama believes that we must talk openly about nuclear weapons because the best way to keep America safe is not to threaten terrorists with nuclear weapons, it's to keep nuclear weapons away from terrorists.
Secure Loose Nuclear Materials from Terrorists: Obama will secure all loose nuclear materials in the world within four years. While we work to secure existing stockpiles of nuclear material, Obama will negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material. This will deny terrorists the ability to steal or buy loose nuclear materials.
Strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Obama will crack down on nuclear proliferation by strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions.
Toward a Nuclear Free World: Obama will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and pursue it. Obama will always maintain a strong deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist. But he will take several steps down the long road toward eliminating nuclear weapons. He will stop the development of new nuclear weapons; work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair trigger alert; seek dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material; and set a goal to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate- range missiles so that the agreement is global.
Building a 21st Century Military
The Problem: The excellence of our military is unmatched. But as a result of a misguided war in Iraq, our forces are under pressure as never before. Obama will make the investments we need so that the finest military in the world is best-prepared to meet 21st-century threats.
Rebuild Trust: Obama will rebuild trust with those who serve by ensuring that soldiers and Marines have sufficient training time before they are sent into battle.
Expand the Military: We have learned from Iraq that our military needs more men and women in uniform to reduce the strain on our active force. Obama will increase the size of ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines.
New Capabilities: Obama will give our troops new equipment, armor, training, and skills like language training. He will also strengthen our civilian capacity, so that our civilian agencies have the critical skills and equipment they need to integrate their efforts with our military.
Strengthen Guard and Reserve: Obama will restore the readiness of the National Guard and Reserves. He will permit them adequate time to train and rest between deployments, and provide the National Guard with the equipment they need for foreign and domestic emergencies. He will also give the Guard a seat at the table by making the Chief of the National Guard a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Bipartisanship and Openness
The Problem: Under the Bush administration, foreign policy has been used as a political wedge issue to divide us not as a cause to bring America together. And it is no coincidence that one of the most secretive administrations in history has pursued policies that have been disastrous for the American people. Obama strongly believes that our foreign policy is stronger when Americans are united, and the government is open and candid with the American people.
A Record of Bringing People Together: In the Senate, Obama has worked with Republicans and Democrats to advance important policy initiatives on securing weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons, increasing funding for nonproliferation, and countering instability in Congo.
Consultative Group: Obama will convene a bipartisan Consultative Group of leading members of Congress to foster better executive-legislative relations and bipartisan unity on foreign policy. This group will be comprised of the congressional leadership of both political parties, and the chair and ranking members of the Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Intelligence, and Appropriations Committees. This group will meet with the president once a month to review foreign policy priorities, and will be consulted in advance of military action.
Getting Politics out of Intelligence: Obama would insulate the Director of National Intelligence from political pressure by giving the DNI a fixed term, like the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Obama will seek consistency and integrity at the top of our intelligence community not just a political ally.
Change the Culture of Secrecy: Obama will reverse President Bush's policy of secrecy. He will institute a National Declassification Center to make declassification secure but routine, efficient, and cost-effective.
Engaging the American People on Foreign Policy: Obama will bring foreign policy decisions directly to the people by requiring his national security officials to have periodic national broadband town hall meetings to discuss foreign policy. He will personally deliver occasional fireside chats via webcast.
Ensure a Strong U.S.-Israel Partnership: Barack Obama strongly supports the U.S.-Israel relationship, believes that our first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel, America's strongest ally in the Middle East. Obama supports this closeness, stating that that the United States would never distance itself from Israel.
Support Israel's Right to Self Defense: During the July 2006 Lebanon war, Barack Obama stood up strongly for Israel's right to defend itself from Hezbollah raids and rocket attacks, cosponsoring a Senate resolution against Iran and Syria's involvement in the war, and insisting that Israel should not be pressured into a ceasefire that did not deal with the threat of Hezbollah missiles. He believes strongly in Israel's right to protect its citizens.
Support Foreign Assistance to Israel: Barack Obama has consistently supported foreign assistance to Israel. He defends and supports the annual foreign aid package that involves both military and economic assistance to Israel and has advocated increased foreign aid budgets to ensure that these funding priorities are met. He has called for continuing U.S. cooperation with Israel in the development of missile defense systems.
Expand Access to Jobs
Help Americans Grab a Hold of and Climb the Job Ladder: Obama will invest $1 billion over five years in transitional jobs and career pathway programs that implement proven methods of helping low-income Americans succeed in the workforce.
Create a Green Jobs Corps: Obama will create a program to directly engage disadvantaged youth in energy efficiency opportunities to strengthen their communities, while also providing them with practical skills in this important high-growth career field.
Improve Transportation Access to Jobs: As president, Obama will work to ensure that low-income Americans have transportation access to jobs. Obama will double the federal Jobs Access and Reverse Commute program to ensure that additional federal public transportation dollars flow to the highest-need communities and that urban planning initiatives take this aspect of transportation policy into account.
Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Supports: Obama will work to ensure that ex-offenders have access to job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling, and employment opportunities. Obama will also create a prison-to-work incentive program and reduce barriers to employment.
Make Work Pay for All Americans
Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit: Obama will increase the number of working parents eligible for EITC benefits, increase the benefits available to parents who support their children through child support payments, increase benefits for families with three or more children, and reduce the EITC marriage penalty, which hurts low-income families.
Create a Living Wage: Obama will raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation to make sure that full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing.
Provide Tax Relief: Obama will provide all low and middle-income workers a $500 Making Work Pay tax credit to offset the payroll tax those workers pay in every paycheck. Obama will also eliminate taxes for seniors making under $50,000 per year.
Promote Responsible Fatherhood: Obama will sign into law his Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act to remove some of the government penalties on married families, crack down on men avoiding child support payments, and ensure that payments go to families instead of state bureaucracies.
Support Parents with Young Children: Obama will expand the highly-successful Nurse-Family Partnership to all 570,000 low-income, first-time mothers each year. The Nurse-Family Partnership provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families.
Expand Paid Sick Days: Today, three-out-of-four low-wage workers have no paid sick days. Obama supports guaranteeing workers seven paid sick days per year.
Increase the Supply of Affordable Housing
Create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund: Obama will create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to develop affordable housing in mixed-income neighborhoods.
Fully Fund the Community Development Block Grant: Obama will fully fund the Community Development Block Grant program and engage with urban leaders across the country to increase resources to the highest-need Americans.
Tackle Concentrated Poverty
Establish 20 Promise Neighborhoods: Obama will create 20 Promise Neighborhoods in areas that have high levels of poverty and crime and low levels of student academic achievement in cities across the nation. The Promise Neighborhoods will be modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone, which provides a full network of services, including early childhood education, youth violence prevention efforts and after-school activities, to an entire neighborhood from birth to college.
Ensure Community-Based Investment Resources in Every Urban Community: Obama will work with community and business leaders to identify and address the unique economic development barriers of every major metropolitan area. Obama will provide additional resources to the federal Community Development Financial Institution Fund, the Small Business Administration and other federal agencies, especially to their local branch offices, to address community needs.
Invest in Rural Areas: Obama will invest in rural small businesses and fight to expand high-speed Internet access. He will improve rural schools and attract more doctors to rural areas.
Strengthen Civil Rights Enforcement
Obama will reverse the politicization that has occurred in the Bush Administration's Department of Justice. He will put an end to the ideological litmus tests used to fill positions within the Civil Rights Division.
Combat Employment Discrimination
Obama will work to overturn the Supreme Court's recent ruling that curtails racial minorities' and women's ability to challenge pay discrimination. Obama will also pass the Fair Pay Act to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.
Expand Hate Crimes Statutes
Obama will strengthen federal hate crimes legislation and reinvigorate enforcement at the Department of Justice's Criminal Section.
End Deceptive Voting Practices
Obama will sign into law his legislation that establishes harsh penalties for those who have engaged in voter fraud and provides voters who have been misinformed with accurate and full information so they can vote.
End Racial Profiling
Obama will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice.
Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support
Obama will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.
Eliminate Sentencing Disparities
Obama believes the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.
Expand Use of Drug Courts
Obama will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.
Quality, Affordable and Portable Coverage for All
Obama's Plan to Cover Uninsured Americans: Obama will make available a new national health plan to all Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to members of Congress. The Obama plan will have the following features:
- Guaranteed eligibility. No American will be turned away from any insurance plan because of illness or pre-existing conditions.
- Comprehensive benefits. The benefit package will be similar to that offered through Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), the plan members of Congress have. The plan will cover all essential medical services, including preventive, maternity and mental health care.
- Affordable premiums, co-pays and deductibles.
- Subsidies. Individuals and families who do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP but still need financial assistance will receive an income-related federal subsidy to buy into the new public plan or purchase a private health care plan.
- Simplified paperwork and reined in health costs.
- Easy enrollment. The new public plan will be simple to enroll in and provide ready access to coverage.
- Portability and choice. Participants in the new public plan and the National Health Insurance Exchange (see below) will be able to move from job to job without changing or jeopardizing their health care coverage.
- Quality and efficiency. Participating insurance companies in the new public program will be required to report data to ensure that standards for quality, health information technology and administration are being met.
National Health Insurance Exchange: The Obama plan will create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals who wish to purchase a private insurance plan. The Exchange will act as a watchdog group and help reform the private insurance market by creating rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible. Insurers would have to issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable premiums that will not depend upon health status. The Exchange will require that all the plans offered are at least as generous as the new public plan and have the same standards for quality and efficiency. The Exchange would evaluate plans and make the differences among the plans, including cost of services, public.
Employer Contribution: Employers that do not offer or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees will be required to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan. Small employers that meet certain revenue thresholds will be exempt.
Mandatory Coverage of Children: Obama will require that all children have health care coverage. Obama will expand the number of options for young adults to get coverage, including allowing young people up to age 25 to continue coverage through their parents' plans.
Expansion Of Medicaid and SCHIP: Obama will expand eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs and ensure that these programs continue to serve their critical safety net function.
Flexibility for State Plans: Due to federal inaction, some states have taken the lead in health care reform. The Obama plan builds on these efforts and does not replace what states are doing. States can continue to experiment, provided they meet the minimum standards of the national plan.
Lower Costs by Modernizing The U.S. Health Care System
Reducing Costs of Catastrophic Illnesses for Employers and Their Employees: Catastrophic health expenditures account for a high percentage of medical expenses for private insurers. The Obama plan would reimburse employer health plans for a portion of the catastrophic costs they incur above a threshold if they guarantee such savings are used to reduce the cost of workers' premiums.
Ensuring Providers Deliver Quality Care:
- Support disease management programs. Seventy five percent of total health care dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Obama will require that providers that participate in the new public plan, Medicare or the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) utilize proven disease management programs. This will improve quality of care, give doctors better information and lower costs.
- Coordinate and integrate care. Over 133 million Americans have at least one chronic disease and these chronic conditions cost a staggering $1.7 trillion yearly. Obama will support implementation of programs and encourage team care that will improve coordination and integration of care of those with chronic conditions.
- Require full transparency about quality and costs. Obama will require hospitals and providers to collect and publicly report measures of health care costs and quality, including data on preventable medical errors, nurse staffing ratios, hospital-acquired infections, and disparities in care. Health plans will also be required to disclose the percentage of premiums that go to patient care as opposed to administrative costs.
Fight for New Initiatives
- Promote patient safety. Obama will require providers to report preventable medical errors and support hospital and physician practice improvement to prevent future occurrences.
- Align incentives for excellence. Both public and private insurers tend to pay providers based on the volume of services provided, rather than the quality or effectiveness of care. Providers who see patients enrolled in the new public plan, the National Health Insurance Exchange, Medicare and FEHBP will be rewarded for achieving performance thresholds on outcome measures.
- Comparative effectiveness research. Obama will establish an independent institute to guide reviews and research on comparative effectiveness, so that Americans and their doctors will have the accurate and objective information they need to make the best decisions for their health and well-being.
- Tackle disparities in health care. Obama will tackle the root causes of health disparities by addressing differences in access to health coverage and promoting prevention and public health, both of which play a major role in addressing disparities. He will also challenge the medical system to eliminate inequities in health care through quality measurement and reporting, implementation of effective interventions such as patient navigation programs, and diversification of the health workforce.
- Insurance reform. Obama will strengthen antitrust laws to prevent insurers from overcharging physicians for their malpractice insurance and will promote new models for addressing errors that improve patient safety, strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and reduce the need for malpractice suits.
- Lowering Costs Through Investment in Electronic Health Information Technology Systems: Most medical records are still stored on paper, which makes it hard to coordinate care, measure quality or reduce medical errors and which costs twice as much as electronic claims. Obama will invest $10 billion a year over the next five years to move the U.S. health care system to broad adoption of standards-based electronic health information systems, including electronic health records, and will phase in requirements for full implementation of health IT. Obama will ensure that patients' privacy is protected.
- Lowering Costs by Increasing Competition in the Insurance and Drug Markets: The insurance business today is dominated by a small group of large companies that has been gobbling up their rivals. There have been over 400 health care mergers in the last 10 years, and just two companies dominate a full third of the national market. These changes were supposed to make the industry more efficient, but instead premiums have skyrocketed by over 87 percent.
- Barack Obama will prevent companies from abusing their monopoly power through unjustified price increases. His plan will force insurers to pay out a reasonable share of their premiums for patient care instead of keeping exorbitant amounts for profits and administration. His new National Health Exchange will help increase competition by insurers.
- Lower prescription drug costs. The second-fastest growing type of health expenses is prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are selling the exact same drugs in Europe and Canada but charging Americans more than double the price. Obama will allow Americans to buy their medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and prices are lower outside the U.S. Obama will also repeal the ban that prevents the government from negotiating with drug companies, which could result in savings as high as $30 billion. Finally, Obama will work to increase the use of generic drugs in Medicare, Medicaid, and FEHBP and prohibit big name drug companies from keeping generics out of markets.
Advance the Biomedical Research Field: As a result of biomedical research the prevention, early detection and treatment of diseases such as cancer and heart disease is better today than any other time in history. Barack Obama has consistently supported funding for the national institutes of health and the national science foundation. Obama strongly supports investments in biomedical research, as well as medical education and training in health-related fields, because it provides the foundation for new therapies and diagnostics. Obama has been a champion of research in cancer, mental health, health disparities, global health, women and children's health, and veterans' health. As president, Obama will strengthen funding for biomedical research, and better improve the efficiency of that research by improving coordination both within government and across government/private/non-profit partnerships. An Obama administration will ensure that we translate scientific progress into improved approaches to disease prevention, early detection and therapy that is available for all Americans.
Fight AIDS Worldwide: There are 40 million people across the planet infected with HIV/AIDS. As president, Obama will continue to be a global leader in the fight against AIDS. Obama believes in working across party lines to combat this epidemic and recently joined Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) at a large California evangelical church to promote greater investment in the global AIDS battle.
Support Americans with Disabilities: As a former civil rights lawyer, Barack Obama knows firsthand the importance of strong protections for minority communities in our society. Obama is committed to strengthening and better enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) so that future generations of Americans with disabilities have equal rights and opportunities. Obama believes we must restore the original legislative intent of the ADA in the wake of court decisions that have restricted the interpretation of this landmark legislation.
Barack Obama is also committed to ensuring that disabled Americans receive Medicaid and Medicare benefits in a low-cost, effective and timely manner. Recognizing that many individuals with disabilities rely on Medicare, Obama worked with Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) to urge the department of health and human services to provide clear and reliable information on the Medicare prescription drug benefit and to ensure that the Medicare recipients were protected from fraudulent claims by marketers and drug plan agents.
Improve Mental Health Care: Mental illness affects approximately one in five American families. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that untreated mental illnesses cost the U.S. more than $100 billion per year. As president, Obama will support mental health parity so that coverage for serious mental illnesses are provided on the same terms and conditions as other illnesses and diseases.
Protect Our Children from Lead Poisoning: More than 430,000 American children have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood. Lead can cause irreversible brain damage, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and, at very high levels, seizures, coma and death. As president, Obama will protect children from lead poisoning by requiring that child care facilities be lead-safe within five years.
Reduce Risks of Mercury Pollution: More than five million women of childbearing age have high levels of toxic mercury in their blood, and approximately 630,000 newborns are born at risk every year. Barack Obama has a plan to significantly reduce the amount of mercury that is deposited in oceans, lakes, and rivers, which in turn would reduce the amount of mercury in fish.
Support Americans with Autism: More than one million Americans have autism, a complex neurobiological condition that has a range of impacts on thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others. As diagnostic criteria broaden and awareness increases, more cases of autism have been recognized across the country. Barack Obama believes that we can do more to help autistic Americans and their families understand and live with autism. He has been a strong supporter of more than $1 billion in federal funding for autism research on the root causes and treatments, and he believes that we should increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to truly ensure that no child is left behind (Neville's Note: we thought all of the lefties hated that???).
More than anything, autism remains a profound mystery with a broad spectrum of effects on autistic individuals, their families, loved ones, the community, and education and health care systems. Obama believes that the government and our communities should work together to provide a helping hand to autistic individuals and their families.