Advance text of President’s speech

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Address to Joint Session of Congress
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady of the United States:

I come before you tonight in a spirit of remorse — which, I find, requires more audacity than hope does.

When my administration entered into office, we faced three overwhelming problems:

[1] a financial crisis and recession;

[2] a war in the Middle East on several fronts; and

[3] an unresolved healthcare crisis for many Americans.

We immediately addressed these problems with the following actions, respectively:

[1] we bailed out financial institutions and corporate entities too big to fail with massive subventions, which found their way into the pockets of the richest people in the country;

[2] we increased the killing in the Mideast by carrying out the previous administration’s plans for Iraq, sharply escalating President Bush’s war in Afghanistan, and extending it into Pakistan; meanwhile we gave our client Israel a free hand to turn Gaza into a prison camp;

[3] we allowed certain cosmetic changes to the American healthcare system to be discussed while making sure that that profits of the medical/financial complex would be protected and increased.

Listening to the advice of the American people, I have concluded — to my vast dismay — that all of these initiatives were mistaken. They exacerbated the problems that they purported to solve.

Therefore, tonight, I am announcing a Change of Course in all three areas.

[1] Financial institutions and corporate entities that have been bailed out with public monies will have new boards of directors, charged with the responsibility of running those enterprises for public benefit rather than private profit. General Motors, for example, will turn its attention to mass transit. The same will be true of financial institutions: mortgage holders, for example, will be charged with keeping people in their homes; the housing market will be revived in part by ending foreclosures.

[2] U.S. troops, allies, and contractors will be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible consistent with their safety and the wishes of the local populations. A Mr. Richard Feder of Fort Lee, New Jersey, wrote to me to ask, “How will we ever get our troops out of the Middle East?” I replied in the words of the late Herb Caen — “Ships and planes.” All military aid to Israel will be ended, and non-military aid will resume only when Israel complies with international law by withdrawing from the occupied territories.

[3] Medicare will be improved and extended to all Americans. Its 45-year history and the experience of the other industrialized counties show us how to do it. When you need medical care, you will go to the doctor or healthcare provider of your choice, and the federal government will pay the bill. There will be no need for you or your employer to provide private medical insurance, and the money saved from premiums will be greater than any increase in taxes. Existing insurance companies will be acquired by the government to the extent that they have assets — for example, expert personnel — useful to the community.

In each of these matters we have resolved to Change the Course in a direction that polls indicate is approved by a majority of Americans. And so I call upon all Americans to impress on their Congressional representatives the need for these reforms.

There is much more to do. Forty years ago the most progressive U.S. administration since World War II proposed a negative income tax and a guaranteed annual income for all Americans, and the proposal almost made it through Congress. It is time to renew and fulfill that promise.

Next week I will ask the Congress once again for time to speak, to outline a vast revision of the tax laws to achieve that end. The goal is nothing less than the securing of the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all Americans — in a practical and not merely theoretical manner.

There is much to do, and the time is short.

On this Change in Course, in the words of a great American port, we have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep.

God help us, and God save the United States of America. Good night.

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“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.” –Noam Chomsky