My fellow Americans:
I deliver this address at a time of great distress in our nation. Never before have we faced challenges of such severity as we do today. As I speak, there are hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans with no shelter, having to survive another night of Arctic temperatures in the open. Many of them will die of exposure before morning. Many of them are veterans of our wars, who have been failed by this government in having their basic needs met.
In 2014, so far there has been an average of one school shooting every other day of the school year. Each day we fail to address both the proliferation of weapons in our country and their accessibility to those with criminal records and histories of mental health conditions. Each day that we fail to curb the growing problem of bullying in our schools, it becomes more likely that more of our children will die at the hands of other children. Soon we will have to ask our elected officials if the endorsement of a certain special interest group in the next election has more value than the lives of schoolchildren.
The war in Afghanistan is now the longest continued war in our nation's history, and there is still no end in sight. Each day, our men and women are suffering long-lasting, debilitating physical and mental injuries that they will have to endure for the rest of their lives, for an objective that seems just as out of reach today as it did when my predecessor first committed troops to Afghanistan. And just as our troops are losing their lives in this war, our nation is rapidly losing billions of tax dollars as we struggle to prop up a regime that has proven to be blatantly corrupt and untrustworthy in the eyes of Afghanistan's own people.
The extent of our national intelligence apparatus continues to be exposed in the media, and Americans are learning each day that their Fourth Amendment rights have eroded almost completely. Millions of Americans are justifiably mistrusting of their own government after having learned that everything from their phone calls, emails, text messages, tweets, Facebook posts and even their scores on Angry Birds are being monitored by their government. Many reports have shown that despite the depth of our surveillance, monitoring citizens' everyday behavior hasn't prevented any terrorist attacks. And in numerous polls, Americans have repeatedly said they value their privacy over security.
Despite working many hours for some of the world's richest companies, working Americans are unable to survive on the current minimum wage, let alone move up the economic ladder. Economists report that simply having a job is no longer sufficient for Americans to make it on their own, or to provide a decent living situation for their families. And despite the fact that a majority of Americans on food stamps are working families with one or more jobs, millionaires in Congress are denying those working families access to food.
Our nation's college students have been trapped by a student debt bubble that has grown past $1 trillion dollars. Smart young women and men are entering an increasingly competitive job market with sometimes five to six figures in student debt that will take them the rest of their adult life to pay off. Faced with crushing debt, these young people are not as likely to take risks like starting families, becoming homeowners, and starting businesses.
The same predatory banks that are burying college students in debt have also rooked millions of American homeowners out of their homes with manipulative lending schemes that have led to foreclosure. This means more and more Americans are having to move their families out onto the street, while the banks continue their bad behavior without fear of accountability. In fact, the only accountability that my Department of Justice has been able to manage for these financial criminals has come in the form of settlements amounting to a few weeks profit for these big banks. That must change.
While the richest among our country have recovered from this recession and the stock market has hit numerous record highs in the last year, vast swaths of our country have been left behind and forgotten as unemployment drags on. Even though the official unemployment rate as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics hovers around the 7 percent mark, most new jobs have been low-paying, minimum wage jobs that don't pay a living wage. And those numbers don't adequately portray the millions of Americans who have simply stopped looking for work. Long-term unemployment, too often a death sentence for American workers, makes the job search that much more difficult as the gap of time between jobs grows each day. And despite the clear jobs crisis in this country, Congress has still refused to extend a hand to working families who have been kicked to the ground by the recession.
The American people are also justifiably losing confidence in their government as a whole. The corrupting influence of money in politics is a disease that has eaten away at the legitimacy of this government, as more people see that their needs are ignored in favor of moneyed special interests who donate to campaigns. Ninety-seven percent of Americans polled have said they would like to see new anti-corruption laws on the books. Members of Congress have announced they will not seek re-election, citing endless fundraising as the reason for their retirement. Thirty to seventy percent of Congress's time is devoted to calling wealthy donors for campaign contributions, rather than taking questions from constituents. If this continues to go unaddressed, the federal government will derive no more consent from the governed, which, as our founders have taught us, is the basis for just revolt.
But now is not the time for pointing fingers. Americans need solutions, and I am doing everything in my power as president to take positive steps forward.
I have issued an executive order to demand that all companies receiving contracts with federal tax dollars not only pay employees a minimum of fifteen dollars an hour, but also publicly disclose all campaign contributions. The cycle of corruption can only end when that corruption is revealed to all inquiring minds. We must end the days where campaign checks in federal election years result in new federal contracts in inauguration years.
I will also be using my powers as president to appoint advocates to a new Citizens' Community Commission. This task force comprised of everyday Americans will have the duty of studying the effects of homelessness across America, in all fifty states. The commission will also issue a report containing recommendations on how to alleviate homelessness in America. I plan to appoint members from Occupy Madison, in Wisconsin, whose Tiny Homes project has provided living spaces for those who previously had to sleep out in the cold. I'll also appoint members of Utah's Housing Coalition, which is on track to end homelessness in the state by 2015 by giving homes to the homeless. When there are 6 vacant buildings for every homeless person in America, and in a nation as rich as ours, there is no excuse for anyone in this great nation to not have a roof over their head at night.
West Virginia's water crisis has shown us that fossil fuels are an unreliable and unsustainable source of energy for future generations to depend upon, and I have recommended Congress immediately repeal all subsidies for the oil, coal, and natural gas industries in favor of aggressive new investments in renewable energy. I have invited Angela Merkel of Germany to consult the Department of Energy on how to have all American homes and business convert to solar, wind, and biomass-based energy, so our nation can be on track to draw 80 percent of our energy from renewable resources by 2030.
The polar vortex currently blanketing our nation in Arctic temperatures, from North Dakota to Florida, is proof that climate change is happening and is already having a devastating effect on our way of life. I have ordered the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to come to a halt, and have established a new Sustainable Energy Development Commission to make recommendations on how we can halt the most drastic effects of climate change with more sensible energy policy.
I'm also appointing citizens to a new Green Jobs Creation Commission on how to revitalize our economy by revamping our nation's energy infrastructure to be connected by a renewable energy grid. We can no longer play the fool as our predecessors have when it comes to buying and burning cheap oil by the billions of barrels. We must now make the vitality of future generations a top priority and ensure that our grandchildren's great-grandchildren will have a beautiful planet to inherit, and that we will always have millions of jobs here at home in the maintenance, upkeep, and expansion of a green energy grid.
As Commander-in-Chief, I'll be issuing an executive order to immediately begin the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, with the goal of having everyone home by the end of next year. In my executive budget recommendation, I'll recommend the portion of the Pentagon budget reserved for the Afghan war be reappropriated to green jobs creation. I will also end the F-35 program's history of broken promises and stretched budgets, and will allocate the program's funding instead to provide a free, public college education for all Americans.
As President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us in his 1961 farewell address, we must be vigilant against the unwarranted influence of military-industrial complex. We failed to do so, and have allowed this complex to morph into a totalitarian surveillance state with its eyes on every American computer screen and mobile phone, as well as the screens and phones of world leaders. I've learned from the outcry of all Americans that our constitutional freedoms must remain strong. I'm demanding Congress repeal the National Security Agency's collection of metadata, as well as the provisions of the Patriot Act that allowed such intrusive surveillance to happen in the first place. Should Congress fail to do so, I encourage you all to look at your representatives' voting records, call 202-224-3121, ask for your congressmen and senators, and demand they respect the constitution.
I've instructed my Department of Justice to indict National Intelligence Director James Clapper for perjury for lying to Congress about the NSA's surveillance capabilities. I've also issued a full pardon to Edward Snowden, and will be awarding him with a Presidential Medal of Freedom upon his return home, for his invaluable efforts to provide the world with the truth about blatant violations of citizens' rights. I'm also pardoning Chelsea Manning, and having her immediately released from Leavenworth. I'll also be issuing her a Presidential Medal of Freedom for truly upholding her oath to protect and defend the constitution from all enemies, foreign AND domestic. I'll pray every day for the Snowden and Manning families' forgiveness for my short-sightedness.
I have instructed new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to cease the Fed's buying of mortgage-backed securities to the tune of $40 billion per week, funds to instead be used to purchase delinquent student debt so our students can be free to pursue their goals without the specter of default or bad credit. I have also instructed the Federal Reserve Board of Governors to allow students to borrow federal loans at the same 0.75 percent preferential interest rate given to the big banks. I have also invited Richmond, California, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin to consult the Department of Housing and Urban Development on how to use federal eminent domain to seize foreclosed homes from the banks, and refinance underwater mortgages directly with homeowners, so families can keep their homes and our neighborhoods can remain strong.
Chairwoman Yellen will also be tasked with creating a report on how to convert all twelve Federal Reserve branches into public banks by the end of 2015. It's time the states have a reliable place to store their local and state tax dollars that won't lose them in risky gambles in the Wall Street derivatives casino. The states deserve to have their own transparently-run banks that will make loans for capital projects at very low interest rates, and whose leaders are public employees who make realistic salaries, rather than billionaires who shower themselves with extravagant bonuses at the end of the year. Our economy can never truly recover until public funds are safely stored in public banks.
I have recognized the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act and am working to make healthcare more affordable for all. I am appointing a new Affordable Care Commission to make recommendations on how we can make sure healthcare is seen as a human right in this country, rather than a commodity only the wealthy and upper-middle class can afford. I'll be appointing Vermont governors Howard Dean, Peter Shumlin, and the leaders of Vermont's public sector union to the commission to make recommendations on how Americans can voluntarily buy into Medicare if they so choose. If it works for our seniors, it can work for the rest of our nation as well.
The latest budget agreement out of Congress still failed to address fundamental inequalities in our tax system. In my next executive budget recommendation, I am calling for new tax brackets for incomes over one million, ten million, 100 million, and 1 billion dollars. I'll also be calling for a 5 percent tax on all estates worth more than three million dollars. I'm additionally recommending a 1 percent sales tax on all Wall Street transactions. And I will refuse to sign off on any more cuts to our public services until Congress ends corporate offshore tax haven abuse. With this new infusion of tax dollars, we can start to adequately fund the public services that so many Americans enjoy and use every day, and provide millions of new jobs to out-of-work Americans.
To right the wrongs inherent in our current two-tiered justice system, I have asked the government of Iceland to consult my Department of Justice on how to properly prosecute financial crimes, and properly hold financial criminals accountable. I am also demanding that my Drug Enforcement Administration re-classify marijuana as a Schedule IV drug rather than a Schedule I drug. There's no excuse for Americans to be incarcerated for putting something into their bodies that is less harmful than alcohol. By having a more honest drug policy, we can start to break the prison-industrial complex that has unfairly targeted poor Americans and Americans of color through arcane drug policy.
I am also demanding the Federal Communications Commission reinforce the principle of a free and open internet by fully committing to the preservation of net neutrality. We cannot allow America's richest telecommunications companies to have sole decision over how fast or slow a website runs. The internet must mirror the principles of a democratic society, and continue to be a hub where all Americans can have access to information. Should my FCC commissioners not respect a free and open internet, I will replace them with commissioners who will.
Our nation has a lot of growing to do before we can truly call this the greatest country in the world. But by righting the biggest wrongs first, we can start to blaze a new path for America that will ensure prosperity for all of her children for generations to come. May God bless us all. Thank you.
This article originally appeared on Reader Supported News.