Obama announced in his quasi-State of the Union address Tuesday night the launch of Recovery.gov, which allows citizens to track where all the stimulus money is going:
Recovery.gov is a website that lets you, the taxpayer, figure out where the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going. There are going to be a few different ways to search for information. The money is being distributed by Federal agencies, and soon you’ll be able to see where it’s going — to which states, to which congressional districts, even to which Federal contractors. As soon as we are able to, we’ll display that information visually in maps, charts, and graphics.
Great idea. Too bad it didn’t track the last – what was it? – $700B?
You can watch the speech at the White House website or read the full transcript. Some highlights follow (definitely read the education section).
“We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.
Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.”
“And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
On budgetary transparency:
“That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules – and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.
On tax cuts:
“[…] 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut – a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.
Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.
On housing relief:
“…we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and re-finance their mortgages. It’s a plan that won’t help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values – Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped bring about. In fact, the average family who re-finances today can save nearly $2000 per year on their mortgage.”
On Guantanamo and civil liberties: (AKA “Fuck you Cheney!”)
“That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.”
Token hopey-ness: (Ty’Sheoma was seated next to Michelle)
“And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters.
We are not quitters.
These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.”
Mississippi Governor Bobby Jindal provided a gag-inducing Republican response that summarized Obama’s rise to prominence in the same tone and language a parent reserves for the first time a child ties their own shoes. Basically, he said that the government should get out of the way of the private sector (YEAH, because that’s worked so well thus far) and just cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes. I’ve never been this annoyed by a Republican speech since W. CNN has some (text) excerpts; [Update:] Talking Points Memo has clips of the speech and reaction from the Fox News Panel. (Spoiler: they were not impressed!) Thanks to Jindal, gays in Mississippi can now be legally fired from their private or public sector jobs solely for being gay, a protection they formerly had. I can’t believe this douche nozzle is the presumed Republican challenge to Obama in 2012.
[Trivia: Did you catch Obama claim that the automobile was invented by Americans? Well, any car freak (me) knows that the invention of the automobile is actually credited to Mr. Benz, a German. It was only popularized by Ford.]
Update: I’m not a huge fan of Rachel Maddow but her response on Jindal’s statement (and his BIZARRE use of a government assistance/Katrina reference), and the new leadership of the GOP (Michael Steele, etc), are right-on. Highly-recommended (thanks, JMG):