Sunday, January 31, 2010

Three thousand dollar junket puts Stevenson atop Joplin-area legislators in lobbyists' gifts

A total of $3,006.15 in travel and lodging from the powerful Gamble & Schlemeier lobbying firm put Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, on top of the list of Joplin-area legislators in lobbyists' gifts for 2009. For the year, Stevenson collected $5,107.96 in gifts.

Oddly, the big trip, the location of which was not specified in online documents posted on the Missouri Ethics Commission website, took place Oct. 1, but was not filed with the Ethics Commission until Jan. 19. According to the lobbyists' filings, Stevenson solicited the gifts.

The amount was split between lobbyists William Gamble and Jorgen Schlemeier, and was credited to nearly all of their clients- Missouri Beverage Association, Missouri Railroad Association, Missouri Pharmacy Association, Ameren UE, Missouri Dental Association, Missouri Fire Service Alliance, Independent Colleges and Universities of Missouri, Missouri American Water Company, Missouri Psychological Association, Missouri College of Emergency Physicians, Missouri Residential Care Association, Missouri Association for Career and Technical Education and Ameristar Casinos.

Stevenson's Oct. 1 spree enabled him to cruise past Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who had $3,414.92 in gifts, including $188.57 in December.

Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, recorded $774.41 for 2009, with $25 coming in December.

Though Ed Emery, R-Lamar, had only $736.48 for the year, $280.71 came in December, as lobbyists paid for his meals, cab fare and entertainment while he was in Washington, D. C. to the tune of $271.33.

Emery, the chairman of the Utilities Committee, received a $50 meal at Ruth Chris Steakhouse and a $45 meal at the Oceanaire Restaurant, paid for by John R. Sondag, AT&T lobbyist, and received a $93.03 meal, a $3.33 cab ride, and for $79.97 for entertainment at the Ford Theater, paid for by Peabody Energy lobbyist Michael Gibbons.

Trailing the other Joplin area legislators in lobbyists' gifts were Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage at $591.12 and Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, at $566.02.

Talboy cracks $16,000 barrier in lobbyists' gifts

Final statistics for 2009 show House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, zooming past the $16,000 barrier in lobbyists' gifts.

Talboy added $272.05 worth of gifts in December, increasing his total to $16,227.97, according to documents posted moments ago on the Missouri Ethics Commission website.

Put Scott on the record for state sovereignty

Add Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, to the list of those fighting to protect the average Missouri citizen from those evildoers in the federal government:

Last year I touched on the importance of protecting our constitutional rights by proposing an amendment reaffirming a citizen's right to free expression of religion. This year I've signed on to cosponsor a similar amendment that would let our federal government know states such as Missouri always had and will continue to have the right to govern themselves.

Senate Joint Resolution 25 will allow Missourians to retain the right to choose their own medical and insurance options. Right now, the federal government is debating a bill in Washington, D.C., that would reform health care insurance as we know it. Fortunately, the federal health care legislation is stalling, with disagreements over the public option, abortion, and cost of the health care overhaul proving to be the major issues among our national lawmakers.

Even though this debate is happening hundreds of miles from Missouri, potential effects from this proposed legislation are already being recognized in our state by many concerned citizens. That's why many of my colleagues and I have signed on to a measure that would let those officials in Washington know that we are taking a stand and protecting our right to govern our own state.

Senate Joint Resolution 25 would prohibit laws interfering with freedom of choice in health care. This joint resolution, supported by several of my fellow lawmakers, would protect our state's citizens from federal health care mandates — allowing Missourians to choose what medical insurance options work best for them. As one of the 20 cosponsors to this measure, I want to ensure that we protect Missourians by providing safeguards for small businesses from payroll penalties and make sure people are not punished for refusing to purchase a health care plan that is not right for them and their families.

The Senate Committee on Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight recently heard testimony on SJR 25. A large audience attended the hearing, which reaffirms the importance of this measure — Missourians have the right to choose their own health care and insurance options.

With the committee's approval, SJR 25 would be sent to the full Senate for debate. Joint resolutions are used to submit a proposed constitutional amendment to a vote of the people. It requires the same treatment as a bill in its passage through both the Senate and House and has the force of law, but does not require the governor's signature. Upon voter approval, SJR 25 would ensure everyone's right to their own health care decisions.

Ridgeway: Nixon did not address State of the State

From the tone of her latest capitol report, Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, does not appear to be thrilled with Gov. Jay Nixon's State of the State message:

“Government always finds a need for whatever money it gets.”
-Ronald Reagan

The big buzz in our State Capitol has centered around the governor’s recent State of the State address. Tis the season for such speeches as the President will deliver the annual State of the Union address this Wednesday, January 27.

Our governor delivered what I would call a “safe” speech—nothing controversial. It also wasn’t really a “State of the State” address as it failed to address the state of our state. So here are some facts about what Missouri is facing:

1. Unemployment: We are facing very high unemployment at about 9.6 percent. This varies
according to the source of the numbers, but is still quite high. It is slightly below the U.S. unemployment rate, which is more than 10 percent.

2. Missouri’s income and expenses: With so many people unemployed, it is not surprising that projected tax revenues are down. Income taxes remain Missouri’s primary source of general revenue. We draft our budget based on projected revenues for next fiscal year (which runs July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011). Last year Missouri budgeted to spend about $23.1 billion. As of early January, Missouri’s income is down about 10.6 percent.

Revenues have fallen more in the last year than they had in any two-year period since
1981. We have to find waste, fraud and abuse in our expenditures and get rid of it. We also have to get back to funding only core government services. Not every good idea deserves taxpayer support—see the Ronald Reagan quote above

3. Taxes: The good news is that the governor and most all of us serving in the House and Senate have pledged to balance our state budget this year without raising taxes. The bad news is that Missouri’s State Tax Commission (made up of people appointed by the governor) has recommended a change in the way agricultural property is assessed for tax purposes. The net effect could be up to a 29 percent tax increase on agricultural land.

Further bad news is that the governor has not called upon the commission to withdraw its ruling. This leaves it up to the House and Senate to disapprove this bureaucratic tax increase by passing resolutions to do so. Such resolutions are currently on the fast-track in both the House and Senate. Missouri’s two biggest income-producing industries are agriculture and tourism. In these tough economic times, we must continue to implement tax decreases rather than burden Missourians with tax hikes.

4. Education: The House and Senate leadership continue to support full funding of our K-12 schools according to schedule, which will require about $120 million more this year.
Surprisingly, the governor’s education funding proposals would leave schools under-funded by $87 million. The governor has also cut around $50 million from higher education funding. I do not intend to let these education cuts pass.

5. Health care: The governor was silent with regard to the proposals for government control of our health care system flowing from Washington, DC. It is imperative that states assert their sovereignty on this and many other issues. Washington, DC is trying to micro-manage in areas where it has little to no constitutional right to do so. There has already been a major state sovereignty rally in the Missouri Capitol and the Missouri House has passed a resolution basically telling the federal government to keep out of our health care decisions.

The proposals being tossed around in Washington (at least those that were debated prior to the Massachusetts Senatorial election) would have forced the states to pick up the tab for a massive expansion of the welfare state. I am sponsoring a resolution that would allow the voters of Missouri to decide if they want our tax-sponsored political subdivisions to participate in any “public option” health program—if one is ever passed in Washington, DC.

My bill will be heard by a Senate committee this week. Basically it allows you, as voters and taxpayers, to decide whether our political subdivisions should be allowed to flee from the private insurance market over to a taxpayer-subsidized and government-managed health plan. If government employers fled the private insurance market, it would adversely impact health care choices of government employees, plus would likely cause a near-collapse of our private insurance market for all other people currently insured.

All of us in the Legislature and in the governor’s office will have to work together to pass a balanced budget without raising taxes. Especially at this time, we must continue to reject the bailout mentality that has gripped Washington, DC.
Missouri’s budget is in far better shape than most others in the union because we have held the line on expanding the welfare state, while at the same time reducing taxes. I look forward to the debate on these issues and encourage you to let me know your ideas as well.

Purgason: Health Care Freedom Act keeps government in its place

Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, a candidate for the U. S. Senate seat currently held by Kit Bond, discusses his support for the Health Care Freedom Act in his latest report:

As the national debate on health care continues in Washington, D.C., several states across the nation are taking steps to protect themselves and their citizens in their state constitutions. Missouri is one of those states. This week a public hearing was held on Senate Joint Resolution 25, which is essential in securing the rights of patients to make their own health care choices.

Even before the events in Washington, D.C., the question of patient rights has been bubbling to the surface as an issue important to those interested in keeping the relationship between patient and doctor in tact.

The essence of the proposed constitutional amendment is this, "To preserve the freedom of citizens of this state to provide for their health care, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly or through penalties or fines, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system."

The proposed amendment ensures that:
"Each Missouri citizen has the right to pay for health care services with their own money,
"Health care providers may accept direct payment for services rendered by Missouri citizens,
"The purchase and sale of health insurance shall not be prohibited by law or rule, and;
"No person will be required to pay fines or penalties if they choose to purchase their own health care and accept payment for providing health care services.”
In other words, an individual cannot be forced to participate in a health care system without their consent and individuals have the freedom to participate.
Think about it, there are two general obligations for citizenship in America: paying taxes and the draft. Proposals in Congress today would add a third obligation of forcing each American to purchase health insurance. Never before has the federal government used the force of the federal government to compel every citizen to purchase a product or service.
We can have the debate about whether it is responsible for someone to go without health insurance, but that is a completely different conversation than saying that every citizen must, by the force of law, purchase health insurance or enroll in a government program thereby binding them to the will of faceless bureaucrats.
Some argue that such an amendment to a state constitution is unconstitutional. They argue that the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution trumps state actions. It is time that we consider another constitutional principle, that of federalism. As a constitutional principle, it is important not only to the appropriate division of powers between the federal government and the states, but also the ever important pursuit of individual liberty and limited government.
Traditionally, states have been considered laboratories of democracy and innovation. The states were able, even expected, to develop policies reflecting the widely varying local conditions of our great land, and that is especially important in health care. Today, the federal government is asserting, if not amassing, it's authority over the American life in regards to health care, imposing a "one size fits all" policy. Now is the time to reassert the proper constitutional role of federalism so that future power grabs become more difficult and less likely.
We should allow the people of Missouri to vote on this proposed amendment, allow us to voice our belief in liberty, allow us to direct the future of our state, allow us to direct the future of health care, allow us to retain the freedom that we already enjoy. If a constitutional challenge arises, then let's have that discussion, but let us not be intimidated into silence and inaction with threat of litigation.
Federalism is all about keeping government within the reach of the people, about keeping government in its place. Health care is personal, it is about us, each of us, and we deserve our rightful place in making health care decisions. The Health Care Freedom Act which Senator Jane Cunningham and I, along with several of our colleagues, have sponsored keeps government in its place. As Alexander Hamilton proclaimed before the New York ratifying convention, "Here, sir, the people govern."

Keaveny: Helping the homeless

In his latest Keaveny Connection, freshman Sen. Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis, talks about the increasing problem of homelessness during these hard economic times:

The economic crisis that our country is going through has showed us how quickly a family can be devastated by difficult financial issues such as job loss and defaulted mortgages. One of the most troubling circumstances that a family can face is
homelessness. Fortunately, our district is served by one of the most devoted and
successful organizations dedicated to recovery and self-sufficiency, the St. Patrick Centerat 800 North Tucker Boulevard. I recently visited the center and had the opportunity to meet their clientele and witness firsthand the difference that it has made in their lives.

The St. Patrick Center aims to provide those who are homeless or who are facing
homelessness the opportunities to achieve permanent and positive changes in their lives
through affordable housing, mental health services, employment and financial stability.
There are 28 housing, employment and mental health programs, with classes that
teach everything from adult basic education and GED to living skills and intense
computer skills training, within the St. Patrick Center. They also have McMurphy’s Grill
– the first program in the nation in which a full-service restaurant instructs clients on how to discover successful careers in the restaurant industry. The center has programs that allow for children to be in a safe environment while their parents receive support, and they have built a housing complex for chronically homeless men and women. Perhaps most importantly, the center assists and facilitates the gathering of several local entities in order to work together to address this issue that affects us all.

During their latest Casserole Program – which the center has been doing for 25
years – more than 2,000 volunteers, including 87 church and community groups, were
brought together to serve 155,823 hot and nutritious meals for every day of the year that St. Patrick Center participates in outreach efforts. This is just one way the organization gathers the resources and people needed to make a difference in the lives of those who often have no where else to turn. Last year, the center served more than 11,400 clients and families. Sadly, until the economic recovery fully takes hold on the country, I’mafraid that number could grow larger.

Justus bill would crack down on repeat drunk drivers

Legislation filed Wednesday by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, would crack down on repeat drunk drivers:

Senator Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City) today introduced legislation to combat repeat drunk driving. Her DWI bill closes a loophole that allows multiple convictions without a central reporting mechanism, it institutes harsher penalties based upon the level of intoxication, it mandates minimum jail sentences for offenders, and it provides courts the authority to establish a DWI Court for offenders with alcohol problems similar to the Drug Courts now in operation.
“For too long our system has let offenders slip through the cracks,” Sen. Justus said. “My bill will stop that.”
Under Justus’ legislation, repeat offenders would automatically go to state court where their offenses would be recorded into the statewide system. The bill also mandates minimum jail sentences: a person convicted of a .15 blood alcohol content (BAC) would serve 48 hours in jail; those convicted of a BAC above .20 would serve five days in jail. The bill also limits the use of Suspended Imposition of Sentence, a common tactic to avoid a record of a previous DWI conviction. Prior offenders would receive 10 days in jail and persistent offenders’ jail time would be increased from 10 to 30 days.

“We want drunk drivers to know that Missouri will not tolerate putting the rest of us at risk,” Sen. Justus said. “For too long we have debated slight changes in BAC, flirted with interlock devices and left the punishment for a refusal to submit to a BAC test equivalent to the punishment for a second DWI.”
Justus’ bill extends the loss of driving privileges from one year to two when a suspect refuses to submit to a breathalyzer.
Finally, the legislation encourages the establishment of DWI Courts. Sen. Justus says Missouri courts already are allowed to establish DWI Courts if no additional funds are spent, but her bill expands upon the concept. Her bill allows for a DWI docket or court, drawing on the funding already established for Drug Courts. Similarly, the DWI Court could order treatment and testing and could go further by reinstating limited driving privileges.
“The best driver is a sober driver,” Sen. Justus said. “We cannot forget the other side of the equation – many of these repeat and high BAC drivers have a drinking problem. If the drinking problem is addressed, recidivism drops exponentially.”
Justus says the DWI Court is not intended to address first-time offenders.
“In speaking with those in the recovery community, the reinstatement of a limited license would likely attract many of the hardcore offenders. These are the people that make the newspapers with four convictions or some astronomical BAC. The DWI Court is aimed at people with an obvious drinking problem.”
Current law does not distinguish between a driver having a BAC of .09 (just above the state limit of .08) and those having a .25.
The state of Missouri already has a nationally recognized model in the Greene County DWI Court. Sen. Justus says the program is self-sustaining by charging participants for the cost. Moreover, Missouri currently has nine stand-alone DWI courts and 34 other drug courts that accept DWI offenders.
In 2008, 43 DWI court participants graduated in Missouri with only a single recidivist, resulting in a recidivism rate of two percent. In Michigan, a study of that state’s DUI Courts found that traditionally sentenced DUI offenders are 19 times more likely to be re-arrested for a DWI charge that those who participated in DWI Court.

In 2007, there were 12,609 charges filed for an initial DWI arrest in Missouri, 2,397 arrests for a second DWI offense and 1,863 arrests for a third DWI (persistent offenders). Sen. Justus notes the dramatic drop off from those arrested once for DWI and those arrested a second or third time, which suggests that hardcore impaired drivers are not deterred by punishment alone and are in need of treatment. She says that is why her legislation focuses on these persistent offenders.
“I want safe roads at the best cost to the taxpayer,” Sen. Justus said. “Substantial punishment mixed with an offer of recovery for serious offenders is the best and most economical option.”

Callahan sponsoring bill to promote small business

Sen. Victor Callahan is sponsoring a bill to promote small businesses. His news release reads as follows:

Missouri Senate Minority Floor Leader Victor Callahan, D-Independence, is sponsoring legislation designed to promote small business growth in areas of the state that are deemed “blighted.” Sen. Callahan testified in favor of Senate Bill 596 and its companion bill, Senate Joint Resolution 22, Wednesday before the Senate Progress and Development Committee.
“We have struggled with economic development issues and blight in this body for a long time, but sometimes the incentives we approve don’t do the things they were intended to do,” Sen. Callahan said. “Blight and poverty knows no boundary, and this bill is an attempt to provide economic development incentives for all areas of the state.”
SB 596 allows the governing body of any city in Missouri to designate “Show-Me Small Business Districts” within the city for up to 23 years. Eligible small businesses within the district would receive a reduction or an elimination of taxes on transactions covered under Missouri’s sales and use tax laws. The city would be required to hold public hearings prior to adopting the Show-Me Small Business District, and the final plan would have to be approved by the county in which the city is located and by the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
“This legislation gives cities like Independence the power to empower themselves by creating tax-favored small business districts in areas like Fairmount, Englewood and Maywood,” Sen. Callahan said. “This is not an economic development tool for big box stores or national chains like Wal-Mart - it’s to help our small businesses succeed. When
small businesses thrive, they create jobs and they encourage other entrepreneurs to invest in their communities.”
Sen. Callahan says the companion resolution is necessary because the state Constitution prohibits government entities from waiving taxes for a particular area – the waiver must be uniform. The legislation would become effective upon voter approval of the constitutional amendment authorizing the creation of tax-free or reduced tax districts.
“The most important thing this General Assembly can do this year is to provide incentives to create jobs,” Sen. Callahan said. “This act helps the family-owned small business who is the great engine of Missouri’s economy.”

Bartle offers plan to improve education

Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit, is offering a three-pronged plan to improve public education in Missouri:

One of the Legislature’s primary responsibilities is to ensure that our children receive an excellent education. I am convinced that the way children are taught in our nation needs serious reform. Although the U.S. will spend about $550 billion on public elementary and secondary education for the 2009–2010 school year, American students fall somewhere in the middle of the pack when compared with students from other countries in terms of educational performance. The status quo must change and I believe Missouri should be at the forefront of educational reform efforts.

To that end, I am proposing a three-pronged approach to improving Missouri’s public educational system. The plan features merit-based teacher salaries, year-round school schedules and multiple kindergarten start dates. Specifically, Senate Bill 815 would promote:

Merit-based teacher salaries: Current law gives teachers the option to receive performance-based salary stipends instead of tenure, but this incentive is only available to teachers in the St. Louis City School District. Under the bill, all public school teachers would be eligible and could choose to participate. It is silly to pay the hardest working teacher the same amount as the lowest-performer.

Year-round schedules: The current school schedule is based on an outdated model from another era when students were needed to help with the harvest. Under SB 815, a school district would have the option to adopt a year-round educational approach. The district must meet for the minimum number of school days currently required, but would be allowed to divide the traditional three-month summer break into a series of shorter breaks, none of which would last longer than four weeks. Such an approach would foster learning as students benefit from greater educational continuity and consistency.

Multiple kindergarten start dates: Missouri’s current system allows a child starting kindergarten to be up to 20 percent younger than his or her classmates, determined solely by the child’s birth date (children are eligible to begin kindergarten if they reach the age of five before Aug. 1). This unfairly penalizes younger, less mature children who are grouped with those who are older. Under SB 815, a school district could choose to offer parents two start dates for their kindergartener—one in the fall and one in the winter.

The solutions proposed in this bill may be bold, but they just make sense. Financially rewarding our finest teachers will attract the best and brightest to the profession. Giving our school districts the flexibility to implement fresh approaches, such as year-round school and multiple kindergarten start dates, provides school districts and parents with options beyond the one-size-fits-all policy currently in place.

Barnitz: Small businesses are the foundation of our economy

In his latest capitol report, Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring, addresses the problems facing small businesses:

Throughout Missouri, small business owners are concerned about their future. I hear these concerns throughout the 16th District, and I know that this resilient group is the foundation of our state’s economy. In tough economic times, it is our small businesses that suffer, but it is also the same small businesses that allow our economy to get back on track and ultimately thrive.

On January 20th, the governor delivered his 2010 State of the State Address. This is the chance for the governor to introduce his legislative agenda for the year as well as his budget proposals for the coming fiscal year. He made it clear that job creation is one of the most important issues we can address. With unemployment at record levels, we must work to bolster our economy and find ways to help small businesses remain prosperous and encourage them to expand.

One proposal that is a part of the governor’s job creation legislative package includes the “Missouri First” initiative, which would help Missouri businesses expand by giving them preference for state incentives. Missouri First would change the law regulating certain incentives to authorize the Department of Economic Development (DED) to provide additional resources to existing businesses that are considering expansions in the state. The DED would be able to increase the maximum incentive by up to 2 percent of the total incentive amount for each five-year increment the company has been located in Missouri — up to 10 percent of the total incentive for companies that have been in Missouri for 25 years or more.

The governor’s legislative package also includes the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA), which is designed to attract high-tech businesses to Missouri, especially those in the plant, animal and life sciences industry. The program would create a dedicated fund to help attract and grow high-tech businesses in the state.

“Training for Tomorrow,” is another new initiative to help community colleges in Missouri increase job training programs in high-demand fields such as health care. The program would invest $12 million in educating Missourians for in-demand careers.

The number one way that I feel I can help small businesses is to keep the lines of communication open. On January 22, I spoke to the St. James Chamber of Commerce and discussed several state programs that could help business owners expand. I am also organizing a meeting in Rolla with small business owners and the DED to talk about programs that will help small businesses with recovery and expansion efforts. I will get you more details on the meeting down the road, but I am confident that it will be a helpful experience for our small businesses.

Recent economic indicators show that their might be light at the end of the road in this economic downturn. In order to encourage recovery in our state and in our communities, our focus must be on supporting our small businesses, and this will be work that I will continue to make one of my main priorities.

Another disappointing quarter for Jack Goodman

It was a second straight disappointing fundraising quarters for the Seventh District Congressional campaign of Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon.

Documents filed today with the Federal Election Commission indicate Goodman raised $62,572.99 during the last quarter of 2009, and spent $37,237.13, leaving him with $162,855 in the bank.

Goodman's total is more than $300,000 behind the leader in the fundraising race, auctioneer Billy Long, who has $478,641 and raised $126,816 in the last three months of 2009.

Goodman is also lagging behind his fellow senator, Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, who has $179,774.24, and received $74,988.46 in the fourth quarter.

Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Darrell Moore was far behind the top three, picking up only $4,110. Moore had $2,692.41 on hand as of Dec. 31.

Joplin Globe's new publisher's last paper bit the dust

Michael Beatty became a newspaper publisher for the second time this week when he took the helm at the Joplin Globe. Hopefully, the Globe won't meet the same fate as Beatty's last newspaper.

The Baltimore Examiner published its last issue Feb. 15, 2009, after succumbing to the same dieease that has ravaged newspapers across the United States- decreasing advertising sales. Ninety people lost their jobs, with none of them, except Beatty apparently, knowing the newspaper was for sale (and with the current climate for newspapers, there were no buyers).

Beatty refused to comment to other media sources who wanted to ask him about the newspaper's demise. That strong, silent approach was probably attractive to the Globe's parent company, Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., which has been notably reticent about revealing its own job cuts, buyouts, and furloughs, while having no problem whatsoever with revealing details about the same actions when they take place at other businesses.

In a column in the newspaper's final issue, Beatty opened with his philosophy of keeping the reader hooked- "Our secret to drawing readers was to keep our stories to 350 words or less." Unless Beatty's philosophy has changed, that should be disconcerting news to Joplin Globe readers who look, sometimes in vain, for stories that thoroughly explaining the issues that confront our community.

How he could tell this approach was drawing readers is anyone's guess is the Baltimore Examiner was an experiment, a free newspaper, which was delivered primarily to targeted, affluent areas of Baltimore.

Beatty took the helm of the Examiner in April 2006. The Examiner hired him from its chief competitor, the well-established Baltimore Sun, where Beatty served as executive director of retail sales. At the time, the Examiner was delivered to more than 200,000 homes every day of the week. Beginning in July 2008, home delivery was eliminated every day except Sunday and Thursday, with newspapers left in racks and at various locations throughout Baltimore on the other five days.

Even that last ditch measure was not enough to save the Examiner.

In the Joplin Globe's introductory article today, Beatty gave the following assessment of what he hopes to accomplish here:

“I hope to bring a sharp local focus, strategic outlook and marketing experience that we need to be successful and to build on the momentum that we have already created in our print and online editions, and in our magazines,’’ he said.

Beatty replaces Dan Chiodo, who retired at the end of 2009. Chiodo, of course, is best known (on this blog, at least) for his statement that the weekly free newspaper, the Joplin Herald was necessary, because there is not enough room in the Globe for Joplin news.

Blunt offers response to State of the Union

Ed Emery the scientist: Global warming is a fraud

In his weekly report. Rep. Ed Emery, a candidate for State Senate, rips into scientists who are willing to "thrust their heads" into a bush and ignore evidence against climate change or as it was once called global warming:

The Ostrich Syndrome
(Green house gases)

“…they imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed”. Pliny the Elder (23-79AD)

What is intriguing about the ostrich “deception” is that sometimes it works. (When hiding, they will sometimes lay flat on the ground, with the long neck and head also on the ground. In the rippling heat haze of their native Africa, they can look just like a grassy mound.) The key to the ostrich’s success is adapting to its environment and effectively escaping notice. That approach seems to be working today for the global-climate-change lobby

. As a scientist, I have been frustrated for some time over the absence of logic in some of the climate-change declarations. Possibly the most flawed is the “science by consensus” argument that defies reason, principle, and history. There is the absence of legitimate history-matching for climate models; there is the arbitrary classification of CO2, a common gas essential to life and a natural product of life as a pollutant. There are the thousands of scientists who have not joined the “consensus,” and finally the name change from “global warming” to “climate change” to escape the exposé of cooling trends.

Finally, in recent weeks there have been the revelations that fundamentally discredit the United Nations IPCC report, the report representing the underpinning for a network of offenses, solutions, alternatives, and “conclusions” for which Americans have already paid billions without substantiation of any measurable change. The loss of the IPCC report is a devastating blow to the consensus-science crowd. The report upon which they claimed consensus is gone. It is like losing the sun in a solar system. There is nothing left to hold things together. It is back to the drawing board, and this time with a great deal more scientific data.

A politically driven agenda based on “consensus” is much harder to sell when there is conflicting scientific data. But we have a problem. We are all going merrily down the path of ineffective and impoverishing solutions to solve an imaginary problem. The global warming lobby has gone into ostrich mode, and it is working. America is acting as if nothing has changed. We are still debating solutions and developing costly long range plans as if nothing had changed. In the rippling heat of “consensus,” the ostrich of Climate-Gate is being permitted to continue its economic destruction undetected and unimpeded. Someone has to say something – maybe it should be Missouri. The climate is important to all of us, but it is time to demand that predictions be based on measured data and developed following the scientific method, not political consensus.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Area farm wife provides beef snacks for the troops

One of the joys of my years at the Lamar Democrat was working with younger reporters, who worked hard, and with intelligence and wisdom beyond their years to keep the newspaper offering strong coverage of Barton and Dade counties.

One of my favorites was Cherie Thomas, who began working for the Democrat during her senior year at Liberal High School.

Cherie, now Cherie Thomas Schenker, has been working to make a success of a farm that has been in her family for over a century, and recently, she has also been doing her part to make things easier for our troops overseas. Hopefully, some of the media who read this blog can pick up on this and see to it that this deserving young lady and her worthwhile project can receive the publicity they deserve. From the Schenker Farms news release:

A farmer’s wife wears many hats, but this Kansas girl has donned a helmet to help support the troops while her husband is deployed. Cherie Schenker, who owns Schenker Family Farms along with her husband Kevin, has joined forces with one of the largest troop support organizations in the country to provide beef snacks to the troops.

Schenker teamed up with AdoptaPlatoon by accident. The Schenker family had adopted various platoons and soldiers for a couple of years in an effort to show their support for fellow soldiers and to teach their children the importance of serving their community. One day Cherie had a question about a care package and called AAP Headquarters in Texas. By chance, she ended up on the phone with the executive director and the rest, as they say is history…
“We supplied a few hundred one month…One thing led to another and now we supply thousands of beef snacks sticks each month,” Schenker said.
The product is tailored to meet the Schenkers’ needs, which includes a custom label thanking the soldier for being an American hero. Schenker and her processor have negotiated with multiple companies along the way to get the best possible discounts for AdoptaPlatoon.
“This organization does so much to help support our troops, we felt like it was the least we could do for them.” Schenker said.
You might remember Schenker Family Farms from a story several months ago when they made national news by becoming the first livestock farm in Kansas to be “Certified Naturally Grown.” Since then, Cherie’s husband Kevin has deployed to Afghanistan with an advisory group from the Kansas National Guard. Even though he is deployed, Mrs. Schenker continues to ship their certified meats to health-conscious customers across the country.
“It is so heart-warming to know our beef is boosting the morale of soldiers across the Middle East. No matter what your thoughts are on the war, it is critical to support our soldiers,” Schenker said.
Soldiers are responding. The Schenkers get at least two to three e-mails each week from soldiers thanking them for their efforts and telling them how great the snack sticks are. The beef snack sticks are larger than many found in convenience stores, and specially designed to fit in the pocket of a uniform. In addition, the snack sticks are very low in fat and high in protein without all of the additives and preservatives often found in other products.
With a rapidly growing business and three children, Mrs. Schenker has added one more hat with her husband away—that of a juggler.
“A lot of people ask me how I deal with my husband being 7,000 miles away in a war zone, the farm, the kids and everything else life throws at you. I always tell them the same thing. Every day I look to God for strength to carry me through and prayerfully ask him for guidance in making decisions. He has never let me down and he never will,” Schenker said.
She added that she was not the first wife and mother to wait for her soldier to come home and certainly would not be the last. She describes the experience as a chance to grow closer to God and to her husband—her American hero.
Mrs. Schenker is active in her church and community, taking time to help whenever called.
“We believe it is critical to teach our children about having a servant attitude. When you pair that with a strong faith, everything else falls into place,” Schenker said.
You too can help support our soldiers by contacting to adopt one soldier or an entire platoon. Monetary donations are also welcome to help support the thousands of care packages sent overseas each month. For more information contact or

Cherie can be reached at her office at 620-632-4470.

Friday, January 29, 2010

President Obama meets with Republican Congressmen

Republican Congressmen issued an invitation to President Barack Obama to speak with them today. The event featured some lively exchanges and appeared to be constructive, though that remains to be seen:

Blase ready to waste more Neosho taxpayers' money

Fired Neosho City Manager Jan Blase plans to fight his dismissal.

City Manager Jan Blase has requested the equivalent of an appeal of the City Council’s tentative decision to fire him, the mayor said this afternoon.

Mayor Jeff Werneke said a date for the hearing, as well as whether the hearing will be public or private, are still to be decided

Considering the fact that his operation of city finances has been investigated by the Newton County Sheriff's Department, and that he spent a quarter of a million dollars to refurbish city offices because of mold, with only $32,000 covered by insurance.

And on top of all that, he blamed mold spores for his poor job performance.

It comes as no surprise he is ready to waste more taxpayer money.

Insurance giant ready to put money into Missouri races

It looks as if Blue Cross Blue Shield is getting ready to spread some money to Missouri politicians.

A 48-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows the insurance company put $120,000 into its political action committee today.

Not much shaking for Darrell Moore in fourth quarter

The Seventh District Congressional candidacy of Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Darrell Moore continues to be a non-starter, at least as far as his campaign bank account is concerned.

Federal Election Commission records show Moore received only $4,110 in contributions during the fourth quarter and has only $2,692.41 on hand.

His campaign is in debt $5,164.80, according to his report.

Bringer; Eliminating lobbyists' gifts a "good first step"

Rep. Rachel Bringer, D-Palmyra, testified before the Special House Committee on Governmental Accountability and Ethics. Rep. Bringer would like to eliminate lobbyists' gifts to legislators. She noted that House members accepted nearly a quarter of a million dollars worth of gifts in 2009.

Fair Tax proposal outlined for Senate Committee

The accompanying video was posted on YouTube by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce:

HB 1497 included in Missouri House Week in Review

Ruestman: Still no tax increases

In this week's Ruestman Report, Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, says the vote on a resolution to stop tax increases for farmers. From her way of interpreting the vote, it was strictly Republicans who wanted to keep some farmers from having their taxes increased:

Session is still winding up and bills are beginning to get referred to committees. In the next few weeks the House committees will be hearing many bills and preparing them to be debated on the Floor. In these early days of session we are focusing on very pressing issues. The House voted on one such issue on Wednesday.

At the end of last year, the governor’s tax commission voted to raise property taxes on some of Missouri’s farmers by nearly 29 percent. The Commission has recommended a change in how crop land is valued, significantly increasing their value. After such a recommendation the General Assembly has sixty days to disapprove. The House and Senate overwhelmingly passed resolutions this week to stop this from going into effect. The Republican Majorities in both chambers have once again voted to uphold their promise of no tax increases!

I have always been an advocate for our farmers. Missouri’s strong agriculture industry has been a reliable asset to the state and will continue to be far into the future. It is wrong to ask our farmers to bear the burden of a budget shortfall by themselves, especially following one of the worst farm income years since 1945. Let the message be clear that Missouri supports its farmers.

Farmers’ Markets

In another effort to support our farmers and those who shop locally, my office filed House Bill 1864 this week. This legislation exempts farm products sold at farmers’ markets from state and local sales and use taxes.

According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture there were 131 farmers’ markets statewide in 2007. That number is still growing. These markets are beneficial for everyone involved. The producer is able to sell their products at retail prices and gain greater control over what products they grow. Consumers see several benefits including social, economic and health. Farmers’ markets bring communities together and stimulate local economies and downtown districts. Additionally, they offer access to fresh foods and promote healthy eating habits. The positives of local markets are innumerable and we should do all we can to encourage their growth.

To learn more about farmers’ markets and to find one near you, please visit this MU Extension website: .

Blunt tweet: Let's keep those dollars coming!

In a tweet this morning, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt told his supporters, the last fundraising quarter was a good one, but even more is needed:

We raised over $1M last quarter. Need to keep working to fight back against the liberal special interests

No open season on abortion providers: Jury finds Roeder guilty

The jury just declared Scott Roeder guilty of murdering abortion provider De. George Tiller at a Wichita, Kansas, church on May 31, 2009.
The decision was made after 40 minutes of deliberation.

Roeder admitted he committed the crime during three hours of testimony. Any possibility of Roeder being convicted of a lesser crime, such as manslaughter, was eliminated Thursday when the judge ruled that the only charge that could be considered was murder. The jury could only decide between guilty and not guilty on that charge.

Both sides made their closing arguments this morning, with the prosecution pounding home the fact that Roeder admitted he committed the crime, that the crime was obviously planned out beforehand (Roeder testified that he considered killing Tiller on several earlier occasions.

Stripped of the possibility of arguing that Roeder was guilty of a lesser offense, his attorney argued that Roeder was simply following the path of civil rights pioneers Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who broke laws for the greater good. Of course, the defense attorney failed to mention that Mrs. Parks and Dr. King's lawbreaking was always done in a non-violent fashion.

After the judge's decision to remove consideration of the lesser offense as far as Dr. Tiller's killing was concerned, the only question mark remaining in the case was how the jury would handle assault charges filed against Roeder for the other people who were shot, but not killed, by Roeder. Roeder was also found guilty on the assault charges.

Even that doubt had been pretty much removed after Roeder admitted that he also committed those crimes.

Court officials, concerned about the possibility of violence in the wake of the verdict, had added extra security, including bomb-sniffing dogs. The courtroom is surrounded by anti-abortion activists, who are offering a show of support for Roeder.

Jury reaches verdict in Roeder trial, waiting for announcement

The jury has reached a verdict in the Scott Roeder murder trial after only 40 minutes of deliberation.

The verdict, which has not been announced, comes after closing arguments in which the defense attorney, unable to ask for a lesser offense than first degree murder for his client, tried for a jury nullification verdict, comparing his client's act in shooting abortion provider Dr. George Tiller May 31, 2009, to the acts of such civil rights pioneers as Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, who violated laws for a greater good.

417 Magazine tabs former KODE reporter as Best TV News Personality

417 Magazine named former KODE reporter Lisa Rose, now an anchor at KY3 as its Best News Personality of the Year. Runners-up were Joy Robertson, KOLR, and Maria Neider, KY3.

Joe Daues of KSPR was the selection on the male side with runners-up Ethan Forhetz and Steve Grant, both of KY3.

Kinder receives $10,000 from St. Louis contractor

Herzog Contracting Corporation, St. Joseph contributed $10,000 to Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder's campaign committee today, according to a 48-hour report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Jury is out in Roeder trial

The jury just began deliberating in the trial of Scott Roeder, the man who shot abortion provider Dr. George Tiller to death May 31, 2009.

Closing arguments were completed a few moments ago.

The jury has only two choices- find Roeder guilty of murder or acquit him. The judge ruled Thursday that no lesser offenses can be considered.

Roeder attorney compares client to Rosa Parks

In his closing arguments, the attorney for Scott Roeder, the man who shot and killed abortion provider George Tiller May 31, 2009, in a Wichita church, compared his client to Rosa Parks, saying he was standing by his convictions when he broke the law and took Tiller's life.

Roeder testified that he killed Tiller to keep him from killing more unborn babies.

His attorney said there was no doubt Roeder killed George Tiller, there is a difference between killing someone and murdering someone, and asked the jury to acquit Roeder.

In her closing argument, prosecuting attorney Nora Foulston noted that Tiller's wife Jeanie was singing in the choir at that church at the same time Roeder killed her husband.

Tiller's family is in the courtroom.

Profits up, sales down for Leggett & Platt

Profits were up, but sales were down for Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt. From the company's news release issued Thursday:

President and CEO David S. Haffner commented, “For the full year, Continuing Operations EPS was relatively unchanged from the prior year, despite a $1 billion (or 25%) decline in sales that was primarily market-driven. Our significant cost reduction efforts and pricing discipline allowed us to sustain EPS and improve margins, despite the weak economy. Full year gross margin was 20.6%, the highest level since the year 2000. Full year EBIT margin was 7.5%, an improvement of 180 basis points over 2008. I am extremely pleased with our employees’ accomplishments in the face of such economic headwind.

“We continued to make notable progress on the key strategic changes we outlined in November 2007. Consistent with our stated intentions, during 2008 and 2009 combined, we:

• Generated cash of over $1.4 billion from both operations ($1.0 billion) and divestitures ($420 million).
• Increased quarterly dividends by 44% (from $.18 to $.26 per share).
•Bought back 15% (26 million shares) of Leggett’s outstanding stock.
• Reduced long-term net debt to its lowest level (in dollars) in over a decade.
• Achieved 2-year Total Shareholder Return (TSR1) of 32%; within the top 4% of all S&P 500 companies.

“Our balance sheet and cash flow remain strong, and our cost structure has improved significantly, as margins indicate. We are very well positioned to ride out the economic downturn, which we anticipate will continue throughout 2010. Whether the economy remains lackluster or unexpectedly strengthens, our main financial objective remains to consistently achieve TSR within the top 1/3 of the S&P 500, a goal we have successfully achieved over the last two years.”

Dividend and Stock Repurchases

2009 marked the 38th consecutive annual dividend increase for Leggett, with a compound annual growth rate of over 14% during that period. At yesterday’s closing share price of $20.05, the indicated annual dividend of $1.04 per share generates a dividend yield of 5.2%.

During the fourth quarter, the company repurchased 4.1 million shares of its stock at an average price of $19.84 per share. For the full year, the company fully utilized its authorization from the Board of Directors to repurchase 10 million shares of its stock; as a result, shares outstanding declined by 7.0 million during 2009, to 148.8 million shares.

2010 Outlook

Leggett anticipates 2010 sales of approximately $2.9 - 3.3 billion, reflecting the company’s belief that the economy will likely remain depressed. Based upon that sales expectation, and considering other uncertainties including inflation, steel pricing, and margins, Leggett projects that its Continuing Operations should generate 2010 EPS of $.75 - 1.15.

Skelton remains opposed to eliminating Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton remains opposed to lifting Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Though President Obama called for the elimination of barriers against gays serving openly in the mlitary, Skelton says he might disrupt the military:

“We’re in the middle of two wars,” Skelton told reporters in Kansas City. “And I don’t want anything that is disturbing or upsetting to the troops.”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tilley offers take on State of the Union, tax increases for farmers

In the accompanying video, House Majority Floor Leader Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, offers his views on President Obama's State of the Union message and the recent House vote on the State Tax Commission's plan to increase taxes for some Missouri farmers.

Other states considering charging Pete Newman with sex crimes

Former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman, already charged with felony sex crimes involving underage boys, may be charged with similar crimes in other states.

The Durango Colorado Herald, reporting on Newman's arrest on La Plata County charges, revealed that information:

He is suspected of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust in La Plata County. He faces numerous charges in Missouri for allegedly sexually assaulting boys, and other states are considering similar charges.

Newman was employed as a director with Kanakuk Kamps for about 10 years. The incident in La Plata County occurred in September 2008 at Kanakuk's K-Colorado campus near Vallecito. The local children's camp is now under new name and ownership.

Kanakuk Kamps hosts a variety of Christian summer camps for boys and girls between ages 7 and 18.

The Sheriff's Office declined to say whether the alleged victim in Colorado is a local resident. The agency is trying to determine whether there are more victims, said Investigator Sam Eggleston.

Nodler co-sponsors resolution against federal health care proposal

In his latest weekly report, Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, a candidate for the Seventh District Congressional seat currently held by Roy Blunt explains Senate Joint Resolution 25, which opposes federal health care mandates:

Congress continues to work on a healthcare reform package, and many in Missouri are concerned that the bill is a way for the federal government to impose government-mandated and government-run healthcare. I have been hearing from a growing number of Missourians who are concerned that their rights could be violated. Several weeks ago, about 400 people from throughout the state gathered here in Jefferson City to rally against the federal legislation. This week, a bill to protect the rights of Missourians was heard in a Senate committee and was met with enthusiastic support from citizens and lawmakers.
Senate Joint Resolution 25 would shield Missourians from federal healthcare mandates by allowing them to choose their own medical and insurance options, including the right of patients to pay directly for medical services. I signed on to co-sponsor the resolution to show my support for the rights of our state’s citizens when it comes to healthcare. Specifically, the measure is a constitutional amendment to be sent to the voters ensuring that no law would compel a patient, employer, or healthcare provider in our state to participate in any government or privately run healthcare system. It also protects patients and employers in our state by guaranteeing the right for them to pay directly for legal healthcare services.
The House and Senate in Washington D.C. continue to work to reconcile differences in their versions of the healthcare plan, and there could still be significant changes. While Congress struggles to find compromise, we want to make it clear in Missouri that the rights of citizens are valued. Missourians deserve the opportunity to vote on this constitutional amendment and decide if they want the government interfering with their healthcare rights.
Senate Joint Resolution 25 would let our state take a stand against federal intrusion in healthcare and allow Missourians to retain the right to choose medical and insurance options. It is an important step in protecting the rights of the citizens of our state, and I will keep you informed as the measure moves forward

Andrew Blunt adds three clients

Wednesday was a big day for former first brother and lobbyist Andrew Blunt.

Missouri Ethics Commission records indicate Blunt added three clients to his roster- APS Healthcare, Silver Springs, Md., Motorola, and Pyramid Group, Cape Girardeau.

Goodman: Obama is not listening to the American people

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, a candidate for the Seventh District Congressional seat issued the following statement after President Obama's State of the Union message:

"Southwest Missourians are looking for real solutions to our very real problems like job-loss and out of control government spending. Tonight, we did not hear any solutions; just more rhetoric. Sadly, President Obama and those that run Washington D.C. are not listening to the American people.

Americans are putting politicians on notice that they will no longer stand by while Congress recklessly spends their tax dollars on bailouts, stimulus bills and federal healthcare takeovers. While I commend the president for proposing a spending freeze for next year, we need to pass a balanced budget amendment, implement a moratorium on all earmarks and an immediate across the board spending freeze on non-essential services to return America to a sound financial foundation.

Until we see this administration actually leading on things like deficit and debt reduction, healthcare solutions with patients driving the marketplace, job creation and getting back to the free market principles that have made our nation great, America will be prevented from achieving its greatest potential and putting families back to work."

Hartzler:Obama Administration needs to abandon failed policies

The Obama Administration policies, as well as those of Nancy Pelosi and Ike Skelton, have failed, according to Vicky Hartzler, who hopes to be the GOP challenger to Skelton in November:

Sadly, the President doesn't or won't understand what Missourians know, that the failing policies his administration has been proposing need to be abandoned, not pushed further. He advocated continued support for failed policies advanced by Congressman Skelton and Nancy Pelosi. Both are out of touch with the wishes of the Heartland.

The job-killing cap-and-trade legislation would only further destroy small businesses and impose one of the largest across-the-board tax increases in our nation’s history. Mr. Skelton was one of four deciding votes to pass the bill in the House. If honored to cast the vote for Missouri’s Fourth District, I will oppose this radical and destructive power grab in any form.

President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Ike Skelton clearly don’t understand that the way to create jobs is not to redistribute wealth from one class of taxpayers to another. Refusing to cut taxes on business owners who make over $250,000 is a policy representative of this administration’s flawed approach to governance and economics. While he is talking out of both sides of his mouth about prioritizing jobs, the legislative priorities of the Obama-Pelosi-Skelton team kills jobs during a time when our economy still suffers and unemployment remains at long-time highs.

The President says he was for national security yet supports measures to further put us at risk including cuts to missile defense programs, prosecuting terrorists in criminal court, and reinstating the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. Ike Skelton has allowed the military to be used earlier to pass Nancy Pelosi’s radical agenda. What will he do now?

Skelton:The White House lost its way

Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton apparently has been at odds with the Obama Administration:

"Somewhere along the line, the White House lost its way," said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the Armed Services Committee. "Instead of focusing on solutions to help America's families wade through the wreckage of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, Washington has wasted valuable time wrestling with partisan politics in an effort to rush through drastic reforms that do not directly address our most immediate needs."

Skelton added: "The president's address has lent us all hope - hope that the administration is finally heeding our concerns. It's about time."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Missouri GOP offers response to State of the Union

From the Missouri Republican Party website:

Lloyd Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party, issued the following statement regarding the State of the Union address:
“Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was defined by his stubborn refusal to admit that he was wrong to spend the past twelve months attempting to exploit the economic crisis to pass his liberal agenda. 2009 will be remembered as the year that Americans revolted against tax increases, massive deficits, skyrocketing debt, and countless big-government proposals—but clearly, Barack Obama has not gotten the message. Instead, he spent more than an hour defending the Democrats’ health care boondoggle, the failed stimulus, and his proposed national energy tax.
“After a year of electoral defeats and failed policy initiatives, now is not the time for more empty promises and big-government proposals. Instead, we must get back to fiscal responsibility, force government to live within its means, and embrace conservative solutions that don’t require massive taxing, spending, and borrowing.”

Video provided for GOP response to State of the Union

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Blunt, Carnahan agree: Bernanke must go

Dave Catanese hit the ground running with his new job at Politico. Today he posted a story quoting the two lead candidates for U. S. Senate, Robin Carnahan and Roy Blunt as saying it was time that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke exited stage right:

“Roy Blunt would not support his confirmation and has so stated to voters in Missouri when asked in his extensive, high-energy travels across our state,” Blunt campaign spokesman Rich Chrismer told POLITICO Wednesday.

But his likely Democratic opponent Robin Carnahan attempted to pin blame for the financial crisis on Blunt himself.

“Just like folks in Missouri, Mr. Bernanke – and everyone in Washington – should be judged on their job performance,” Carnahan said in a statement.

“But let’s be honest: Washington insiders, led by Congressman Roy Blunt, are the ones who spent us from a surplus to a trillion-plus dollar deficit, repealed regulations that led to the meltdown of the financial markets and then bailed out the big banks; so Washington needs a lot of change,” she added.

While Carnahan signaled she would also oppose Bernanke, her wording was less explicit.

“Someone working for a company who had that track record would probably be fired - or at least not given a new contract. Washington should take this opportunity to get some new leadership committed to setting a course that will protect Americans and our economy from the abuses of the past — and that means demanding more accountability and transparency across the board in our financial system,” Carnahan said.

Sarah Palin: We wanted to do that all along. Where ya been?

Sarah Palin didn't wink, but she did tilt her head a bit as she analyzed the president's State of the Union message in her new duties for Fox News.

She said she appreciated some of what the president referred to as "common sense" ideas. "We wanted to do that all along. Whre ya been?

It is doubtful ya will respond.

BIlly Long: President's speech offers no real solutions

Seventh District Congressional candidate Billy Long offered these thoughts on President Obama's State of the Union message:

Tonight, President Obama outlined his plans to revive his failed health care proposal and curtail government spending, but his speech fell far short of offering real solutions to the nation's rapidly-growing problems.

"The solution to the high cost of health care is not a big-government takeover," Billy Long explained. "What we need instead is the proven success of free market competition and fair business practices. Congress should make insurance companies compete across state lines, which would reduce prices and encourage better service. Insurance companies should be required to fulfill their obligations to premium payers by covering pre-existing conditions. We should also allow more flexibility in how insurance plans are structured so that people are not forced to buy insurance for conditions that they don't want to have covered."

"The problem with the President's health care bill is the same problem you see with all of his proposals," Billy continued. "The President seems to have an unshakable faith in the power of big government when he should be placing his trust in the strength of the American people. I welcome the President’s call for a spending freeze to help curb the enormous deficits we have had – according to Fox News, the 2009 deficit of $1.4 trillion was 9.9% of our GDP and the 2010 deficit looks to be of a similar size. Unfortunately, the President is not serious about his ‘spending freeze’ – it would still have the government borrowing over one trillion dollars per year and would save only 250 billion dollars over the course of a decade, far less than what is needed to balance the budget. Borrowed government money won't fix the economy. Only individual Americans and small business owners can create jobs and grow our economy. Every dollar the President borrows for pork barrel spending and political favors just makes the task before American entrepreneurs that much harder."

Transcript provided for Bob McDonnell response to State of the Union

Good evening. I'm Bob McDonnell. Eleven days ago I was honored to be sworn in as the 71st governor of Virginia. I'm standing in the historic House Chamber of Virginia's Capitol, a building designed by Virginia's second governor, Thomas Jefferson.

It's not easy to follow the President of the United States. And my twin 18-year old boys have added to the pressure, by giving me exactly ten minutes to finish before they leave to go watch SportsCenter.

I'm joined by fellow Virginians to share a Republican perspective on how to best address the challenges facing our nation today.

We were encouraged to hear President Obama speak this evening about the need to create jobs.

All Americans should have the opportunity to find and keep meaningful work, and the dignity that comes with it.

Many of us here, and many of you watching, have family or friends who have lost their jobs.

1 in 10 American workers is unemployed. That is unacceptable.

Here in Virginia we have faced our highest unemployment rate in more than 25 years, and bringing new jobs and more opportunities to our citizens is the top priority of my administration.

Good government policy should spur economic growth, and strengthen the private sector's ability to create new jobs.

We must enact policies that promote entrepreneurship and innovation, so America can better compete with the world. What government should not do is pile on more taxation, regulation, and litigation that kill jobs and hurt the middle class.

It was Thomas Jefferson who called for "A wise and frugal Government which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry &.and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned&" He was right.

Today, the federal government is simply trying to do too much.

Last year, we were told that massive new federal spending would create more jobs 'immediately' and hold unemployment below 8%.

In the past year, over three million Americans have lost their jobs, yet the Democratic Congress continues deficit spending, adding to the bureaucracy, and increasing the national debt on our children and grandchildren.

The amount of this debt is on pace to double in five years, and triple in ten. The federal debt is already over $100,000 per household.

This is simply unsustainable. The President's partial freeze on discretionary spending is a laudable step, but a small one.

The circumstances of our time demand that we reconsider and restore the proper, limited role of government at every level.

Without reform, the excessive growth of government threatens our very liberty and prosperity.

In recent months, the American people have made clear that they want government leaders to listen and act on the issues most important to them.

We want results, not rhetoric. We want cooperation, not partisanship.

There is much common ground.

All Americans agree, we need a health care system that is affordable, accessible, and high quality.

But most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government.

Republicans in Congress have offered legislation to reform healthcare, without shifting Medicaid costs to the states, without cutting Medicare, and without raising your taxes.

We will do that by implementing common sense reforms, like letting families and businesses buy health insurance policies across state lines, and ending frivolous lawsuits against doctors and hospitals that drive up the cost of your healthcare.

And our solutions aren't thousand-page bills that no one has fully read, after being crafted behind closed doors with special interests.

In fact, many of our proposals are available online at, and we welcome your ideas on Facebook and Twitter.

All Americans agree, this nation must become more energy independent and secure.

We are blessed here in America with vast natural resources, and we must use them all.

Advances in technology can unleash more natural gas, nuclear, wind, coal, and alternative energy to lower your utility bills.

Here in Virginia, we have the opportunity to be the first state on the East Coast to explore for and produce oil and natural gas offshore.

But this Administration's policies are delaying offshore production, hindering nuclear energy expansion, and seeking to impose job-killing cap and trade energy taxes.

Now is the time to adopt innovative energy policies that create jobs and lower energy prices.

All Americans agree, that a young person needs a world-class education to compete in the global economy. As a kid my dad told me, "Son, to get a good job, you need a good education." That's even more true today.

The President and I agree on expanding the number of high-quality charter schools, and rewarding teachers for excellent performance. More school choices for parents and students mean more accountability and greater achievement.

A child's educational opportunity should be determined by her intellect and work ethic, not by her zip code. All Americans agree, we must maintain a strong national defense. The courage and success of our Armed Forces is allowing us to draw down troop levels in Iraq as that government is increasingly able to step up. My oldest daughter, Jeanine, was an Army platoon leader in Iraq, so I'm personally grateful for the service and the sacrifice of all of our men and women in uniform, and a grateful nation thanks them.

We applaud President Obama's decision to deploy 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. We agree that victory there is a national security imperative. But we have serious concerns over recent steps the Administration has taken regarding suspected terrorists.

Americans were shocked on Christmas Day to learn of the attempted bombing of a flight to Detroit. This foreign terror suspect was given the same legal rights as a U.S. citizen, and immediately stopped providing critical intelligence.

As Senator-elect Scott Brown says, we should be spending taxpayer dollars to defeat terrorists, not to protect them. Here at home government must help foster a society in which all our people can use their God-given talents in liberty to pursue the American Dream. Republicans know that government cannot guarantee individual outcomes, but we strongly believe that it must guarantee equality of opportunity for all.

That opportunity exists best in a democracy which promotes free enterprise, economic growth, strong families, and individual achievement.

Many Americans are concerned about this Administration's efforts to exert greater control over car companies, banks, energy and health care.

Over-regulating employers won't create more employment; overtaxing investors won't foster more investment. Top-down one-size fits all decision making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market, nor undermine the proper role of state and local governments in our system of federalism. As our Founders clearly stated, and we Governors understand, government closest to the people governs best.

And no government program can replace the actions of caring Americans freely choosing to help one another. The Scriptures say "To whom much is given, much will be required." As the most generous and prosperous nation on Earth, it is heartwarming to see Americans giving much time and money to the people of Haiti. Thank you for your ongoing compassion.

Some people are afraid that America is no longer the great land of promise that she has always been. They should not be.

America will always blaze the trail of opportunity and prosperity.

America must always be a land where liberty and property are valued and respected, and innocent human life is protected.

Government should have this clear goal: Where opportunity is absent, we must create it. Where opportunity is limited, we must expand it. Where opportunity is unequal, we must make it open to everyone.

Our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to create this nation.

Now, we should pledge as Democrats, Republicans and Independents--Americans all---to work together to leave this nation a better place than we found it.

God Bless you, and God Bless our great nation.

Video for State of the Union provided

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Complete State of the Union transcript provided

Obama: Madame Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the president shall give to Congress information about the state of our union. For 220 years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty. They have done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility. And they have done so in the midst of war and depression; at moments of great strife and great struggle.

It's tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable -- that America was always destined to succeed. But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt. When the market crashed on Black Tuesday and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain. These were times that tested the courage of our convictions, and the strength of our union. And despite all our divisions and disagreements; our hesitations and our fears; America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as one people.

Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history's call.

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted -- immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.

But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. For those who had already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

This recession has also compounded the burdens that America's families have been dealing with for decades -- the burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college.

So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They're not new. These struggles are the reason I ran for president. These struggles are what I've witnessed for years in places like Elkhart, Indiana, and Galesburg, Illinois. I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by children -- asking why they have to move from their home, or when their mom or dad will be able to go back to work.

For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They are tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now.

So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope -- what they deserve -- is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories and different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared. A job that pays the bills. A chance to get ahead. Most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.

You know what else they share? They share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids; starting businesses and going back to school. They're coaching little league and helping their neighbors. As one woman wrote me, "We are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged."

It is because of this spirit -- this great decency and great strength -- that I have never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight. Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength.

And tonight, I'd like to talk about how together, we can deliver on that promise.

It begins with our economy.

Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal.

But when I ran for president, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular -- I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.

So I supported the last administration's efforts to create the financial rescue program. And when we took the program over, we made it more transparent and accountable. As a result, the markets are now stabilized, and we have recovered most of the money we spent on the banks. Most, but not all.

To recover the rest, I have proposed a fee on the biggest banks. I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea, but if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.

As we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps to get our economy growing again, save as many jobs as possible, and help Americans who had become unemployed.

That's why we extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans; made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA; and passed 25 different tax cuts.

Let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.

I thought I'd get some applause on that one.

As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, and food, and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.

Because of the steps we took, there are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. Two-hundred-thousand work in construction and clean energy. Three-hundred-thousand are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, and first responders. And we are on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.

The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act. That's right -- the Recovery Act, also known as the Stimulus Bill. Economists on the left and the right say that this bill has helped save jobs and avert disaster. But you don't have to take their word for it.

Talk to the small business in Phoenix that will triple its workforce because of the Recovery Act.

Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia who said he used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work shifts just because of the business it created.

Talk to the single teacher raising two kids who was told by her principal in the last week of school that because of the Recovery Act, she wouldn't be laid off after all.

There are stories like this all across America. And after two years of recession, the economy is growing again. Retirement funds have started to gain back some of their value. Businesses are beginning to invest again, and slowly some are starting to hire again.

But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from; who send out resumes week after week and hear nothing in response. That is why jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that is why I am calling for a new jobs bill tonight.

Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America's businesses. But government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers.

We should start where most new jobs do -- in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides it's time she became her own boss.

Through sheer grit and determination, these companies have weathered the recession and are ready to grow. But when you talk to small business owners in places like Allentown, Pennsylvania, or Elyria, Ohio, you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again, they are mostly lending to bigger companies. But financing remains difficult for small business owners across the country, even those that are making a profit.

So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. I am also proposing a new small business tax credit -- one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment; and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment.

Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. From the first railroads to the interstate highway system, our nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.

Tomorrow, I'll visit Tampa, Florida, where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act. There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help our nation move goods, services, and information. We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities, and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it's time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the United States of America.

The House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps. As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same and I know they will. People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay.

But the truth is, these steps won't make up for the 7 million jobs we've lost over the last two years. The only way to move to full employment is to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth, and finally address the problems that America's families have confronted for years.

We cannot afford another so-called economic "expansion" like the one from last decade -- what some call the "lost decade" -- where jobs grew more slowly than during any prior expansion; where the income of the average American household declined while the cost of health care and tuition reached record highs; where prosperity was built on a housing bubble and financial speculation.

From the day I took office, I have been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious -- that such efforts would be too contentious, that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for awhile.

For those who make these claims, I have one simple question:

How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold?

You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China's not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany's not waiting. India's not waiting. These nations aren't standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They are making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.

Well I do not accept second place for the United States of America. As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may become, it's time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.

One place to start is serious financial reform. Look, I am not interested in punishing banks, I'm interested in protecting our economy. A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes. But that can only happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy.

We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families have the information they need to make financial decisions. We can't allow financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy.

The House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes. And the lobbyists are already trying to kill it. Well, we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back until we get it right. We've got to get it right.

Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history -- an investment that could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year's investment in clean energy -- in the North Carolina company that will create 1200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put 1,000 people to work making solar panels.

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. This year, I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy; and I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -- because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.

Third, we need to export more of our goods. Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America. So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support 2 million jobs in America. To help meet this goal, we're launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security.

We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. And that's why we will continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia.

Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people.

This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. The idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform -- reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to inner-cities. In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education. In this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than their potential.

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families. To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer-subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. And let's tell another 1 million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years -- and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service. Because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college. And it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs -- because they too have a responsibility to help solve this problem.

Now, the price of college tuition is just one of the burdens facing the middle-class. That's why last year I asked Vice President Biden to chair a task force on middle-class families. That's why we're nearly doubling the child care tax credit, and making it easier to save for retirement by giving every worker access to a retirement account and expanding the tax credit for those who start a nest egg. That's why we're working to lift the value of a family's single largest investment -- their home. The steps we took last year to shore up the housing market have allowed millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an average of $1,500 on mortgage payments. This year, we will step up re-financing so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages. And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle-class families that we still need health insurance reform.

Now let's clear a few things up -- I did not choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics.

I took on health care because of the stories I've heard from Americans with pre-existing conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage; patients who've been denied coverage; and families -- even those with insurance -- who are just one illness away from financial ruin.

As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed. There's a reason why many doctors, nurses and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo. But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Here's what I ask of Congress, though: Do not walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.
Now, even as health care reform would reduce our deficit, it's not enough to dig us out of a massive fiscal hole in which we find ourselves. It's a challenge that makes all others that much harder to solve, and one that's been subject to a lot of political posturing.
So let me start the discussion of government spending by setting the record straight. At the beginning of the last decade, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. By the time I took office, we had a one year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. That was before I walked in the door.
Now if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis, and our efforts to prevent a second Depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt. That too is a fact.
I am absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do. But families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the $1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year.

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.
We will continue to go through the budget line by line to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To help working families, we will extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers, and those making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it.

Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we will still face the massive deficit we had when I took office. More importantly, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will continue to skyrocket. That's why I've called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans. And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason why we had record surpluses in the 1990s.
I know that some in my own party will argue that we can't address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting. I agree, which is why this freeze won't take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger. But understand -- if we don't take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery -- all of which could have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.
From some on the right, I expect we'll hear a different argument -- that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts for wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, and maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away. The problem is, that's what we did for eight years. That's what helped lead us into this crisis. It's what helped lead to these deficits. And we cannot do it again.
Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new. Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let's meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let's try common sense.
To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust -- deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.
That's what I came to Washington to do. That's why -- for the first time in history -- my administration posts our White House visitors online. And that's why we've excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions.
But we can't stop there. It's time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or Congress. And it's time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office. Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.
I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. You have trimmed some of this spending and embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there's a vote so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.
Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don't also reform how we work with one another.
Now, I am not naïve. I never thought the mere fact of my election would usher in peace, harmony, and some post-partisan era. I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, have been taking place for over 200 years. They are the very essence of our democracy.
But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent -- a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual Senators. Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, is just part of the game. But it is precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it is sowing further division among our citizens and further distrust in our government.

Throughout our history, no issue has united this country more than our security. Sadly, some of the unity we felt after 9/11 has dissipated. We can argue all we want about who's to blame for this, but I am not interested in re-litigating the past. I know that all of us love this country. All of us are committed to its defense. So let's put aside the schoolyard taunts about who is tough. Let's reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let's leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future -- for America and the world.
That is the work we began last year. Since the day I took office, we have renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation. We have made substantial investments in our homeland security and disrupted plots that threatened to take American lives. We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security, and swifter action on our intelligence. We have prohibited torture and strengthened partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula. And in the last year, hundreds of Al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed -- far more than in 2008.
In Afghanistan, we are increasing our troops and training Afghan Security Forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home. We will reward good governance, reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans -- men and women alike. We are joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitment, and who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead. But I am confident we will succeed.
As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as president. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.
Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world -- must know that they have our respect, our gratitude, and our full support. And just as they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home. That is why we made the largest increase in investments for veterans in decades. That is why we are building a 21st century [Veterans Affairs]. And that is why Michelle has joined with Jill Biden to forge a national commitment to support military families.
Even as we prosecute two wars, we are also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people -- the threat of nuclear weapons. I have embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons, and seeks a world without them. To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades. And at April's Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring 44 nations together behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of these weapons. That is why North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger sanctions -- sanctions that are being vigorously enforced. That is why the international community is more united, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: they, too, will face growing consequences.
That is the leadership that we are providing -- engagement that advances the common security and prosperity of all people. We are working through the G-20 to sustain a lasting global recovery. We are working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science, education and innovation. We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change. We are helping developing countries to feed themselves, and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS. And we are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bio-terrorism or an infectious disease -- a plan that will counter threats at home, and strengthen public health abroad.
As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it because it is right. That is why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild. That is why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; and we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity.
Abroad, America's greatest source of strength has always been our ideals. The same is true at home. We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; that if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.
We must continually renew this promise. My administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination. We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate. This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. We are going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws -- so that women get equal pay for an equal day's work. And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -- to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nations.
In the end, it is our ideals, our values, that built America -- values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe; values that drive our citizens still. Every day, Americans meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers. Time and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country. They take pride in their labor, and are generous in spirit. These aren't Republican values or Democratic values they're living by; business values or labor values. They are American values.
Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions -- our corporations, our media, and yes, our government -- still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people's doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.
No wonder there's so much cynicism out there.
No wonder there's so much disappointment.
I campaigned on the promise of change -- change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change -- or at least, that I can deliver it.
But remember this -- I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone. Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is.
Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths. We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what's best for the next generation.
But I also know this: If people had made that decision 50 years ago or 100 years ago or 200 years ago, we wouldn't be here tonight. The only reason we are here is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and grandchildren.
Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year. And what keeps me going -- what keeps me fighting -- is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism -- that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people -- lives on.
It lives on in the struggling small business owner who wrote to me of his company, "None of us," he said, "... are willing to consider, even slightly, that we might fail."
It lives on in the woman who said that even though she and her neighbors have felt the pain of recession, "We are strong. We are resilient. We are American."
It lives on in the 8-year old boy in Louisiana, who just sent me his allowance and asked if I would give it to the people of Haiti. And it lives on in all the Americans who've dropped everything to go some place they've never been and pull people they've never known from rubble, prompting chants of "USA! USA! USA!" when another life was saved.
The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people.
We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.