Sunday, January 31, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Federal Reserve Monetary Policy Statement

For release at 2:00 p.m. EST

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in December suggests that labor market conditions improved further even as economic growth slowed late last year. Household spending and business fixed investment have been increasing at moderate rates in recent months, and the housing sector has improved further; however, net exports have been soft and inventory investment slowed. A range of recent labor market indicators, including strong job gains, points to some additional decline in underutilization of labor resources. Inflation has continued to run below the Committee's 2 percent longer-run objective, partly reflecting declines in energy prices and in prices of non-energy imports. Market-based measures of inflation compensation declined further; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed, on balance, in recent months.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee currently expects that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace and labor market indicators will continue to strengthen. Inflation is expected to remain low in the near term, in part because of the further declines in energy prices, but to rise to 2 percent over the medium term as the transitory effects of declines in energy and import prices dissipate and the labor market strengthens further. The Committee is closely monitoring global economic and financial developments and is assessing their implications for the labor market and inflation, and for the balance of risks to the outlook.

Given the economic outlook, the Committee decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1/4 to 1/2 percent. The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting further improvement in labor market conditions and a return to 2 percent inflation.

In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments. In light of the current shortfall of inflation from 2 percent, the Committee will carefully monitor actual and expected progress toward its inflation goal. The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run. However, the actual path of the federal funds rate will depend on the economic outlook as informed by incoming data.

The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction, and it anticipates doing so until normalization of the level of the federal funds rate is well under way. This policy, by keeping the Committee's holdings of longer-term securities at sizable levels, should help maintain accommodative financial conditions.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Janet L. Yellen, Chair; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Lael Brainard; James Bullard; Stanley Fischer; Esther L. George; Loretta J. Mester; Jerome H. Powell; Eric Rosengren; and Daniel K. Tarullo.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

Executive Order 11825 - Revocation of Executive Orders Pertaining to the Regulation of the Acquisition of, Holding of, or Other Transactions in Gold

December 31, 1974

By virtue of the authority vested in me by section 1 of the Act of August 8, 1950, 64 Stat. 419, and section 5 (b) of the Act of October 6, 1917, as amended (12 U.S.C. 95a), and as President of the United States, and in view of the provisions of section 3 of Public Law 93-110, 87 Stat. 352, as amended by section 2 of Public Law 93-373, 88 Stat. 445, it is ordered as follows:

SECTION 1. Executive Order No. 6260 of August 28, 1933, as amended by Executive Order No. 6359 of October 25, 1933, Executive Order No. 6556 of January 12, 1934, Executive Order No. 6560 of January 15, 1934, Executive Order No. 10896 of November 29, 1960, Executive Order No. 10905 of January 14, 1961, and Executive Order No. 11037 of July 20, 1962; the fifth and sixth paragraphs of Executive Order No. 6073, March 10, 1933; sections 3 and 4 of Executive Order No. 6359 of October 25, 1933; and paragraph 2(d) of Executive Order No. 10289 of September 17, 1951, are hereby revoked.

SECTION 2. The revocation, in whole or in part, of such prior Executive orders relating to regulation on the acquisition of, holding of, or other transactions in gold shall not affect any act completed, or any right accruing or accrued, or any suit or proceeding finished or started in any civil or criminal cause prior to the revocation, but all such liabilities, penalties, and forfeitures under the Executive orders shall continue and may be enforced in the same manner as if the revocation had not been made.

This order shall become effective on December 31, 1974.

GERALD R. FORD
The White House,
December 31, 1974.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

January 15, 2016


The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

I write to update you and your colleagues on Puerto Rico's debt crisis. I appreciate the recent
commitment by congressional leadership to produce a responsible solution for Puerto Rico. In
order to assist the 3.5 million Americans living in Puerto Rico, Congress must pass legislation
for the President to sign into law before the end of March.

Although there are many ways this crisis could escalate further, it is clear that Puerto Rico is
already in the midst of an economic collapse. As part of the Administration's longstanding
engagement with the Commonwealth, I will meet with community and business leaders in Puerto
Rico on the immense challenges the Commonwealth faces, and at Treasury we will continue to
bring our full capabilities to bear in the provision and delivery of assistance to Puerto Rico. But
our existing tools are not sufficient for a comprehensive solution.

Puerto Rico is already in default. It is shifting funds from one creditor to pay another and has
stopped payment altogether on several of its debts. As predicted, creditors are filing lawsuits.
The Government Development Bank, which provides critical banking and fiscal services to the
central government, only avoided depleting its liquidity by halting lending activity and sweeping
in additional deposits from other Puerto Rico governmental entities. A large debt payment of
$400 million is due on May 1, and a broader set of payments are due at the end of June.

Puerto Rico has been shut out of the municipal bond market for more than two years and ran out
of the funding sources traditionally used to finance government operations more than six months
ago. In response to the crisis, Puerto Rico has taken a series of dramatic steps to raise revenues
and reduce costs. Government spending, net of debt service, has already been cut to the lowest
level since 2005. More than 70 percent of the remaining central government employees are
teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, or other public safety workers.

More recently, Puerto Rico has resorted to a series of onerous and unsustainable emergency
liquidity measures, including selling assets from already depleted pension funds; borrowing from
the workers compensation and other insurance funds; and withholding hundreds of millions of
dollars in tax refunds owed to its citizens. Not only do these actions affect the most vulnerable
citizens in Puerto Rico, the unpaid obligations do not go away; they simply accumulate and make
long-term recovery even harder to achieve.

The worsening fiscal and economic situation means real suffering for the people of Puerto Rico:
basic healthcare, legal, and education services have been impaired. For example, the
government's cash flow squeeze has caused some hospitals to begin closing floors and curtailing
services. The unemployment rate, at over 12 percent, is more than double the U.S. average.

Nearly 10 percent of the population has left since 2006. In the first six months of2015, each
week nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans left the Island in search of better opportunities on the mainland.
To address the crisis, Puerto Rico needs federal legislation that pairs an orderly process to
restructure its debts with strong, independent fiscal oversight to remedy its history of fiscal
mismanagement. This combination is not new and has proven effective in other jurisdictions in
the United States addressing financial crises like that facing Puerto Rico today. Federally
legislated restructuring and oversight would cost taxpayers nothing and is essential to put Puerto
Rico on a sustainable path forward. In addition, legislation that improves health care policies
and encourages work would help solve Puerto Rico's longer-run challenges. A broad array of
business, labor, and community leaders strongly support this package of proposals.

No administrative authority can put an end to this emergency; only Congress can enact the
legislative measures necessary to fully resolve this problem. Six congressional hearings have
been held by five different committees in the past year, with another hearing scheduled for later
this month. It is time for Congress to act to provide order to a chaotic and worsening situation.
The Administration remains committed to working with you and your colleagues to help put
Puerto Rico on a sustainable path forward.

Sincerely,
Jacob J. Lew
Identical letter sent to:
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader
The Honorable Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader
The Honorable Harry Reid, Senate Democratic Leader

Friday, January 15, 2016

Announced List of WalMart Planned Store Closings


Walmart Express Date closed to public Wal-Mart Date closed to public



#2173: 14331 Count Rd. 99, Headland, AL 1/28/2016

#2524: 5502 Monterey Hwy, San Jose, CA 1/28/2016

#2011: 18 Apple Way, Ashford, AL 1/28/2016

#2949: 151 E 5th St., Long Beach, CA 1/28/2016

#2165: 952 E. Lawrence Harris Hwy, Slocomb, AL  1/28/2016

#5457: 8400 Edgewater Drive, Oakland, CA 1/17/2016

#2186: 407 West Washington St., Abbeville, AL 1/28/2016

#2960: 4101 Crenshaw Blcd., Los Angeles, CA 1/17/2016

#2235: 6361 Hwy 72 East Gurley, AL 1/28/2016

#3507: 2701 Port Covington Drive, Baltimore, MD 1/17/2016

#2260: 87395 US Hwy 278, Snead, AL 1/28/2016

#3496: 5825 W Hope Ave., Milwaukee, WI 1/28/2016

#3769: 3530 Cathedral Caverns Hwy, Grant, AL 1/28/2016

#3779: 10188 Hwy 431 South, New Hope, AL 1/28/2016

#2498: 720 N Hwy 71, Mansfield, AR 1/28/2016

#3814 6525 Glacier Hwy, Juneau, AK 2/5/2016

#2578: 3500 Mulberry Hwy 64 W, Mulberry, AR 1/28/2016

#763: 7201 Aaron Aronov Drive, Fairfield, AL 1/28/2016

#2601: 814 W. Main, Charleston, AR 1/28/2016

#4584: 10400 Highland Rd., Hartland, MI 1/28/2016

#2669: 1531 E Hwy 64, Coal Hill, AR 1/28/2016

#4369: 1010 Martin Luther King Pkwy., Durham, NC 1/28/2016

#3819: 8848 N Hwy 59, Van Buren, AR 1/28/2016 

#2837: 4350 N Nellis Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 1/17/2016

#3878: 5 Hwy 124 West, Damascus, AR 1/28/2016

#4342: 22209 Rockside Rd., Bedford, OH 1/28/2016

#4217: 154 E Roller, Decatur, AR 1/28/2016

#2606: 721 US Hwy 321 BYP S Unit, Winnsboro, SC 1/28/2016

#3032: 905 S Gentry Blvd, Gentry, AR 1/28/2016

#883: 14091 FM 490, Raymondville, TX 1/28/2016

#3033: 800 1st Ave SE, Gravette, AR 1/28/2016

#5493: 7480 Padre Island Hwy, Brownsville, TX 1/28/2016

#3034: 881 W Buchanan, Prairie Grove, AR 1/28/2016

#5478: 8201 N FM 620, Austin, TX 1/28/2016

#3358: 1113 S.R. 20, Interlachen, FL 1/28/2016

#597: 7075 FM 1960 Rd W, Houston, TX 1/28/2016

#4265: 1209 East Wade St., Trenton, FL 1/28/2016

#3811: 61 Plaza Drive, Kimball, WV 1/28/2016

#4267: 15726 SE Hwy 19 Cross City, FL 1/28/2016

#4228: 560 S. Broad St., Ellaville, GA 1/28/2016

#4229: 1041 S US Hwy 1, Alma, GA 1/28/2016

#5783: 117 Audubon Drive, Maumelle, AR 1/17/2016

#4234: 155 West Washington Ave., Ashburn, GA 1/28/2016

#5642: 2408 Lincoln Ave., Altadena, CA 1/28/2016

#4251: 398 Barrow Ave SW, Pelham, GA 1/28/2016

#5688: 6820 Eastern Ave., Bell Gardens, CA 1/28/2016

#4254: 907 Marianna Hwy, Donalsonville, GA 1/28/2016

#3086: 701 W Cesar E Chavez Ave., Los Angeles, CA 1/17/2016

#4261: 290 Albany Ave. West, Pearson, GA 1/28/2016

#5690: 2045 E Highland Ave., San Bernardino, CA 1/28/2016

#4263: 142 S. Valdosta Road, Lakeland, GA 1/28/2016

#4173 12120 Carson St., Hawaiian Gardens, CA 1/28/2016

#3065: 3636 N Broadway St., Chicago, IL 1/17/2016 #5002

 8196 West Bowles Ave., Littleton, CO 1/17/2016

#3039: 225 W Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 1/17/2016

#3021: 2253 S Monaco Pkwy., Denver, CO 1/28/2016


#3369: 900 East Ross Ave., Clearwater, KS 1/28/2016

#2303: 333 N Main St., West Hartford, CT 1/28/2016


#4353: 505 Housatonic St., Burlington, KS 1/28/2016

#5856: 601 N West St. STE 100, Wichita, KS 1/28/2016

#4360: 705 N High School Ave., Columbus, KS 1/28/2016

#5860: 9831 E Harry St., Wichita, KS 1/28/2016

#4361: 1105 East 15th St., Ellsworth, KS 1/28/2016

#5873: 4794 E 13th, Wichita, KS 1/28/2016

#4362: 120 West Rosewood St., Rose Hill, KS 1/28/2016

#3097: 8235 SW Apple Way, Portland, OR 1/17/2016

#4651: 605 Orchard Drive, Hillsboro, KS 1/28/2016

#5995: 17711 Jean Way, Lake Oswego, OR 1/28/2016

#3755: 1445 Old Highway 13, Mamou, LA 1/28/2016

#3306 1220 Gallatin Ave., Nashville, TN 1/28/2016

#4634: 1506 Main St., Colfax, LA 1/28/2016

#3171: 2218 Greenville Ave., Dallas (Greenville), TX 1/28/2016

#3753: 620 North Hwy 26, Lake Arthur, LA 1/28/2016

#3451: 2740 Gessner Rd., Houston, TX 1/28/2016

#3815: 501 West Hwy 90, Iowa, LA 1/28/2016

#5985: 2201 West Southlake Blvd., Southlake, TX 1/28/2016

#3839: 9181 Hwy 67, Clinton, LA 1/28/2016

#4126: 1901 S. Texas Ave., Bryan, TX 1/28/2016

#3849: 920 Avenue G, Kentwood, LA 1/28/2016

#5986: 4268 Legacy Drive, Frisco, TX 1/17/2016

#3879: 1495 Obrie St., Zwolle, LA 1/28/2016

#3030: 3850 N 124th St., Wauwatosa, WI 1/28/2016

#4647: 515 3rd St., Independence, LA 1/28/2016

#3031: N88W15559 Main St., Menomonee Falls, WI 1/28/2016

#4269: 224 E Hwy 76, Anderson, MO 1/28/2016

#5698: S14W22605 Coral Drive, Waukesha, WI 1/28/2016

#4270: 508 N Cliffside Dr., Noel, MO 1/28/2016

#4282: 33597 State Hwy 112, Seligman, MO 1/28/2016


#4289: 414 N Elm, Clever, MO 1/28/2016

#2343: 7B Calle Munoz Rivera, Villalba, PR 1/28/2016

#3856: 410 2nd St., Belmont, MS 1/28/2016 

#2347: Bo Salto Arriba, Utuado, PR 1/28/2016

#3863: 2795 Hwy 371 N, Mantachie, MS 1/28/2016

#2342: PR 14, Parque Industrial, Coamo, PR 1/28/2016

#3865: 420 E Lee St., Sardis, MS 1/28/2016

#3667: 1 Ave Monserrate STE 1, Carolina, PR 1/28/2016

#3866: 28191 Hwy 15, Walnut, MS 1/28/2016

#3684: Carr 180 KM 0 HM 2, Salinas, PR 1/28/2016

#4294: 519 W Veterans Ave., Derma, MS 1/28/2016 

#3689: Centro Com Rio Grande State, Rio Grande, PR 1/28/2016

#4296: 7104 Will Robbins Hwy, Nettleton, MS 1/28/2016

#3697: Carr 165 KM 4.7, Toa Alta, PR 1/28/2016

#3211: 509 Dr. Donnie H. Jones Blvd W, Princeton, NC 1/28/2016

#3249: 511 N Mckinley St., Coats, NC 1/28/2016 

#5024: 6043 US Hwy 301 S, Four Oaks, NC 1/28/2016

#4903: 941 Grinnell St., Fall River, MA 1/28/2016

#3257: 112 N Main St., Broadway, NC 1/28/2016

#6648: 1110 Fall River Ave., Seekonk, MA 1/28/2016

#5015: 908 E. 4th Ave., Red Springs, NC 1/28/2016

#6665: 495 Summit Drive, Waterford, MI 1/28/2016

#5017: 7670 Clinton Rd., Stedman, NC 1/28/2016

#6681: 25 Pace Blvd., Warwick, RI 1/28/2016

#7207: 1400 B Broad St., Oriental, NC 1/28/2016
#5138: 702 S. Wall St., Benson, NC 1/28/2016

#2500: 945 Monroe St., Carthage, NC 1/28/2016

#2573: 303 S. Goldsboro St., Pikeville, NC 1/28/2016
#6997: 632 W Swannanoa Ave., Liberty, NC 1/28/2016

#3007: 139 N Hwy 49, Richfield, NC 1/17/2016

#3036: 1593 NC Hwy 86 N, Yanceyville, NC 1/28/2016

#3037: 905 SE 2nd St., Snow Hill, NC 1/28/2016

#3080: 182 NC 102 W, Ayden, NC 1/28/2016

#3121: 189 Hickory Tree Rd., Midway, NC 1/28/2016

#3756: 124 E. Columbia St., Okemah, OK 1/28/2016

#4633: 19250 E Hwy 66, Luther, OK 1/28/2016

#2456: 2310 West Main, Prague, OK 1/28/2016

#2462: 1600 West Hwy 66, Stroud, OK 1/28/2016
#3766: 2324 Seran Drive, Wewoka, OK 1/28/2016

#3767: 812 N Clarence Nash Blvd., Watonga, OK 1/28/2016

#1250: 9032 Hwy 14, Gray Court, SC 1/28/2016

#3798: 7013 S Pine St., Pacolet, SC 1/17/2016

#2375: 4718 Nashville Hwy, Chapel Hill, TN 1/28/2016

#2413: 523 N Military St., Loretto, TN 1/28/2016

#4301: 400 North Main St., Cornersville, TN 1/28/2016

#4306: 934 Hwy 79, Dover, TN 1/28/2016

#2345: 721 Dale Evans Drive, Italy, TX 1/28/2016

#2349: 221 S State Hwy 274, Kemp, TX 1/28/2016

#2363: 504 W Pine St., Edgewood, TX 1/28/2016

#2364: 301 Hwy 69 S, Whitewright, TX 1/28/2016

#2410: 122 Commercial Ave., Anson, TX 1/28/2016

#2461: 1003 Telephone Cir., Merkel, TX 1/28/2016

#2779: 5 N 14th St., Haskell, TX 1/28/2016

#2863: 1010 N Main St., Winters, TX 1/28/2016

#3820: 501 N Main, Godley, TX 1/28/2016

#3822: 416 N Third St., Grandview, TX 1/28/2016

#3832: 420 S US 69, Leonard, TX 1/28/2016

#3834: 428 N Dallas St., Palmer, TX 1/28/2016

#4312: 440 E Pine St., Frankston, TX 1/28/2016

#4316: 1787 US Hwy 259 S, Diana, TX 1/28/2016

#4320: 1005 Texas Avenue E, Waskom, TX 1/28/2016

#4327: 870 Taylor St., Hughes Springs, TX 1/28/2016

#4331: 914 North Main St., Lone Star, TX 1/28/2016

#4338: 504 WL Doc Dodson, Naples, TX 1/28/2016

#4343: 12522 Fm 1840, Dekalb, TX 1/28/2016

#4345: 114 Redwater Boulevard West, Maud, TX 1/28/2016

Lawsuit Filed By Newton B. Schwatrz Seeking to Declare Ted Cruz Ineligible to Run for the Presidency of the Unites States


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Transcript of President Obama’s Final State of the Union Address

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Tonight marks the eighth year I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union. And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.

I also understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we’ll achieve this year are low. Still, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families. So I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse. We just might surprise the cynics again.

But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients. And I’ll keep pushing for progress on the work that still needs doing. Fixing a broken immigration system. Protecting our kids from gun violence. Equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage. All these things still matter to hardworking families; they are still the right thing to do; and I will not let up until they get done.

But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to talk just about the next year. I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond.

I want to focus on our future.


We live in a time of extraordinary change — change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

America has been through big changes before — wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did — because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril — we emerged stronger and better than before.

What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation — our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery and innovation, our diversity and commitment to the rule of law — these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

In fact, it’s that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible. It’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations. It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.

But such progress is not inevitable. It is the result of choices we make together. And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?


So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that we as a country have to answer — regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.

First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?

Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?

Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?

And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ’90s; an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.

Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction. What is true — and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious — is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit and haven’t let up. Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.

All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing. It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to. And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.

For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works better for everybody. We’ve made progress. But we need to make more. And despite all the political arguments we’ve had these past few years, there are some areas where Americans broadly agree.


We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job. The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering. In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.

And we have to make college affordable for every American. Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We’ve already reduced student loan payments to ten percent of a borrower’s income. Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.

Of course, a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security. After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber. For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher. Americans understand that at some point in their careers, they may have to retool and retrain. But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build.

That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them. And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today. That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about. It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when we lose a job, or go back to school, or start that new business, we’ll still have coverage. Nearly eighteen million have gained coverage so far. Health care inflation has slowed. And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.

Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon. But there should be other ways both parties can improve economic security. Say a hardworking American loses his job — we shouldn’t just make sure he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him. If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills. And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him. That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everyone.


I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty. America is about giving everybody willing to work a hand up, and I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers without kids.

But there are other areas where it’s been more difficult to find agreement over the last seven years — namely what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations. And here, the American people have a choice to make.

I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut. But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts. In this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should work for them. And this year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers ends up being good for their shareholders, their customers, and their communities, so that we can spread those best practices across America.

In fact, many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative. This brings me to the second big question we have to answer as a country: how do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?

Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon.

That spirit of discovery is in our DNA. We’re Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. We’re Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. We’re every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better world. And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.

We’ve protected an open internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online. We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.

But we can do so much more. Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.

Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.

Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.

But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record — until 2015 turned out even hotter — why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?

Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy — something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.

Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.

Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.

None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve — that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.

Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world. And that’s why the third big question we have to answer is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.

I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us.

As someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time. But that’s not because of diminished American strength or some looming superpower. In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia. Economic headwinds blow from a Chinese economy in transition. Even as their economy contracts, Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine and Syria — states they see slipping away from their orbit. And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.

It’s up to us to help remake that system. And that means we have to set priorities.

Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies.

But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. That’s the story ISIL wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are — killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.

That’s exactly what we are doing. For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons. We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.

If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote. But the American people should know that with or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment — or mine — to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell. When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit.

Our foreign policy must be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there. For even without ISIL, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world — in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks; others will fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees. The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq — and we should have learned it by now.

Fortunately, there’s a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.

That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.

That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.

That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Our military, our doctors, and our development workers set up the platform that allowed other countries to join us in stamping out that epidemic.

That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products Made in America, and supports more good jobs. With TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do. You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.

Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, setting us back in Latin America. That’s why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and commerce, and positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people. You want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere? Recognize that the Cold War is over. Lift the embargo.

American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world — except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity. When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change — that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our children. When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend upon. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick, that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria — something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.

That’s strength. That’s leadership. And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example. That is why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo: it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.

That’s why we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith. His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.” When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.

“We the People.”

Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together. That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight.

The future we want — opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.

It will only happen if we fix our politics.

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task — or any President’s — alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.

We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections — and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution. We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do.

But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it. It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.

What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure. As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.

So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day.

It won’t be easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen — inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.
They’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.

I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you. I know you’re there. You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future. Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time.

I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board.

I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over — and the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.

I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ’til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.
It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.

I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Crude Oil Price History Chart

Thursday, January 7, 2016

These are the Macy's stores set to close in 2016

Irvine Spectrum, Irvine, Calif.
Country Club Plaza, Sacramento
Westfield Century City, Los Angeles
Enfield Square main store, Enfield, Conn.
Enfield Square furniture/home/men's store, Enfield, Conn.
North DeKalb Mall, Decatur, Ga.
Kailua, Hawaii
Palouse Mall, Moscow, Idaho
Northwoods Mall, Peoria, Ill.
Cortana Mall, Baton Rouge
Valley Mall, Hagerstown, Md.
Berkshire Mall, Lanesborough, Mass.
Eastfield Mall, Springfield, Mass.
The Shoppes at Stadium, Columbia, Mo.
Middlesex Mall, South Plainfield, N.J.
McKinley Mall main store, Buffalo, NY
McKinley Mall home store, Buffalo, NY
Arnot Mall, Horsehead, N.Y.
Hudson Valley Mall, Kingston, N.Y.
Eastern Hills Mall, Williamsville, N.Y.
Cary Towne Center, Cary, N.C.
Chapel Hill Mall, Akron, Ohio
Midway Mall, Elyria, Ohio
Quail Springs Mall, Oklahoma City, OK
Pony Village Mall, North Bend, Ore.
Roseburg Valley Mall, Roseburg, Ore.
Suburban Square, Ardmore, Penn.
Century III Mall, West Mifflin, Penn.
Ridgmar Mall, Fort Worth, TX
Chesapeake Square, Chesapeake, Va.
Virginia Center Commons, Glen Allen, Va.
Peninsula Town Center, Hampton, Va.
Military Circle Mall, Norfolk, Va.
Regency Square main store, Richmond, Va.
Regency Square furniture/home/men's store, Richmond, Va.
Downtown Spokane, Spokane, Wash.

For more on Macy's and how they have failed go here.

The "Rights" of Animals

By Murray Rothbard

It has lately become a growing fashion to extend the concept of rights from human beings to animals, and to assert that since animals have the full rights of humans, it is therefore impermissible — i.e., that no man has the right — to kill or eat them.

There are, of course, many difficulties with this position, including arriving at some criterion of which animals or living beings to include in the sphere of rights and which to leave out.

(There are not many theorists, for example, who would go so far as Albert Schweitzer and deny the right of anyone to step on a cockroach. And, if the theory were extended further from conscious living beings to all living beings, such as bacteria or plants, the human race would rather quickly die out.)

But the fundamental flaw in the theory of animal rights is more basic and far-reaching.1 For the assertion of human rights is not properly a simple emotive one; individuals possess rights not because we "feel" that they should, but because of a rational inquiry into the nature of man and the universe. In short, man has rights because they are natural rights. They are grounded in the nature of man: the individual man's capacity for conscious choice, the necessity for him to use his mind and energy to adopt goals and values, to find out about the world, to pursue his ends in order to survive and prosper, his capacity and need to communicate and interact with other human beings and to participate in the division of labor. In short, man is a rational and social animal. No other animals or beings possess this ability to reason, to make conscious choices, to transform their environment in order to prosper, or to collaborate consciously in society and the division of labor.

Thus, while natural rights, as we have been emphasizing, are absolute, there is one sense in which they are relative: they are relative to the species man. A rights-ethic for mankind is precisely that: for all men, regardless of race, creed, color, or sex, but for the species man alone. The Biblical story was insightful to the effect that man was "given" — or, in natural law, we may say "has" — dominion over all the species of the earth. Natural law is necessarily species-bound.

That the concept of a species ethic is part of the nature of the world may be seen, moreover, by contemplating the activities of other species in nature. It is more than a jest to point out that animals, after all, don't respect the "rights" of other animals; it is the condition of the world, and of all natural species, that they live by eating other species. Inter-species survival is a matter of tooth and claw. It would surely be absurd to say that the wolf is "evil" because he exists by devouring and "aggressing against" lambs, chickens, etc. The wolf is not an evil being who "aggresses against" other species; he is simply following the natural law of his own survival. Similarly for man. It is just as absurd to say that men "aggress against" cows and wolves as to say that wolves "aggress against" sheep. If, furthermore, a wolf attacks a man and the man kills him, it would be absurd to say either that the wolf was an "evil aggressor" or that the wolf was being "punished" for his "crime." And yet such would be the implications of extending a natural-rights ethic to animals. Any concept of rights, of criminality, of aggression, can only apply to actions of one man or group of men against other human beings.

What of the "Martian" problem? If we should ever discover and make contact with beings from other planets, could they be said to have the rights of human beings? It would depend on their nature. If our hypothetical "Martians" were like human beings — conscious, rational, able to communicate with us and participate in the division of labor — then presumably they too would possess the rights now confined to "earthbound" humans.2

But suppose, on the other hand, that the Martians also had the characteristics, the nature, of the legendary vampire, and could only exist by feeding on human blood. In that case, regardless of their intelligence, the Martians would be our deadly enemy and we could not consider that they were entitled to the rights of humanity. Deadly enemy, again, not because they were wicked aggressors, but because of the needs and requirements of their nature, which would clash ineluctably with ours.

There is, in fact, rough justice in the common quip that "we will recognize the rights of animals whenever they petition for them." The fact that animals can obviously not petition for their "rights" is part of their nature, and part of the reason why they are clearly not equivalent to, and do not possess the rights of, human beings.3 And if it be protested that babies can't petition either, the reply of course is that babies are future human adults, whereas animals obviously are not.4

1. For an attack upon the supposed rights of animals, see Peter Geach, Providence and Evil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), pp. 79–80; and Peter Geach, The Virtues (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), p. 19.
2. Cf. the brief discussion of man and comparable creatures in John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (New York: Collier-Macmillan, 1965), p. 291.
3. For the close connection between the use of language and the human species, see Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (New York: Macmillan, 1958), vol. 2, pp. xi, 223.
4. A fundamental error, then, of the advocates of "animal rights" is their failure to identify — or even to attempt to identify — the specific nature of the species man, and hence the differences between human beings and other species. Failing to think in such terms, they fall back on the shifting sands of subjective feelings. See Tibor R. Machan, Human Rights and Human Liberties (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1975), pp. 202–3, 241, 1245ff., 256, 292. For a critique of the confusion between babies and animals by animal-rightists, see R.G. Frey, Interests and Rights (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), pp. 22ff. Frey's book is a welcome recent critique of the animal-rights vogue in philosophy.

The above originally appeared at Mises.org

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Remarks by the President on Common-Sense Gun Safety Reform

East Room

11:43 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.

Mark, I want to thank you for your introduction.  I still remember the first time we met, the time we spent together, and the conversation we had about Daniel.  And that changed me that day.  And my hope, earnestly, has been that it would change the country.

Five years ago this week, a sitting member of Congress and 18 others were shot at, at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona.  It wasn’t the first time I had to talk to the nation in response to a mass shooting, nor would it be the last.  Fort Hood.  Binghamton.  Aurora.  Oak Creek.  Newtown.  The Navy Yard.  Santa Barbara.  Charleston.  San Bernardino.  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks to a great medical team and the love of her husband, Mark, my dear friend and colleague, Gabby Giffords, survived.  She’s here with us today, with her wonderful mom.  (Applause.)  Thanks to a great medical team, her wonderful husband, Mark -- who, by the way, the last time I met with Mark  -- this is just a small aside -- you may know Mark’s twin brother is in outer space.  (Laughter.)  He came to the office, and I said, how often are you talking to him?  And he says, well, I usually talk to him every day, but the call was coming in right before the meeting so I think I may have not answered his call -- (laughter) -- which made me feel kind of bad.  (Laughter.)    That’s a long-distance call.  (Laughter.)  So I told him if his brother, Scott, is calling today, that he should take it.  (Laughter.)  Turn the ringer on.  (Laughter.)

I was there with Gabby when she was still in the hospital, and we didn’t think necessarily at that point that she was going to survive.  And that visit right before a memorial -- about an hour later Gabby first opened her eyes.  And I remember talking to mom about that.  But I know the pain that she and her family have endured these past five years, and the rehabilitation and the work and the effort to recover from shattering injuries.

And then I think of all the Americans who aren’t as fortunate.  Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns -- 30,000.  Suicides.  Domestic violence.  Gang shootouts.  Accidents.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children.  Many have had to learn to live with a disability, or learned to live without the love of their life.

A number of those people are here today.  They can tell you some stories.  In this room right here, there are a lot of stories.  There’s a lot of heartache.  There’s a lot of resilience, there’s a lot of strength, but there’s also a lot of pain.  And this is just a small sample.

The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people.  We are not inherently more prone to violence.  But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency.  It doesn't happen in other advanced countries.  It’s not even close.  And as I’ve said before, somehow we’ve become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal.

And instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates -- despite the fact that there’s a general consensus in America about what needs to be done.  That’s part of the reason why, on Thursday, I’m going to hold a town hall meeting in Virginia on gun violence.  Because my goal here is to bring good people on both sides of this issue together for an open discussion.

I’m not on the ballot again.  I’m not looking to score some points.  I think we can disagree without impugning other people’s motives or without being disagreeable.  We don't need to be talking past one another.  But we do have to feel a sense of urgency about it.  In Dr. King’s words, we need to feel the “fierce urgency of now.”  Because people are dying.  And the constant excuses for inaction no longer do, no longer suffice.

That’s why we’re here today.  Not to debate the last mass shooting, but to do something to try to prevent the next one.  (Applause.)  To prove that the vast majority of Americans, even if our voices aren’t always the loudest or most extreme, care enough about a little boy like Daniel to come together and take common-sense steps to save lives and protect more of our children.

Now, I want to be absolutely clear at the start -- and I’ve said this over and over again, this also becomes routine, there is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do -- I believe in the Second Amendment.  It’s there written on the paper.  It guarantees a right to bear arms.  No matter how many times people try to twist my words around -- I taught constitutional law, I know a little about this -- (applause) -- I get it.  But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.

I mean, think about it.  We all believe in the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech, but we accept that you can’t yell “fire” in a theater.  We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people.  We cherish our right to privacy, but we accept that you have to go through metal detectors before being allowed to board a plane. It’s not because people like doing that, but we understand that that’s part of the price of living in a civilized society.

And what’s often ignored in this debate is that a majority of gun owners actually agree.  A majority of gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking feud from inflicting harm on a massive scale.

Today, background checks are required at gun stores.  If a father wants to teach his daughter how to hunt, he can walk into a gun store, get a background check, purchase his weapon safely and responsibly.  This is not seen as an infringement on the Second Amendment.  Contrary to the claims of what some gun rights proponents have suggested, this hasn’t been the first step in some slippery slope to mass confiscation.  Contrary to claims of some presidential candidates, apparently, before this meeting, this is not a plot to take away everybody’s guns.  You pass a background check; you purchase a firearm.

The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules.  A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked.  A recent study found that about one in 30 people looking to buy guns on one website had criminal records -- one out of 30 had a criminal record.  We’re talking about individuals convicted of serious crimes -- aggravated assault, domestic violence, robbery, illegal gun possession.  People with lengthy criminal histories buying deadly weapons all too easily.  And this was just one website within the span of a few months.

So we’ve created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules than a responsible gun owner who buys his or her gun the right way and subjects themselves to a background check.  That doesn’t make sense.  Everybody should have to abide by the same rules.  Most Americans and gun owners agree.  And that’s what we tried to change three years ago, after 26 Americans -– including 20 children -– were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Two United States Senators -– Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, both gun owners, both strong defenders of our Second Amendment rights, both with “A” grades from the NRA –- that’s hard to get  -- worked together in good faith, consulting with folks like our Vice President, who has been a champion on this for a long time, to write a common-sense compromise bill that would have required virtually everyone who buys a gun to get a background check.  That was it.  Pretty common-sense stuff.  Ninety percent of Americans supported that idea.  Ninety percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea.  But it failed because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against that idea.

How did this become such a partisan issue?  Republican President George W. Bush once said, “I believe in background checks at gun shows or anywhere to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.”  Senator John McCain introduced a bipartisan measure to address the gun show loophole, saying, “We need this amendment because criminals and terrorists have exploited and are exploiting this very obvious loophole in our gun safety laws.”  Even the NRA used to support expanded background checks.  And by the way, most of its members still do.  Most Republican voters still do.

How did we get here?  How did we get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check means taking away people’s guns?

Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying.  I reject that thinking.  (Applause.)  We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world.  But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.

Some of you may recall, at the same time that Sandy Hook happened, a disturbed person in China took a knife and tried to kill -- with a knife -- a bunch of children in China.  But most of them survived because he didn’t have access to a powerful weapon.  We maybe can’t save everybody, but we could save some.  Just as we don’t prevent all traffic accidents but we take steps to try to reduce traffic accidents.

As Ronald Reagan once said, if mandatory background checks could save more lives, “it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”  The bill before Congress three years ago met that test.  Unfortunately, too many senators failed theirs.  (Applause.)

In fact, we know that background checks make a difference.  After Connecticut passed a law requiring background checks and gun safety courses, gun deaths decreased by 40 percent -- 40 percent.  (Applause.)  Meanwhile, since Missouri repealed a law requiring comprehensive background checks and purchase permits, gun deaths have increased to almost 50 percent higher than the national average.  One study found, unsurprisingly, that criminals in Missouri now have easier access to guns.

And the evidence tells us that in states that require background checks, law-abiding Americans don’t find it any harder to purchase guns whatsoever.  Their guns have not been confiscated.  Their rights have not been infringed.

And that’s just the information we have access to.  With more research, we could further improve gun safety.  Just as with more research, we’ve reduced traffic fatalities enormously over the last 30 years.  We do research when cars, food, medicine, even toys harm people so that we make them safer.  And you know what -- research, science -- those are good things.  They work.  (Laughter and applause.)  They do.

But think about this.  When it comes to an inherently deadly weapon -- nobody argues that guns are potentially deadly -- weapons that kill tens of thousands of Americans every year, Congress actually voted to make it harder for public health experts to conduct research into gun violence; made it harder to collect data and facts and develop strategies to reduce gun violence.  Even after San Bernardino, they’ve refused to make it harder for terror suspects who can’t get on a plane to buy semi-automatic weapons.  That’s not right.  That can't be right.

So the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage.  (Applause.)  We do not have to accept this carnage as the price of freedom.  (Applause.)

Now, I want to be clear.  Congress still needs to act.  The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does.  (Applause.)  Because once Congress gets on board with common-sense gun safety measures we can reduce gun violence a whole lot more.  But we also can't wait.  Until we have a Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives -– actions that protect our rights and our kids.

After Sandy Hook, Joe and I worked together with our teams and we put forward a whole series of executive actions to try to tighten up the existing rules and systems that we had in place.  But today, we want to take it a step further.  So let me outline what we're going to be doing.

Number one, anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions.  (Applause.)  It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it over the Internet or at a gun show.  It’s not where you do it, but what you do.

We’re also expanding background checks to cover violent criminals who try to buy some of the most dangerous firearms by hiding behind trusts and corporations and various cutouts.

We're also taking steps to make the background check system more efficient.  Under the guidance of Jim Comey and the FBI, our Deputy Director Tom Brandon at ATF, we’re going to hire more folks to process applications faster, and we’re going to bring an outdated background check system into the 21st century.  (Applause.)

And these steps will actually lead to a smoother process for law-abiding gun owners, a smoother process for responsible gun dealers, a stronger process for protecting the people from -- the public from dangerous people.  So that's number one.

Number two, we’re going to do everything we can to ensure the smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already on the books, which means we're going to add 200 more ATF agents and investigators.  We're going to require firearms dealers to report more lost or stolen guns on a timely basis. We're working with advocates to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence, where too often -- (applause) -- where too often, people are not getting the protection that they need.

Number three, we're going to do more to help those suffering from mental illness get the help that they need.  (Applause.)  High-profile mass shootings tend to shine a light on those few mentally unstable people who inflict harm on others.  But the truth is, is that nearly two in three gun deaths are from suicides.  So a lot of our work is to prevent people from hurting themselves.

That’s why we made sure that the Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare -- (laughter and applause) -- that law made sure that treatment for mental health was covered the same as treatment for any other illness.  And that’s why we’re going to invest $500 million to expand access to treatment across the country.  (Applause.)

It’s also why we’re going to ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check system, and remove barriers that prevent states from reporting relevant information.  If we can continue to de-stigmatize mental health issues, get folks proper care, and fill gaps in the background check system, then we can spare more families the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.

And for those in Congress who so often rush to blame mental illness for mass shootings as a way of avoiding action on guns, here’s your chance to support these efforts.  Put your money where your mouth is.  (Applause.)

Number four, we’re going to boost gun safety technology.  Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen or misused or discharged accidentally.  In 2013 alone, more than 500 people lost their lives to gun accidents –- and that includes 30 children younger than five years old.  In the greatest, most technologically advanced nation on Earth, there is no reason for this.  We need to develop new technologies that make guns safer.  If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?  (Applause.)  If there’s an app that can help us find a missing tablet -- which happens to me often the older I get -- (laughter) -- if we can do it for your iPad, there’s no reason we can’t do it with a stolen gun.  If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure that they can’t pull a trigger on a gun.  (Applause.)  Right?

So we’re going to advance research.  We’re going to work with the private sector to update firearms technology.

And some gun retailers are already stepping up by refusing to finalize a purchase without a complete background check, or by refraining from selling semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines.  And I hope that more retailers and more manufacturers join them -- because they should care as much as anybody about a product that now kills almost as many Americans as car accidents.

I make this point because none of us can do this alone.  I think Mark made that point earlier.  All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important -- Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them.  Because our right to worship freely and safely –- that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina.  (Applause.)  And that was denied Jews in Kansas City.  And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek.  (Applause.)  They had rights, too.  (Applause.)

Our right to peaceful assembly -– that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette.  Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown.  First-graders.  And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad.  And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.  (Applause.)

So all of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.  All of us need to stand up and protect its citizens.  All of us need to demand governors and legislatures and businesses do their part to make our communities safer.  We need the wide majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time this happens and feel like your views are not being properly represented to join with us to demand something better.  (Applause.)

And we need voters who want safer gun laws, and who are disappointed in leaders who stand in their way, to remember come election time.  (Applause.)

I mean, some of this is just simple math.  Yes, the gun lobby is loud and it is organized in defense of making it effortless for guns to be available for anybody, any time.  Well, you know what, the rest of us, we all have to be just as passionate.  We have to be just as organized in defense of our kids.  This is not that complicated.  The reason Congress blocks laws is because they want to win elections.  And if you make it hard for them to win an election if they block those laws, they’ll change course, I promise you.  (Applause.)

And, yes, it will be hard, and it won’t happen overnight.  It won’t happen during this Congress.  It won’t happen during my presidency.  But a lot of things don’t happen overnight.  A woman’s right to vote didn’t happen overnight.  The liberation of African Americans didn’t happen overnight.  LGBT rights -- that was decades’ worth of work.  So just because it’s hard, that’s no excuse not to try.

And if you have any doubt as to why you should feel that “fierce urgency of now,” think about what happened three weeks ago.  Zaevion Dobson was a sophomore at Fulton High School in Knoxville, Tennessee.  He played football; beloved by his classmates and his teachers.  His own mayor called him one of their city’s success stories.  The week before Christmas, he headed to a friend’s house to play video games.  He wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He hadn’t made a bad decision.  He was exactly where any other kid would be.  Your kid.  My kids. And then gunmen started firing.  And Zaevion -- who was in high school, hadn’t even gotten started in life -- dove on top of three girls to shield them from the bullets.  And he was shot in the head.  And the girls were spared.  He gave his life to save theirs –- an act of heroism a lot bigger than anything we should ever expect from a 15-year-old.  “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

We are not asked to do what Zaevion Dobson did.  We’re not asked to have shoulders that big; a heart that strong; reactions that quick.  I’m not asking people to have that same level of courage, or sacrifice, or love.  But if we love our kids and care about their prospects, and if we love this country and care about its future, then we can find the courage to vote.  We can find the courage to get mobilized and organized.  We can find the courage to cut through all the noise and do what a sensible country would do.

That’s what we’re doing today.  And tomorrow, we should do more.  And we should do more the day after that.  And if we do, we’ll leave behind a nation that’s stronger than the one we inherited and worthy of the sacrifice of a young man like Zaevion.  (Applause.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  Thank you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

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