Tonight I stand before you to report that America has created what could be called the longest peacetime economic expansion in our history if we weren't bombing Iraq or Sudan or sometimes even Pakistan by accident on almost a daily basis.
Thanks to the leadership of all of you and to a demographic drop in the number of 18 to 24-year-old males who commit most violent crimes, we have the lowest violent crime rate in a quarter century. But really, Congress, you can take the credit anyway, if it'll get Henry Hyde off my keester. America is a strong force for peace from Northern Ireland to Bosnia two shining beacons of harmony. As for Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan ... look, stop nitpicking.
Thanks to Vice President Gore, we have a government for the information age in that it's completely locked at the moment and needs rebooting.
America is working again. Often two or three jobs at once. But we cannot allow the hum of our prosperity to lull us into complacency. I got lulled into complacency by a hum a while back, and just look at the mess that made.
So with our budget surplus growing, our economy expanding, and Hillary talking to me again, now is the moment for this generation which is about to get old to meet our historic responsibilityto address the aging of America. Just like our generation has been in favor of everything to our benefit for almost forty years.
With the number of elderly Americans set to double by 2030, that's us, we must save Social Security.
You guys are too freaking easy.
Without Social Security, half our nation's elderly would be forced into poverty. Just like so many kids are being forced into poverty since I wiped out AFDC payments.
I propose that we make the historic decision to invest the surplus in the private sector. Unless this wildly overpriced market tanks this will earn a higher return and either way it'll goose the living crud out of Wall Street in the short run, keeping Robert Rubin and my other money guys really happy.
But we must aim higher. We should eliminate the limits on what seniors on Social Security can earn. After all, Wal-Mart always needs greeters.
From its beginning, Americans have supplemented Social Security with private pensions and savings. Yet today, thanks to the export of our manufacturing base, the dismantling of labor unions, and a minimum wage that isn't even close to enough, millions of people retire with little to live on.
I propose we establish universal savings accountsUSA accounts. Cute, huh? I was gonna call them LSD accounts, just for the joke, but I don't need the hassle. With these new accounts, Americans can receive funds to match a portion of their savings. Look, fair's fair. You guys in Congress get offered money for votes. It's time we do the same thing for the little guy.
I propose a tax credit of $1,000 for the aged, ailing, or disabled and the families who care for them. That'll cover maybe two days in the hospital if they're lucky. After that is their own business.
Now there are children from more diverse backgrounds in our public schools than at any time in our history. In spite of Pat Buchanan's best efforts. We are well on our way to connecting every classroom and library to the Internet. Whether the kids can actually read is another issue.
Each year the national government invests more than $15 billion in our public schools. We must change the way we invest that, to support what works and to stop supporting what does not work. As always, I am strongly in favor of good things and firmly opposed to bad things.
No child should graduate from high school with a diploma he or she can't read. Too many of them get elected to Congress. All teachers should know the subjects they are teaching. Here I courageously take on the anti-obvious lobby. Every school district should issue report cards on every school. Although in some areas, a simple body count will suffice. And all school districts must implement sensible discipline policies. As long as we're wiring every classroom to the Internet, I propose we also wire every chair to the Power Grid.
We also have to help the millions of parents who give their all every day. So let's raise the minimum wage by a dollar an hour over the next two years.
Whoo-eee. As if any of us really thinks America's working poor will get all jazzed up about possibly making six dollars an hour in 2001.
America's families deserve the world's best medical care. Unfortunately, we can't all just move to Canada. Managed care has transformed medicine in America. Much the same way an 80-foot drop transforms a cat.
But only Congress can enact the Patients' Bill of Rights for all Americans. So to the folks at home: Don't Blame Me.
We must step up our efforts to treat and prevent mental illness. If Bob Barr isn't a shining example, I don't know what you people need. With sensitivity and passion, Tipper Gore is leading our efforts now that she's no longer convinced the world is full of hidden Satanic messages.
I recommend a national literacy campaign aimed at helping the millions of people who still read at less than a fifth-grade level. Besides, we can't think of a better way to hurt Rush Limbaugh's ratings.
Today much of the world is in recession, the most serious financial crisis in half a century. To meet it, the United States and other nations have strengthened the International Monetary Fund. Which has thrown tens of billions of dollarsmany of them yoursat Russia, Indonesia, and Brazil, all to no effect.
We must help American manufacturers hit hard by the present crisis with loan guarantees and other incentives to increase American exports by nearly $2 billion. Although a similar handout to American workers would have you all screaming "socialism" at the top of your lungs.
And I ask the Congress again to give the president the trade authority to advance our prosperity in the 21st century. I'm supposed to drag Chile into NAFTA before I'm outta here, dammit, now help me out. And this year, we will conclude a treaty to ban abusive child labor everywhere notice it's "abusive" child labor, not "all" child labor, which I'm sure my good friend and major fundraiser Phil Knight at Nike won't mind one bit.
We will defend our security wherever we are threatened and sometimes places we aren't, as we did this summer when we struck at Osama bin Laden's network of terror. Not that we hit anything or even knew for sure what we were bombing, and never mind that we pointlessly wiped out the only pharmeceutical plant in a country suffering a major famine. And America will continue to work for the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people. So even though there's no democratic opposition in Iraq, I'm still ordering the CIA to throw almost $100 million of your money down another hole trying to support a coup.
You know, sports records are made, and sooner or later, they are broken. But Mark McGwire's a Republican, dammit, so the best suck-up I can manage here is Sammy Sosa, you are a hero in two countries tonight.
43 years ago Rosa Parks sat down on a bus in Alabama and wouldn't get up no matter how many right-wing southerners told her to clear out. Come to think of it, I sort of know how she feels. She's sitting with the first lady tonight.
This is a moment, as the First Lady has said, to honor the past and imagine the future. I'd like to take a minute to honor her for all she has done to serve our nation at home and abroad.
I can't believe nobody ever complains about the way I absorb public affection intended for others the way the Chupacabra sucks the life force out of a goat. It's like an X-Files episode, but with better lighting. Geez, I'd introduce Mr. Hankey from South Park if I thought he'd get me an ovation.
We're now at the end of a century when generation after generation of Americans answered the call to greatness, overcoming Depression, bringing down barriers to racial prejudice, winning two world wars and the "long twilight struggle" of the Cold War. And if Y2K hits, there's a fair chance we might get to do it all over again.
A hundred years from tonight, another American president or possibly a spokesperson for Microsoft will stand in this place to report on the State of the Union. He -- or she -- or it -- will look back on a 21st century shaped by the decisions we make now.
My fellow Americans, this is our moment not to obsess about that thing with Monica.
Let us lift our eyes, and from the mountaintop of this century, look ahead to the next one century, not intern, I mean.
Bob Harris is a radio commentator, political writer, and humorist who has spoken at almost 300 colleges nationwide.
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