Speech of the Democrat Candidate Barack Obama

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Plan to Strengthen the Economy

The Problem
Wages are Stagnant as Prices Rise: While wages remain flat, the costs of basic necessities are increasing. The cost of in-state college tuition has grown 35 percent over the past five years. Health care costs have risen four times faster than wages over the past six years. And the personal savings rate is now the lowest it's been since the Great Depression.

 

Tax Cuts for Wealthy Instead of Middle Class: The Bush tax cuts give those who earn over $1 million dollars a tax cut nearly 160 times greater than that received by middle-income Americans. At the same time, this administration has refused to tackle health care, education and housing in a manner that benefits the middle class.

 

Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan

Jumpstart the Economy

Enact a Windfall Profits Tax to Provide a $1,000 Emergency Energy Rebate to American Families:Barack Obama and Joe Biden will enact a windfall profits tax on excessive oil company profits to give American families an immediate $1,000 emergency energy rebate to help families pay rising bills. This relief would be a down payment on the Obama-Biden long-term plan to provide middle-class families with at least $1,000 per year in permanent tax relief.

Provide $50 billion to Jumpstart the Economy and Prevent 1 Million Americans from Losing Their Jobs: This relief would include a $25 billion State Growth Fund to prevent state and local cuts in health, education, housing, and heating assistance or counterproductive increases in property taxes, tolls or fees. The Obama-Biden relief plan will also include $25 billion in a Jobs and Growth Fund to prevent cutbacks in road and bridge maintenance and fund school re­pair - all to save more than 1 million jobs in danger of being cut.

Provide Middle Class Americans Tax Relief

Obama and Biden will cut income taxes by $1,000 for working families to offset the payroll tax they pay.

Provide a Tax Cut for Working Families: Obama and Biden will restore fairness to the tax code and provide 150 million workers the tax relief they need. Obama and Biden will create a new "Making Work Pay" tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family. The "Making Work Pay" tax credit will completely eliminate income taxes for 10 million Americans.

Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less than $50,000: Barack Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 per year. This proposal will eliminate income taxes for 7 million seniors and provide these seniors with an average savings of $1,400 each year. Under the Obama-Biden plan, 27 million American seniors will also not need to file an income tax return.

Simplify Tax Filings for Middle Class Americans: Obama and Biden will dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans will be able to do their taxes in less than five minutes. Obama and Biden will ensure that the IRS uses the information it already gets from banks and employers to give taxpayers the option of pre-filled tax forms to verify, sign and return. Experts estimate that the Obama-Biden proposal will save Americans up to 200 million total hours of work and aggravation and up to $2 billion in tax preparer fees.

Trade

Obama and Biden believe that trade with foreign nations should strengthen the American economy and create more American jobs. He will stand firm against agreements that undermine our economic security.

 

Fight for Fair Trade: Obama and Biden will fight for a trade policy that opens up foreign markets to support good American jobs. They will use trade agreements to spread good labor and environmental standards around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement that fail to live up to those important benchmarks. Obama and Biden will also pressure the World Trade Organization to enforce trade agreements and stop countries from continuing unfair government subsidies to foreign exporters and nontariff barriers on U.S. exports.

Amend the North American Free Trade Agreement: Obama and Biden believe that NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people. They will work with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to fix NAFTA so that it works for American workers.

Improve Transition Assistance: To help all workers adapt to a rapidly changing economy, Obama and Biden will update the existing system of Trade Adjustment Assistance by extending it to service industries, creating flexible education accounts to help workers retrain, and providing retraining assistance for workers in sectors of the economy vulnerable to dislocation before they lose their jobs.

End Tax Breaks for Companies that Send Jobs Overseas: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that companies should not get billions of dollars in tax deductions for moving their operations overseas. Obama and Biden will also fight to ensure that public contracts are awarded to companies that are committed to American workers.

Reward Companies that Support American Workers: Barack Obama introduced the Patriot Employer Act of 2007 with Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to reward companies that create good jobs with good benefits for American workers. The legislation would provide a tax credit to companies that maintain or increase the number of full-time workers in America relative to those outside the US ; maintain their corporate headquarters in America if it has ever been in America ; pay decent wages; prepare workers for retirement; provide health insurance; and support employees who serve in the military.

Invest in the Manufacturing Sector and Create 5 Million New Green Jobs

Invest in our Next Generation Innovators and Job Creators: Obama and Biden will create an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to identify and invest in the most compelling advanced manufacturing strategies. The Fund will have a peer-review selection and award process based on the Michigan 21st Century Jobs Fund, a state-level initiative that has awarded over $125 million to Michigan businesses with the most innovative proposals to create new products and new jobs in the state.

Double Funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership: The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) works with manufacturers across the country to improve efficiency, implement new technology and strengthen company growth. This highly-successful program has engaged in more than 350,000 projects across the country and in 2006 alone, helped create and protect over 50,000 jobs. But despite this success, funding for MEP has been slashed by the Bush administration. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will double funding for the MEP so its training centers can continue to bolster the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers.

Invest In A Clean Energy Economy And Create 5 Million New Green Jobs: Obama and Biden will invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial scale renewable energy, invest in low emissions coal plants, and begin transition to a new digital electricity grid. The plan will also invest in America 's highly-skilled manufacturing workforce and manufacturing centers to ensure that American workers have the skills and tools they need to pioneer the first wave of green technologies that will be in high demand throughout the world.

Create New Job Training Programs for Clean Technologies: The Obama-Biden plan will increase funding for federal workforce training programs and direct these programs to incorporate green technologies training, such as advanced manufacturing and weatherization training, into their efforts to help Americans find and retain stable, high-paying jobs. Obama and Biden will also create an energy-focused youth jobs program to invest in disconnected and disadvantaged youth.

Boost the Renewable Energy Sector and Create New Jobs: The Obama-Biden plan will create new federal policies, and expand existing ones, that have been proven to create new American jobs. Obama and Biden will create a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that will require 25 percent of American electricity be derived from renewable sources by 2025, which has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs on its own. Obama and Biden will also extend the Production Tax Credit, a credit used successfully by American farmers and investors to increase renewable energy production and create new local jobs.

 

New Jobs Through National Infrastructure Investment

Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that it is critically important for the United States to rebuild its national transportation infrastructure - its highways, bridges, roads, ports, air, and train systems - to strengthen user safety, bolster our long-term competitiveness and ensure our economy continues to grow.

 

Create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will address the infrastructure challenge by creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to expand and enhance, not supplant, existing federal transportation investments. This independent entity will be directed to invest in our nation's most challenging transportation infrastructure needs. The Bank will receive an infusion of federal money, $60 billion over 10 years, to provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation. These projects will create up to two million new direct and indirect jobs and stimulate approximately $35 billion per year in new economic activity.

Technology, Innovation and Creating Jobs

Barack Obama and Joe Biden will increase federal support for research, technology and innovation for companies and universities so that American families can lead the world in creating new advanced jobs and products.

 

Invest in the Sciences: Barack Obama and Joe Biden support doubling federal funding for basic research and changing the posture of our federal government from being one of the most anti-science administrations in American history to one that embraces science and technology. This will foster home-grown innovation, help ensure the competitiveness of US technology-based businesses, and ensure that 21st century jobs can and will grow in America .

Make the Research and Development Tax Credit Permanent: Barack Obama and Joe Biden want investments in a skilled research and development workforce and technology infrastructure to be supported here in America so that American workers and communities will benefit. Obama and Biden want to make the Research and Development tax credit permanent so that firms can rely on it when making decisions to invest in domestic R&D over multi-year timeframes.

Deploy Next-Generation Broadband: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe we can get broadband to every community in America through a combination of reform of the Universal Service Fund, better use of the nation's wireless spectrum, promotion of next-generation facilities, technologies and applications, and new tax and loan incentives.

Support Small Business

Provide Tax Relief for Small Businesses and Start Up Companies: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will eliminate all capital gains taxes on start-up and small businesses to encourage innovation and job creation. Obama and Biden will also support small business owners by providing a $500 "Making Work Pay" tax credit to almost every worker in America . Self-employed small business owners pay both the employee and the employer side of the payroll tax, and this measure will reduce the burdens of this double taxation.

Create a National Network of Public-Private Business Incubators: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will support entrepreneurship and spur job growth by creating a national network of public-private business incubators. Business incubators facilitate the critical work of entrepreneurs in creating start-up companies. Obama and Biden will invest $250 million per year to increase the number and size of incubators in disadvantaged communities throughout the country.

Labor

Obama and Biden will strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions. He will fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Obama and Biden will ensure that his labor appointees support workers' rights and will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers. Obama and Biden will also increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation to ensure it rises every year.

 

Ensure Freedom to Unionize: Obama and Biden believe that workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union without harassment or intimidation from their employers. Obama cosponsored and is strong advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan effort to assure that workers can exercise their right to organize. He will continue to fight for EFCA's passage and sign it into law.

Fight Attacks on Workers' Right to Organize: Obama has fought the Bush National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) efforts to strip workers of their right to organize. He is a cosponsor of legislation to overturn the NLRB's " Kentucky River " decisions classifying hundreds of thousands of nurses, construction, and professional workers as "supervisors" who are not protected by federal labor laws.

Protect Striking Workers: Obama and Biden support the right of workers to bargain collectively and strike if necessary. They will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers, so workers can stand up for themselves without worrying about losing their livelihoods.

Raise the Minimum Wage: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will raise the minimum wage, index it to inflation and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to make sure that full-time workers earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs.

Protect Homeownership and Crack Down on Mortgage Fraud

Obama and Biden will crack down on fraudulent brokers and lenders. They will also make sure homebuyers have honest and complete information about their mortgage options, and they will give a tax credit to all middle-class homeowners.

 

Create a Universal Mortgage Credit: Obama and Biden will create a 10 percent universal mortgage credit to provide homeowners who do not itemize tax relief. This credit will provide an average of $500 to 10 million homeowners, the majority of whom earn less than $50,000 per year.

Ensure More Accountability in the Subprime Mortgage Industry: Obama has been closely monitoring the subprime mortgage situation for years, and introduced comprehensive legislation over a year ago to fight mortgage fraud and protect consumers against abusive lending practices. Obama's STOP FRAUD Act provides the first federal definition of mortgage fraud, increases funding for federal and state law enforcement programs, creates new criminal penalties for mortgage professionals found guilty of fraud, and requires industry insiders to report suspicious activity.

Mandate Accurate Loan Disclosure: Obama and Biden will create a Homeowner Obligation Made Explicit (HOME) score, which will provide potential borrowers with a simplified, standardized borrower metric (similar to APR) for home mortgages. The HOME score will allow individuals to easily compare various mortgage products and understand the full cost of the loan.

Close Bankruptcy Loophole for Mortgage Companies: Obama and Biden will work to eliminate the provision that prevents bankruptcy courts from modifying an individual's mortgage payments. They believe that the subprime mortgage industry, which has engaged in dangerous and sometimes unscrupulous business practices, should not be shielded by outdated federal law.

Address Predatory Credit Card Practices

Obama and Biden will establish a five-star rating system so that every consumer knows the risk involved in every credit card. They also will establish a Credit Card Bill of Rights to stop credit card companies from exploiting consumers with unfair practices.

 

Create a Credit Card Rating System to Improve Disclosure: Obama and Biden will create a credit card rating system, modeled on five-star systems used for other consumer products, to provide consumers an easily identifiable ranking of credit cards, based on the card's features. Credit card companies will be required to display the rating on all application and contract materials, enabling consumers to quickly understand all of the major provisions of a credit card without having to rely exclusively on fine print in lengthy documents.

Establish a Credit Card Bill of Rights to Protect Consumers: Obama and Biden will create a Credit Card Bill of Rights to protect consumers. The Obama-Biden plan will:

Ban Unilateral Changes

Apply Interest Rate Increases Only to Future Debt

Prohibit Interest on Fees

Prohibit "Universal Defaults"

Require Prompt and Fair Crediting of Cardholder Payments

Reform Bankruptcy Laws

Obama and Biden will reform our bankruptcy laws to protect working people, ban executive bonuses for bankrupt companies, and require disclosure of all pension investments.

 

Cap Outlandish Interest Rates on Payday Loans and Improve Disclosure: Obama and Biden will extend a 36 percent interest cap to all Americans. They will require lenders to provide clear and simplified information about loan fees, payments and penalties, which is why they'll require lenders to provide this information during the application process.

Encourage Responsible Lending Institutions to Make Small Consumer Loans: Obama and Biden will encourage banks, credit unions and Community Development Financial Institutions to provide affordable short-term and small-dollar loans and to drive unscrupulous lenders out of business.

Reform Bankruptcy Laws to Protect Families Facing a Medical Crisis: Obama and Biden will create an exemption in bankruptcy law for individuals who can prove they filed for bankruptcy because of medical expenses. This exemption will create a process that forgives the debt and lets the individuals get back on their feet.

Work/Family Balance

Obama and Biden will double funding for after-school programs, expand the Family Medical Leave Act, provide low-income families with a refundable tax credit to help with their child-care expenses, and encourage flexible work schedules.

 

Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act: The FMLA covers only certain employees of employers with 50 or more employees. Obama and Biden will expand it to cover businesses with 25 or more employees. They will expand the FMLA to cover more purposes as well, including allowing workers to take leave for elder care needs; allowing parents up to 24 hours of leave each year to participate in their children's academic activities; and expanding FMLA to cover leave for employees to address domestic violence.

Encourage States to Adopt Paid Leave: As president, Obama will initiate a strategy to encourage all 50 states to adopt paid-leave systems. Obama and Biden will provide a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with start-up costs and to help states offset the costs for employees and employers.

Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities: Obama and Biden will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve a million more children. Obama and Biden will include measures to maximize performance and effectiveness across grantees nationwide.

Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit: The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit provides too little relief to families that struggle to afford child care expenses. Obama and Biden will reform the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by making it refundable and allowing low-income families to receive up to a 50 percent credit for their child care expenses.

Protect Against Caregiver Discrimination: Workers with family obligations often are discriminated against in the workplace. Obama and Biden will enforce the recently-enacted Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on caregiver discrimination.

Expand Flexible Work Arrangements: Obama and Biden will create a program to inform businesses about the benefits of flexible work schedules; help businesses create flexible work opportunities; and increase federal incentives for telecommuting. Obama and Biden will also make the federal government a model employer in terms of adopting flexible work schedules and permitting employees to request flexible arrangements. 

 

Plan for Ending the War in Iraq

The Problem

Inadequate Security and Political Progress in Iraq : Since the surge began, more than 1,000 American troops have died, and despite the improved security situation, the Iraqi government has not stepped forward to lead the Iraqi people and to reach the genuine political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge. Our troops have heroically helped reduce civilian casualties in Iraq to early 2006 levels. This is a testament to our military's hard work, improved counterinsurgency tactics, and enormous sacrifice by our troops and military families. It is also a consequence of the decision of many Sunnis to turn against al Qaeda in Iraq , and a lull in Shia militia activity. But the absence of genuine political accommodation in Iraq is a direct result of President Bush's failure to hold the Iraqi government accountable.

Strains on the Military: More than 1.75 million servicemen and women have served in Iraq or Afghanistan ; more than 620,000 troops have completed multiple deployments. Military members have endured multiple deployments taxing both them and their families. Additionally, military equipment is wearing out at nine times the normal rate after years of constant use in Iraq 's harsh environment. As Army Chief of Staff General George Casey said in March, "Today's Army is out of balance. The current demand for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the sustainable supply and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies."

Resurgent Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: The decision to invade Iraq diverted resources from the war in Afghanistan, making it harder for us to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden and others involved in the 9/11 attacks. Nearly seven years later, the Taliban has reemerged in southern Afghanistan while Al Qaeda has used the space provided by the Iraq war to regroup, train and plan for another attack on the United States. 2007 was the most violent year in Afghanistan since the invasion in 2001. The scale of our deployments in Iraq continues to set back our ability to finish the fight in Afghanistan , producing unacceptable strategic risks.

A New Strategy Needed: The Iraq war has lasted longer than World War I, World War II, and the Civil War. More than 4,000 Americans have died. More than 60,000 have been injured and wounded. The United States may spend $2.7 trillion on this war and its aftermath, yet we are less safe around the globe and more divided at home. With determined ingenuity and at great personal cost, American troops have found the right tactics to contain the violence in Iraq, but we still have the wrong strategy to press Iraqis to take responsibility at home, and restore America's security and standing in the world.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan

Judgment You Can Trust

In 2002, as the conventional thinking in Washington lined up with President Bush for war, Obama had the judgment and courage to speak out against going to war, and to warn of "an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences." He and Joe Biden are fully committed to ending the war in Iraq as president.

A Responsible, Phased Withdrawal

Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq : ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased, directed by military commanders on the ground and done in consultation with the Iraqi government. Military experts believe we can safely redeploy combat brigades from Iraq at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 - more than 7 years after the war began.

Under the Obama-Biden plan, a residual force will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and to protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel. They will not build permanent bases in Iraq , but will continue efforts to train and support the Iraqi security forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism.

Encouraging Political Accommodation

Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that the U.S. must apply pressure on the Iraqi government to work toward real political accommodation. There is no military solution to Iraq 's political differences, but the Bush Administration's blank check approach has failed to press Iraq 's leaders to take responsibility for their future or to substantially spend their oil revenues on their own reconstruction.

Obama and Biden's plan offers the best prospect for lasting stability in Iraq . A phased withdrawal will encourage Iraqis to take the lead in securing their own country and making political compromises, while the responsible pace of redeployment called for by the Obama-Biden plan offers more than enough time for Iraqi leaders to get their own house in order. As our forces redeploy, Obama and Biden will make sure we engage representatives from all levels of Iraqi society-in and out of government-to forge compromises on oil revenue sharing, the equitable provision of services, federalism, the status of disputed territories, new elections, aid to displaced Iraqis, and the reform of Iraqi security forces.

Surging Diplomacy

Barack Obama and Joe Biden will launch an aggressive diplomatic effort to reach a comprehensive compact on the stability of Iraq and the region. This effort will include all of Iraq 's neighbors-including Iran and Syria , as suggested by the bi-partisan The Iraq Study Group Report. This compact will aim to secure Iraq 's borders; keep neighboring countries from meddling inside Iraq ; isolate al Qaeda; support reconciliation among Iraq 's sectarian groups; and provide financial support for Iraq 's reconstruction and development.

Preventing Humanitarian Crisis

Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that America has both a moral obligation and a responsibility for security that demands we confront Iraq 's humanitarian crisis-more than five million Iraqis are refugees or are displaced inside their own country. Obama and Biden will form an international working group to address this crisis. He will provide at least $2 billion to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, and ensure that Iraqis inside their own country can find sanctuary. Obama and Biden will also work with Iraqi authorities and the international community to hold the perpetrators of potential war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide accountable. They will reserve the right to intervene militarily, with our international partners, to suppress potential genocidal violence within Iraq .

The Status-of-Forces-Agreement

Obama and Biden believe any Status of Forces Agreement, or any strategic framework agreement, should be negotiated in the context of a broader commitment by the U.S. to begin withdrawing its troops and forswearing permanent bases. Obama and Biden also believe that any security accord must be subject to Congressional approval. It is unacceptable that the Iraqi government will present the agreement to the Iraqi parliament for approval-yet the Bush administration will not do the same with the U.S. Congress. The Bush administration must submit the agreement to Congress or allow the next administration to negotiate an agreement that has bipartisan support here at home and makes absolutely clear that the U.S. will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq .

 

Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan to Secure America and Restore our Standing

The Obama-Biden Plan

Iran

?          The Problem: Iran has sought nuclear weapons, supports militias inside Iraq and terror across the region, and its leaders threaten Israel and deny the Holocaust. But Obama and Biden believe that we have not exhausted our non-military options in confronting this threat; in many ways, we have yet to try them. That's why Obama stood up to the Bush administration's warnings of war, just like he stood up to the war in Iraq .

?          Opposed Bush-Cheney Saber Rattling: Obama and Biden opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which says we should use our military presence in Iraq to counter the threat from Iran . Obama and Biden believe that it was reckless for Congress to give George Bush any justification to extend the Iraq War or to attack Iran . Obama also introduced a resolution in the Senate declaring that no act of Congress - including Kyl-Lieberman - gives the Bush administration authorization to attack Iran .

?          Diplomacy: Obama supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama and Biden would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.

Renewing American Diplomacy

?          The Problem: The United States is trapped by the Bush-Cheney approach to diplomacy that refuses to talk to leaders we don't like. Not talking doesn't make us look tough - it makes us look arrogant, it denies us opportunities to make progress, and it makes it harder for America to rally international support for our leadership. On challenges ranging from terrorism to disease, nuclear weapons to climate change, we cannot make progress unless we can draw on strong international support.

?          Talk to our Foes and Friends: Obama and Biden are willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe.They will do the careful preparation necessary, but will signal that America is ready to come to the table, and that he is willing to lead. And if America is willing to come to the table, the world will be more willing to rally behind American leadership to deal with challenges like terrorism, and Iran and North Korea 's nuclear programs.

?          Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Obama and Biden will make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a key diplomatic priority. They will make a sustained push - working with Israelis and Palestinians - to achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state in Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security.

?          Expand our Diplomatic Presence: To make diplomacy a priority, Obama will stop shuttering consulates and start opening them in the tough and hopeless corners of the world - particularly in Africa . They will expand our foreign service, and develop the capacity of our civilian aid workers to work alongside the military.

?          Fight Global Poverty: Obama and Biden will embrace the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty around the world in half by 2015, and they will double our foreign assistance to $50 billion to achieve that goal. They will help the world's weakest states to build healthy and educated communities, reduce poverty, develop markets, and generate wealth.

?          Strengthen NATO: Obama and Biden will rally NATO members to contribute troops to collective security operations, urging them to invest more in reconstruction and stabilization operations, streamlining the decision-making processes, and giving NATO commanders in the field more flexibility.

?          Seek New Partnerships in Asia: Obama and Biden will forge a more effective framework in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits, and ad hoc arrangements, such as the six-party talks on North Korea . They will maintain strong ties with allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia; work to build an infrastructure with countries in East Asia that can promote stability and prosperity; and work to ensure that China plays by international rules.

Nuclear Weapons

?          A Record of Results: The gravest danger to the American people is the threat of a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon and the spread of nuclear weapons to dangerous regimes. Obama has taken bipartisan action to secure nuclear weapons and materials:

?          He joined Senator Dick Lugar in passing a law to help the United States and our allies detect and stop the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction throughout the world.

?          He joined Senator Chuck Hagel to introduce a bill that seeks to prevent nuclear terrorism, reduce global nuclear arsenals, and stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

?          And while others have insisted that we should threaten to drop nuclear bombs on terrorist training camps, Obama believes that we must talk openly about nuclear weapons - because the best way to keep America safe is not to threaten terrorists with nuclear weapons, it's to keep nuclear weapons away from terrorists.

?          Secure Loose Nuclear Materials from Terrorists: Obama and Biden will secure all loose nuclear materials in the world within four years. While we work to secure existing stockpiles of nuclear material, Obama and Biden will negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material. This will deny terrorists the ability to steal or buy loose nuclear materials.

?          Strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Obama and Biden will crack down on nuclear proliferation by strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions.

?          Toward a Nuclear Free World: Obama and Biden will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and pursue it. Obama and Biden will always maintain a strong deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist. Butthey will take several steps down the long road toward eliminating nuclear weapons. They will stop the development of new nuclear weapons; work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair trigger alert; seek dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material; and set a goal to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate- range missiles so that the agreement is global.

 

Bipartisanship and Openness

?          The Problem: Under the Bush administration, foreign policy has been used as a political wedge issue to divide us - not as a cause to bring America together. And it is no coincidence that one of the most secretive administrations in history has pursued policies that have been disastrous for the American people. Obama and Biden strongly believe that our foreign policy is stronger when Americans are united, and the government is open and candid with the American people.

?          A Record of Bringing People Together: In the Senate, Obama has worked with Republicans and Democrats to advance important policy initiatives on securing weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons, increasing funding for nonproliferation, and countering instability in Congo .

?          Consultative Group: Obama and Biden will convene a bipartisan Consultative Group of leading members of Congress to foster better executive-legislative relations and bipartisan unity on foreign policy. This group will be comprised of the congressional leadership of both political parties, and the chair and ranking members of the Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Intelligence, and Appropriations Committees. This group will meet with the president once a month to review foreign policy priorities, and will be consulted in advance of military action.

?          Getting Politics out of Intelligence: Obama would insulate the Director of National Intelligence from political pressure by giving the DNI a fixed term, like the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Obama and Biden will seek consistency and integrity at the top of our intelligence community - not just a political ally.

?          Change the Culture of Secrecy: Obama will reverse President Bush's policy of secrecy. He will institute a National Declassification Center to make declassification secure but routine, efficient, and cost-effective.

?          Engaging the American People on Foreign Policy: Obama and Biden will bring foreign policy decisions directly to the people by requiring his national security officials to have periodic national broadband town hall meetings to discuss foreign policy. They will personally deliver occasional fireside chats via webcast.

On Israel

?          Ensure a Strong U.S.-Israel Partnership: Barack Obama and Joe Biden strongly support the U.S.-Israel relationship, believe that our first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel , America 's strongest ally in the Middle East . They support this closeness, stating that that the United States would never distance itself from Israel .

?          Support Israel's Right to Self Defense: During the July 2006 Lebanon war, Barack Obama stood up strongly for Israel's right to defend itself from Hezbollah raids and rocket attacks, cosponsoring a Senate resolution against Iran and Syria's involvement in the war, and insisting that Israel should not be pressured into a ceasefire that did not deal with the threat of Hezbollah missiles. He and Joe Biden believe strongly in Israel 's right to protect its citizens.

?          Support Foreign Assistance to Israel : Barack Obama and Joe Biden have consistently supported foreign assistance to Israel . They defend and support the annual foreign aid package that involves both military and economic assistance to Israel and have advocated increased foreign aid budgets to ensure that these funding priorities are met. They have called for continuing U.S. cooperation with Israel in the development of missile defense systems.

?          \t "_blank" Read the full Israel Fact Sheet

Meeting the Challenge of a Resurgent Russia

?          The Problem: Russia 's invasion of Georgia in August 2008 has created a serious new security challenge for the United States and our partners in Europe . In contrast to the Bush Administration's erratic policy of embracing Vladimir Putin but neglecting U.S.-Russian relations, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will address the challenge posed by an increasingly autocratic and bellicose Russia by pursuing a new, comprehensive strategy that advances American national interests without compromising our enduring principles.

?          A Comprehensive Strategy: Russia today is not the Soviet Union , and we are not returning to the Cold War. Retrofitting outdated 20th century thinking to address this new 21st century challenge will not advance American national interests. Instead, Obama and Biden will address the new challenges Russia poses by pursuing an integrated and vigorous strategy that encompasses the entire region. The core components of this strategy include:

?          Supporting democratic partners and upholding principles of sovereignty throughout Europe and Eurasia while working proactively to gauge effectively the intentions of actors in the region, and address tensions between countries before they escalate into military confrontations;

?          Strengthening the Transatlantic alliance, so that we deal with Russia with one, unified voice;

?          Helping to decrease the dependence of our allies and partners in the region on Russian energy;

?          Engaging directly with the Russian government on issues of mutual interest, such as countering nuclear proliferation, reducing our nuclear arsenals, expanding trade and investment opportunities, and fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban; and also reaching out directly to the Russian people to promote our common values; and,

?          Keeping the door open to fuller integration into the global system for all states in the region, including Russia , that demonstrates a commitment to act as responsible, law-abiding members of the international community.

?          \t "_blank" Read Previous Statements on the Republic of Georgia / Russia Conflict

On Africa

?          Obama's Record: As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Barack Obama has fought to focus America's attention on the challenges facing Africa - stopping the genocide in Darfur, passing legislation to promote stability in the Congo and to bring a war criminal to justice in Liberia, mobilizing international pressure for a just government in Zimbabwe, fighting corruption in Kenya, demanding honesty on HIV/AIDS in South Africa, developing a coherent strategy for stabilizing Somalia, and travelling across the continent raising awareness for these critical issues. He has also increased America 's focus on the long term challenges of education, poverty reduction, disease, strengthening democratic institutions and spurring sustainable economic development in Africa .

?          Stop the Genocide in Darfur: As president, Obama will take immediate steps to end the genocide in Darfur by increasing pressure on the Sudanese and pressure the government to halt the killing and stop impeding the deployment of a robust international force. He and Joe Biden will hold the government in Khartoum accountable for abiding by its commitments under the Comprehensive Peace Accord that ended the 30 year conflict between the north and south. Obama worked with Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) to pass the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act in 2006.

?          Fight Poverty: Obama and Joe Biden will double our annual investment in foreign assistance from $25 billion in 2008 to $50 billion by the end of his first term and make the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015, America 's goals. They will fully fund debt cancellation for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries in order to provide sustainable debt relief and invest at least $50 billion by 2013 for the global fight against HIV/AIDS, including our fair share of the Global Fund.

?          Expand Prosperity: Obama and Biden will expand prosperity by establishing an Add Value to Agriculture Initiative, creating a fund that will extend seed capital and technical assistance to small and medium enterprises, and reforming the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. They will launch the Global Energy and Environment Initiative to ensure African countries have access to low carbon energy technology and can profitably participate in the new global carbon market so as to ensure solid economic development even while the world dramatically reduces its greenhouse gas emissions. They will also strengthen the African Growth and Opportunity Act to ensure that African producers can access the U.S. market and will encourage more American companies to invest on the continent.

On Latin America & the Caribbean

?          The Problem: George Bush's policy in the Americas has been negligent toward our friends, ineffective with our adversaries, disinterested in the challenges that matter in people's lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the region. As the Americas have changed, we have sat on the sideline, offering no compelling vision and creating a vacuum for demagogues to advance an anti-American agenda.

?          Start a New Chapter of Engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean: Obama and Biden will rebuild diplomatic links throughout the hemisphere through aggressive, principled, and sustained diplomacy in the Americas from Day One. He will bolster U.S. interests in the region by pursuing policies that advance democracy, opportunity, and security and will treat our hemispheric partners and neighbors with dignity and respect.

?          Promote Democracy in Cuba and Throughout the Hemisphere: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will support democracy that is strong and sustainable in the day to day lives of the people of the Americas . In the case of Cuba , they will empower our best ambassadors of freedom by allowing unlimited Cuban-American family travel and remittances to the island. Using aggressive and principled bilateral diplomacy he will also send an important message: if a post-Fidel government takes significant steps toward democracy, beginning with freeing all political prisoners, the U.S. is prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo that has governed relations between our countries for the last five decades. Throughout the hemisphere, Obama and Biden will increase support for the building blocks of durable democracies-strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, free press, vibrant civil society, honest police forces, religious freedom, and the rule of law.

?          Work Towards Energy Security: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will bring together the countries of the region in a new Energy Partnership for the Americas to forge a path toward sustainable growth and clean energy. They will call on the American people to join this effort through an Energy Corps of engineers and scientists who will go to the region and beyond to help develop clean energy solutions.

?          Advance Opportunity from the Bottom-up: Obama and Biden will substantially increase our aid to the Americas and embrace the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty around the world in half by 2015, and they will double our foreign assistance to $50 billion to achieve that goal.

?          Trade Policy That Works for All People in All Countries: Obama and Biden believe that trade with foreign nations should strengthen the American economy and create more American jobs. They will stand firm against agreements that undermine our economic security and will use trade agreements to spread good labor and environmental standards around the world.

?          Advance Security Across the Region: Obama and Biden believe that we need to target all sources of insecurity through a new hemispheric security initiative. This initiative will foster cooperation within the region to combat gangs, trafficking and violent criminal activity. It will strive to find the best practices that work across the hemisphere, and to tailor approaches to fit each country.

Plan to Strengthen Retirement Security

The Problem

Insecure Retirement Savings: Retirement savings are near a historic low and 75 million working Americans lack employer-based retirement plans. Too many companies have dumped their pension obligations, leaving workers in the cold.

Income Security: With skyrocketing health care, energy and housing costs, and the risk of being defrauded by insurance companies, too many seniors do not have the resources to live comfortably.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan

Protect Social Security

Obama and Biden are committed to ensuring Social Security is solvent and viable for the American people, now and in the future. Obama and Biden will be honest with the American people about the long-term solvency of Social Security and the ways we can address the shortfall. Obama and Biden will protect Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries alike. And they do not believe it is necessary or fair to hardworking seniors to raise the retirement age. Obama and Biden are strongly opposed to privatizing Social Security. As part of a bipartisan plan that would be phased in over many years, they will ask those making over $250,000 to contribute a bit more to Social Security to keep it sound.

Obama does not support uncapping the full payroll tax of 12.4 percent rate. Instead, he and Joe Biden are considering plans that would ask those making over $250,000 to pay in the range of 2 to 4 percent more in total (combined employer and employee).

Strengthen Retirement Savings

?          Reform Corporate Bankruptcy Laws to Protect Workers and Retirees: Current bankruptcy laws protect banks before workers. Obama and Biden will protect pensions by putting promises to workers higher on the list of debts that companies cannot shed; ensuring that the bankruptcy courts do not demand more sacrifice from workers than executives; telling companies that they cannot issue executive bonuses while cutting worker pensions; increasing the amount of unpaid wages and benefits workers can claim in court; and limiting the circumstances under which retiree benefits can be reduced.

?          Require Full Disclosure of Company Pension Investments: Obama and Biden will ensure that all employees who have company pensions receive detailed annual disclosures about their pension fund's investments. This will provide retirees important resources to make their pension fund more secure.

?          Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less Than $50,000: Obama and Biden will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 per year. This will provide an immediate tax cut averaging $1,400 to 7 million seniors and relieve millions from the burden of filing tax returns.

?          Create Automatic Workplace Pensions: The Obama-Biden retirement security plan will automatically enroll workers in a workplace pension plan. Under their plan, employers who do not currently offer a retirement plan, will be required to enroll their employees in a direct-deposit IRA account that is compatible to existing direct-deposit payroll systems. Employees may opt-out if they choose. Experts estimate that this program will increase the savings participation rate for low and middle-income workers from its current 15 percent level to around 80 percent.

?          Expand Retirement Savings Incentives for Working Families: Obama and Biden will ensure savings incentives are fair to all workers by creating a generous savings match for low and middle-income Americans. Their plan will match 50 percent of the first $1,000 of savings for families that earn less than $75,000. The savings match will be automatically deposited into designated personal accounts. Over 80 percent of these savings incentives will go to new savers.

?          Prevent Age Discrimination: Obama and Biden will fight job discrimination for aging employees by strengthening the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and empowering the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to prevent all forms of discrimination.

Affordable Health Care

?          Provide Cheaper Prescription Drugs: Our seniors pay the highest prices in the world for brand-name drugs. To lower drug costs, Obama and Biden will allow the federal government to negotiate for lower drug prices for the Medicare program, just as it does to lower prices for our veterans. They also support allowing seniors to import safe prescription drugs from overseas, and will prevent pharmaceutical companies from blocking cheap and safe generic drugs from the market.

?          Protect and Strengthen Medicare: Obama and Biden are committed to the long-term strength of the Medicare program. They will reduce waste in the Medicare system, including eliminating subsidies to the private insurance Medicare Advantage program, and tackle fundamental health care reform to improve the quality and efficiency of our healthcare system. They support closing the "doughnut hole" in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

?          Provide Transparency to Medicare Prescription Drug Plans: Many seniors are enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans that are actually more expensive for them than other available plans. Obama and Biden will require companies to send Medicare beneficiaries a full list of the drugs and fees they paid the previous year to help seniors determine which plans can better reduce their out-of-pocket costs and improve their health.

?          Strengthen Long-Term Care Options: As president, Obama will work to give seniors choices about their care, consistent with their needs, and not biased towards institutional care. He will work to reform the financing of long term care to protect seniors and families. He will work to improve the quality of elder care, including by training more nurses and health care workers.

Protect and Honor Seniors

?          Ensure Heating Assistance: Obama and Biden will increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which helps low-income citizens - many of them seniors - pay their winter heating and summer cooling bills.

?          Support Senior Volunteer Efforts: Retired Americans have a wide range of skills and knowledge to contribute to local and national public service efforts. Obama and Biden will engage more interested seniors into public service opportunities by expanding and improving programs like Senior Corps to connect seniors with quality volunteer opportunities.

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