最激動人心的力量

這個時代最激動人心的力量是什麼?要回答這個問題,可以到世界上最大的blog站點–新浪博客(blog.sina.com.cn)。該網站的「博客總流量排行」(網址:http://blog.sina.com.cn/lm/top/rank/)上清楚顯示,前十名點擊量最高的blog依次為:



如各位所見,廣泛誤傳為blog訪問量最高的韓寒,總訪問量不到4億,排名第六,不及第一名「徐小明的BLOG」(10.27億)的4成。而前十名博客中,「財經博客」占了8席。點進去看了看,這些所謂的「財經博客」,以預測市場走勢為主,通篇皆是「K線」、「空軍」、「大陰燭」之類吾輩不懂而且永遠不打算搞明白的「術語」,連一個自詡「價值投資者」的「價值騙子」都見不到。

如果說香港的財經報刊和網絡上充斥「財經演員」,則這些大受歡迎的「財經博客」們堪稱「財經風水師」。裝神弄鬼的「分析」,煞有介事的「操作策略」和無處不在的修辭。許知遠同學,你確實錯了,喜歡韓寒的根本不是「庸眾」,而是「小眾」。當今知識分子大可不必懺悔自己走入公眾視野淪為「公共知識分子」,其實你們距離成為「私房知識分子」可能尚有時日。

許知遠在《內在的自由》裡說:「除去那些頭腦最愚鈍、心肝最麻木的人,沒人不知道這是個專制、腐敗甚至可以說邪惡的政權。」可是何以這個政權看起來如此堅不可摧呢?我的解釋是,今日的中國,人人熟知並在口頭上不掩飾這個社會的巨大的不公,但並無意於任何改變這個社會的行動,並且暗暗期許自己可以從這個社會的不公中分一杯羹。人人盼望這個社會嚴重傾斜的天平傾向自己那一邊。與此同時,金錢成為最激動人心的力量,快速致富成為唯一看起來務實的目標。查理斯-麥基(Charles Mackay, LL.D.)於1852年出版的經典巨著《非同尋常的大眾幻想與群眾性癲狂》(Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds)的第二章引用了斯威特福(Swift)的詩。現在讀起來如此之恰如其分:

「……每個人都搖著他漏水的小船,
為了釣到金子也不怕淹死。
一會兒被深深地埋進死亡,
一會兒又飄飄然升到天堂,
他們搖搖擺擺踉踉蹌蹌,
渾渾噩噩就像醉鬼一樣。
這時在格拉維懸崖上倒是安全,
一場野蠻的競賽就要吞噬沉船,
他們躺在那裡靜候小舟沉沒,
要把死屍的衣物全部剝完。」

"…Each paddling in his leaky boat,
  And here they fish for gold and drown.
Now buried in the depths below,
  Now mounted up to heaven again,
They reel and stagger to and fro,
  At their wits’ end, like drunken men.
Meantime, secure on Garraway cliffs,
  A saving race, by shipwrecks fed,
Lie waiting for the foundered skiffs,
  And strip the bodies of the dead."

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互聯網和海外中國人

一天,我在校門口的巴士站等車,看到一位剃平頭的同學手持iPhone,帶著耳機專心致志地看著什麼東西。上前一問,原來他在收看《新聞聯播》,裡面的兩位主持節目的男女的古怪表情令我忍不住笑了起來。「我每天都要收看新聞聯播,了解國內外的新聞動態。」這位同學一本正經地告訴我。

不管是好還是壞,互聯網真的改變了今天的海外中國人的生態──變得和在國內幾乎毫無二致。

在香港的時候,每周都要從學校的圖書館裡借四五張DVD回家慢慢看。有一次借到了張曼玉和梁家輝主演的《愛在別鄉的季節》(Farewell China),一部堪稱中文經典的電影。印象最深的是張曼玉持旅游簽證來到美國然後「黑」在紐約,每日在艱難的世界上掙扎生存,嘗試了各種各樣的地下職業,例假來了買不起衛生巾,被人強暴了不敢報警。當他的老公梁家輝──一位忠厚老實的中學老師歷盡千辛萬苦偷渡到紐約再陰差陽錯找到張曼玉的時候,發覺自己的妻子每天深夜來臨的時候都會打開牆角的一個破錄音機,裡面的磁帶會放出一首幽幽的歌,那也許是來自故國的唯一慰藉了:

一條大河波浪寬
風吹稻花香兩岸
我家就在岸上住
聽慣了艄公的號子
看慣了船上的白帆

姑娘好像花兒一樣
小伙兒心胸多寬廣
為了開辟新天地
喚醒了沉睡的高山
讓那河流改變了模樣

這是美麗的祖國
是我生長的地方
在這片遼闊的土地上
到處都有明媚的風光

《愛在別鄉的季節》故事大致發生在1987-1989年。後來又斷斷續續讀到,九七前後移民加拿大的香港人,多半會帶一些香港的娛樂周刊,以便到了楓葉之國之後百無聊賴之際慢慢消遣。可見,即使在十幾年前,海外華人了解本國資訊亦相當不便,更加不太可能每天收看新聞聯播。

然後我就讀到了如下的文字記載,講的是100多年前清政府派出的留美幼童的故事:

1870年代,清政府派出近代中國最早的官派留學生,美洲新大陸的院校中第一次出現成群結隊的中國學子,這給當時的美國學生以直接且深刻的印像,讓他們久久不能忘懷。其中中國幼童的中學同學,後來在耶魯大學任教的菲爾浦斯(William Lyon Phelps)教授,在其《自傳》(William Lyon Phelps: autobiography with letters)中,專門設置有一個章節 ——《中國同學》,節選內容如下:

這些男孩子穿著打扮和我們一樣,只是頭上留著長長的辮子。他們玩橄欖球的時候,會把辮子藏在襯衣裡,或盤在頭上;如果辮子松了,那可是給對手一個太強的誘惑。我們玩的所有的游戲對他們來說都是陌生的;但他們很快就成了棒球、橄欖球、冰球的好手,在花式滑冰場上技術更是超群。當自行車剛剛出現的時候,學校第一個買它的是曾(吳仰曾)。我現在仿佛還可以看到,他騎著這奇怪的家伙在避難山路上走。

我至今清楚地記得,當我們玩橄欖球選人分隊時,聰(鄧士聰)一定是首選。因為他又矮又壯,身材天生接近地球,跑動起來像只小獵犬,躲閃的功夫又像只貓。如果說鄧在速度和風度上占優勢,那麼康(康賡齡)則是力量型選手。他身材健壯,臉上永遠掛著善意的微笑,他可以穿越四五個美國同學的封鎖,闖過目標線。在棒球場上,曾(吳仰曾)是最佳投手,他投的球幾乎沒有能被擊中的可能。

我在高中最親密的朋友是Cho(這位“Cho”是曹嘉祥,他後來是北洋海軍鎮遠艦槍炮大副,再後來是中國近代警察制度的創始人——筆者注),他嚴肅而莊重,在那個時候已經是一個有教養懂世務的人。在課堂上聽他解讀愷撒是一種博雅的教育。幾乎每個周末,Cho和我都要到西哈特福德去打獵,主要是打金翼啄木鳥和草地鷺,Cho有一把超過12英鎊重的獵槍,他可以終日毫無怨言地抗著他的這把寶貝槍,並且具有百步穿楊的好槍法。最後,當這些孩子令人遺憾地被召回時,Cho把他的這把獵槍贈給我,作為我們永久友誼的見證。在中國,聽說他參加了海軍,可後來沒有了下落。我們之間有過幾年的書信往來。

這些男孩不但在體育場上壓倒美國人,他們還在另外一些場合讓我們心碎。當這些中國年輕人出現在社交場合的時候,就沒有我們什麼事了。他們對女孩的態度,有優雅的恭順,是我們學不來地。我不知道,女孩子喜歡他們,是因為和東方人共舞的異國情調,還是真的受到他們言談風度的吸引?但事實就是,在舞會上,在一些招待會場,那些最漂亮最有吸引力的女孩總是會挑選這些東方男孩。我至今還記得,那些美國男孩痛苦的神情,他們眼睜睜地看著那些他們心儀的女孩特意地從他們身邊走過,去接受他們的對手——那些中國男孩的邀請。說到我自己,我的父母可不許我在中學學跳舞什麼的。所以我只是旁觀這樣的情景一再重演,讓種族間的競爭挑起我欣賞戲劇的本能。那些中國男孩的舞跳得真是很棒。

Jesus!今天在美國的中國人,不說打橄欖球,有幾位經常看橄欖球比賽的?連美國人視為每年最重要的公眾活動──Superbowl決賽,完全不知情的也不在少數。撇開這些「不務正業」的東西,看看學術,當年來美國留學的學生,各方面決不輸給美國同學,獲得卡梅(Carnegie Mellon)歷史上第一個PhD學位的茅以升先生,絕非孤例。

New Yorker資深記者Peter Hessler在"Oracle bones: a journey between China’s past and present"一書中提到,當他在北京的一個四合院裡見到文字專家周有光的時候,後者回憶起自己早年在紐約的一家銀行工作,每周必讀New Yorker. 我認識的在美國的中國人,知道New Yorker這本雜志的只有個位數。而今天在mitbbs上嘲諷美國媒體的歪曲報道中國的留學生們,有幾位讀完過一期New York Times?

毫無疑問,互聯網改變了今天海外中國人的生態。在海外和故國零距離接觸,已經成為常態。很多時候我根本不理解老大哥何以怕互聯網怕得要死。須知,是互聯網,使得那麼多海外人和你們保持高度一致,齊聲贊美,齊聲譴責,又同聲「深表遺憾」。

當然還有一種情況,那就是在國內沉醉在一種令人熱淚盈眶的幸福的盛世感的好多人,來到一個無牆的互聯網,看了很多不該看的東西,進而覺得這個民族基本上沒救了,但又說不清楚是誰的錯,抹黑老大哥又似乎太反動了,於是乎悲憤得睡不著覺,狀態類似王小波筆下的那位:

“文革”中期,我哥哥去看一位多年不見的高中同學。走進那間房子,我哥哥被驚呆了:這間房子有整整的一面被巨幅的世界地圖占滿了。這位同學身著藍布大褂,足蹬布底的黑布鞋,手掂紅藍鉛筆,正在屋裡踱步,而且對家兄的出現視而不見。據家兄說,這位先生當時梳了個中分頭,假如不拿紅藍鉛筆,而是挾著把雨傘,就和那張偉大領袖去安源的畫一模一樣了。我哥哥耐心地等待了一會兒,才小聲問道:能不能請教一下……你這是在干嗎呢?他老人家不理我哥哥,又轉了兩圈,才把手指放到嘴上,說道:噓,我在考慮世界革命的戰略問題。然後我哥哥就回家來,臉皮烏紫地告訴我此事。然後我們哥倆就捧腹大笑,幾乎笑斷了腸子……

以上這些,是我每次路過Baker Hall前面的茅以升先生像的時候都會想到的東西。

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Youth
is not a time of life; it is a state of mind 青春不是年華,而是心境
http://ieemdai.spaces.live.com

Lisa Kudrow(“Phoebe” in Friends)在Vassar College的畢業典禮演講

上週的New Yorker提及Lisa Kudrow(美劇之王Friends裡面的Phoebe Buffay扮演者)在其母校Vassar College的畢業典禮演講。說起Vassar,這是一所位於紐約州Poughkeepsie的著名的私立liberal arts college,規模小(全校僅2000左右學生)但地位甚高,最著名的校友當屬肯尼迪夫人Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis。

和所有的Phoebe粉絲分享這一段動人的video。屬於青春的Lisa,令此夏頓生涼意。

   

——————————————————————————————————
Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind 青春不是年華,而是心境
http://ieemdai.spaces.live.com

【不能不轉載】中華民國總統馬英九「六四」感言


Cartoon: The New Yorker

中華民國九十九年六月四日

總統發表「六四」感言

刊於中華民國總統府網站

今天,是「六四」天安門事件21週年。

我們紀念這個日子,就如同我們紀念民國36年台灣發生的二二八事件與民國40年代的白色恐怖事件。我們深切期望大陸當局參考臺灣的經驗,誠懇面對「六四」此一重大的人權歷史事件,不僅記取慘痛教訓,不讓悲劇重演,而且採取必要行動,撫平受難者及家屬受到的傷痛與不公。

衡諸歷史,任何政府與人民的衝突,如果以流血收場,政府身為握有公權力的一方,總要負起主要的責任。政府的存在,繫於人民的信賴。當政府以武力對付人民時,受傷的不僅是人民,政府與人民之間的信賴也連帶受到傷害,需要很長的時間才能修補。是以,任何政府面臨類似問題時,必須勇敢面對,以最大的耐心與包容來謀求重建。

兩岸人民同屬中華民族,都是炎黃子孫,理應相互扶持,誠心合作。除了人權議題頗受外界批判外,大陸當局近年重新提倡中華文化,並努力發展經濟,改善民生,臺灣民眾印象深刻。兩年來,兩岸關係趨於好轉,大幅降低臺海緊張情勢,受到兩岸人民與國際社會普遍肯定。

在這全新的歷史條件下,我們希望大陸當局此刻在人權方面展現全新的思維,以充分的誠意與自信,逐步化解重大人權事件所遺留下來的問題,並以更寬宏的氣度,對待異議人士。這不但有助提升大陸人民對大陸當局的信賴,也必然可以大幅拉近兩岸在人權方面的距離,更使世人相信中國大陸的崛起,不僅是和平的,同時也是自由、民主與人權普世價值的顯現。

附:

民進黨中常會針對「六四事件」二十一週年之聲明

刊於民主進步黨網站

2009/6/2

為表達對中國民主化前景之關切,聲援中國民主改革派人士,民主進步黨主席蔡英文在今(2)日中常會上,與出席中常委通過民進黨對中國「六四事件」將屆滿廿一週年之聲明。聲明如下:
 
「六四事件」是中國現代史上最大悲劇之一,二十一年前,面對青年學生要求民主改革的呼聲,中國政府以武力鎮壓,迄今仍未對此一由國家暴力造成之悲劇道歉及賠償,甚至有系統地透過國家機器,將「六四事件」從各種國家檔案、文件記載中抹去,試圖讓中國人民徹底遺忘「六四」。我們誠懇呼籲中國政府應正視此一歷史傷痛,承認錯誤,道歉、賠償,讓仍流亡的學生早日回到中國。
 
我們也正告中國政府,近年,中國雖因經濟發展,國力大為提升,已成為區域強權,但一個強大卻威權的國家,始終讓各國疑懼,也成為區域安全的隱憂。我們呼籲中國政府應該停止打壓民主改革派人士,啟動政治改革工程,讓中國早日走出專制,邁向民主,與自由、人權等普世價值真正接軌。
 
針對馬英九總統一改過去當選之前,每年出席「六四」紀念會之態度,上任後閉口不談「六四」,甚且在去年「六四」二十週年紀念時,發表專文肯定中國民主已有進步,我們深感失望與遺憾。馬政府上任推動兩岸交流協商迄今,更對中國打壓、逮捕民主改革派人士始終保持緘默,我們在此也要給予嚴厲譴責,並嚴正要求政府應該將民主與人權納入兩岸交流的議題清單,讓台灣與中國的互動建立在普世的人權價值與民主制度之上,這應該是兩岸正常交流的重要前提要件。我們認為,台灣與中國之交流,不能降低台灣標準,不能放棄台灣價值,更不能從民主與人權的立場上倒退。
 
未來,民主進步黨將持續與所有關心民主與人權價值的人,共同努力,採取積極有效的行動,與中國的維權團體以及公民社會開展對話,交流經驗,讓民主與人權在台灣繼續生根茁壯,也讓民主與人權早日在中國開花結果。

另:美國國務院的聲明

Message on the Twenty-first Anniversary of Tiananmen Square

Philip J. Crowley Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
June 4, 2010

It is now twenty one years since the tragic events occurred on June 4, 1989 in and around Tiananmen Square. We join others in the international community to urge China to release all those still serving sentences for participating in peaceful protests at that time and since. We ask the Chinese government to provide the fullest possible public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, and to cease harassment of those who participated in the demonstrations and the families of the victims. We also encourage China to protect the universal human rights of all its citizens, including those who peacefully dissent.

奧巴馬在卡內基梅隆的演講

昨天中午Obama來Carnegie Mellon演講, 校園內戒備森嚴,處處可見警察和特工的身影。這場演講是by invitation only, 不對外界開放,無緣進場的我只能看演講全文和視頻。Tepper的Mike Trick教授(其blog在整個OR/OM領域最負盛名)是現場聽眾之一,他在Twitter上評價是次演講:

"Back from President’s #cmu speech. Not much new, but still inspiring to those who are inspired by the President. Probably not for those not."

另外一位CMU校友R. Ryan Williams原計劃在母校演講,但因和Obma演講的地點沖突,被迫推遲,他於是在Twitter上感慨

"Planned to talk at #CMU today, but someone a bit more famous was also speaking…"

大西洋月刊(The Atlantic)資深記者James Fallows則寫了一篇blog,題為"Another Speech Worth Noticing: Obama in Pittsburgh",認為這次演講無一令人印象深刻的主題,但仍不容忽視,並為此次演講寫了一個提要:

1. We are only beginning to recover from one disaster/emergency, in
the world’s financial system; and we’re still in the midst of another
one, with the BP oil catastrophe;

2. In the short run, we have
to deal with those emergencies as emergencies;

3. But in the
long it would be criminal (not his word) to fail to correct the
underlying disorders that caused each crisis;

4. In the
economic realm, that means not just dealing with the rigged financial
markets but also making sure that we address some of the big, structural
issues that will either keep the US economy growing or bring it down;

5. Those include managing health care costs, improving education, and
investing in fundamental science;

6. Private industry obviously
is what makes our economy run, and what will create the business models
to solve these problems;

7. But just as obviously, the
government has to play an active part — in setting standards, investing
in basic research and "public goods," containing what any sane observer
sees as the self-destructive excesses of the market, and promoting the
next big waves of technology growth as it has done for all previous ones
through the nation’s history;

8. This includes taking an
active role in shifting the U.S. economy away from its environmentally
and strategically damaging dependence on oil in particular, and the way
to use market energies toward that end is through a carbon tax.

附:Obama的演講視頻及全文

 http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player5x1.swf

Remarks by the President on the Economy at Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1:22 P.M. EDT

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

Let me begin by thanking Dr. Jared Cohon, and the entire Carnegie Mellon community, for welcoming me once again, and for the terrific work that he and the administration, faculty and staff do here each and every day.

I also want to acknowledge your outstanding mayor — who doesn’t look any older than the last time I saw him — Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.  There he is, right there.  (Applause.)

It is great to be back at Carnegie Mellon, and in the beautiful city of Pittsburgh.  I love visiting a good sports town.  Last year, I stole Dan Rooney to serve as my ambassador to Ireland.  (Laughter.)  To make it up, I invited both the Steelers and the Penguins to the White House to celebrate their championships.  (Applause.)  Seeing how the Blackhawks are headed to Philly tonight with a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals, I’m just glad that we’re on this side of the state.  (Laughter.)

I noticed a couple of people said they were rooting for the Blackhawks, which tells me something about the rivalry between Pittsburgh and Philly.

Of course, we meet here at an incredibly difficult time for America.  Among other things, it’s a time when the worst environmental disaster of its kind in our nation’s history is threatening the Gulf Coast and the people who live there.  Right now, stopping this oil spill and containing its damage is necessarily the top priority not just of my administration but I think of the entire country.  And we’re waging this battle every minute of every day.

But at the same time, we’re continuing our efforts to recover and rebuild from an economic disaster that has touched the lives of nearly every American.  That’s what I want to talk about today — the state of our economy, the future we must seize, and the path we chose to get there.

It has now been a little over 16 months since I took office amid one of the worst economic storms in our history.  And to navigate that storm, my administration was forced to take some dramatic and unpopular steps.  These steps have succeeded in breaking the freefall.  We’re again moving in the right direction.

An economy that was shrinking at an alarming rate when I became President has now been growing for three consecutive quarters.  After losing an average of 750,000 jobs a month during the winter of last year, we’ve now added jobs for five of the last six months, and we expect to see strong job growth in Friday’s report.  The taxpayer money it cost to shore up the financial sector and the auto industry, that’s being repaid.  And both GM and Chrysler are adding shifts and operating at a profit. So, despite temporary setbacks, uncertain world events, and the resulting ups and downs of the market, this economy is getting stronger by the day.

Now, that doesn’t mean this recession is by any means over for the millions of Americans who are still looking for a job or a way to pay the bills.  Not by a long shot.  The devastation created by the deepest downturn since the Great Depression has hit people and communities across our country very hard.  And it’s not going to be a real recovery until people can feel it in their own lives.

In the immediate future, this means doing whatever is necessary to keep the recovery going and to spur job growth.  But in the long term, it means recognizing that for a lot of middle-class families — for entire communities, in some case — a sense of economic security has been missing since long before the recession began.

Over the last decade, these families saw their income decline.  They saw the cost of things like health care and college tuition reach record highs.  They lived through a so-called economic “expansion” that generated slower job growth than at any prior expansion since World War II.  Some people have called the last 10 years “the lost decade.”

So the anxiety that’s out there today isn’t new.  The recession has certainly made it worse, but that feeling of not being in control of your own economic future — that sense that the American Dream might slowly be slipping away — that’s been around for some time now.  And for better or for worse, our generation of Americans has been buffeted by tremendous forces of economic change.  Long gone are the days when a high school diploma could guarantee a job at a local factory — not when so many of those factories had moved overseas.  Pittsburgh, a city that once was defined by the steel industry, knows this better than just about anybody.  And today, the ability of jobs and entire industries to relocate where there’s skilled workers and an Internet connection has forced America to compete like never before.

From China to India to Europe, other nations have already realized this.  They’re putting a greater emphasis on math and science, and demanding more from their students.  Some countries are building high-speed railroads and expanding broadband access. They’re making serious investments in technology and clean energy because they want to win the competition for those jobs.

So we can’t afford to stand pat while the world races by.  The United States of America did not become the most prosperous nation on Earth by sheer luck or happenstance.  We got here because each time a generation of Americans has faced a changing world, we have changed with it.  We have not feared our future; we have shaped it.  America does not stand still; we move forward.

And that’s why I’ve said that as we emerge from this recession, we can’t afford to return to the pre-crisis status quo.  We can’t go back to an economy that was too dependent on bubbles and debt and financial speculation.  We can’t accept economic growth that leaves the middle class owing more and making less.  We have to build a new and stronger foundation for growth and prosperity — and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for the last 16 months.
  
It’s a foundation based on investments in our people and their future; investments in the skills and education we need to compete; investments in a 21st century infrastructure for America, from high-speed railroads to high-speed Internet; investments in research and technology, like clean energy, that can lead to new jobs and new exports and new industries.

This new foundation is also based on reforms that will make our economy stronger and our businesses more competitive — reforms that will make health care cheaper, our financial system more secure, and our government less burdened with debt.

In a global economy, we can’t pursue this agenda in a vacuum.  At the height of the financial crisis, the coordinated action we took with the nations of the G20 prevented a global depression and helped restore worldwide growth.  And as we’ve recently witnessed in Europe, economic difficulties in one part of the world can affect everybody else.  And that’s why we have to keep on working with the nations of the G20 to pursue more balanced growth.  That’s why we need to coordinate financial reform with other nations so that we avoid a global race to the bottom.  It’s why we need to open new markets and meet the goal of my National Export Initiative:  to double our exports over the next five years.  And it’s why we need to ensure that our competitors play fair and our agreements are enforced.  This, too, is part of building a new foundation.

Now, some of you may have noticed that we have been building this foundation without much help from our friends in the other party.  From our efforts to rescue the economy, to health insurance reform, to financial reform, most have sat on the sidelines and shouted from the bleachers.  They said no to tax cuts for small businesses; no to tax credits for college tuition; no to investments in clean energy.  They said no to protecting patients from insurance companies and consumers from big banks.

And some of this, of course, is just politics.  Before I was even inaugurated, the congressional leaders of the other party got together and made a calculation that if I failed, they’d win. So when I went to meet with them about the need for a Recovery Act, in the midst of crisis, they announced they were against it before I even arrived at the meeting.  Before we even had a health care bill, a Republican senator actually said, “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo.  It will break him.”  So those weren’t very hopeful signs.      

But to be fair, a good deal of the other party’s opposition to our agenda has also been rooted in their sincere and fundamental belief about the role of government.  It’s a belief that government has little or no role to play in helping this nation meet our collective challenges.  It’s an agenda that basically offers two answers to every problem we face:  more tax breaks for the wealthy and fewer rules for corporations.

The last administration called this recycled idea “the Ownership Society.”  But what it essentially means is that everyone is on their own.  No matter how hard you work, if your paycheck isn’t enough to pay for college or health care or childcare, well, you’re on your own.  If misfortune causes you to lose your job or your home, you’re on your own.  And if you’re a Wall Street bank or an insurance company or an oil company, you pretty much get to play by your own rules, regardless of the consequences for everybody else.

Now, I’ve never believed that government has all the answers.  Government cannot and should not replace businesses as the true engine of growth and job creation.  Government can’t instill good values and a sense of responsibility in our children.  That’s a parent’s job.  Too much government can deprive us of choice and burden us with debt.  Poorly designed regulations can choke off competition and the capital that businesses need to thrive.

I understand these arguments.  And it’s reflected in my policies.  After all, one-third of the Recovery Act we designed was made up of tax cuts for families and small businesses.  And when you think back to the health care debate, despite calls for a single-payer, government-run health care plan, we passed reform that maintains our system of private health insurance.

But I also understand that throughout our nation’s history, we have balanced the threat of overreaching government against the dangers of an unfettered market.  We’ve provided a basic safety net, because any one of us might experience hardship at some time in our lives and may need some help getting back on our feet.  And we’ve recognized that there have been times when only government has been able to do what individuals couldn’t do and corporations wouldn’t do.

That’s how we have railroads and highways, public schools and police forces.  That’s how we’ve made possible scientific research that has led to medical breakthroughs like the vaccine for Hepatitis B, and technological wonders like GPS.  That’s how we have Social Security and a minimum wage, and laws to protect the food we eat and the water we drink and the air that we breathe.  That’s how we have rules to ensure that mines are safe and, yes, that oil companies pay for the spills that they cause.

Now, there have always been those who’ve said no to such protections; no to such investments.  There were accusations that Social Security would lead to socialism, and that Medicare was a government takeover.  There were bankers who claimed the creation of federal deposit insurance would destroy the industry.  And there were automakers who argued that installing seatbelts was unnecessary and unaffordable.  There were skeptics who thought that cleaning our water and our air would bankrupt our entire economy.  And all of these claims proved false.  All of these reforms led to greater security and greater prosperity for our people and our economy.

So what was true then is true today.  As November approaches, leaders in the other party will campaign furiously on the same economic arguments they’ve been making for decades.  Fortunately, we don’t have to look back too many years to see how their agenda turns out.  For much of the last 10 years we’ve tried it their way.  They gave us tax cuts that weren’t paid for to millionaires who didn’t need them.  They gutted regulations and put industry insiders in charge of industry oversight.  They shortchanged investments in clean energy and education, in research and technology.  And despite all their current moralizing about the need to curb spending, this is the same crowd who took the record $237 billion surplus that President Clinton left them and turned it into a record $1.3 trillion deficit.

So we know where those ideas lead us.  And now we have a choice as a nation.  We can return to the failed economic policies of the past, or we can keep building a stronger future. We can go backward, or we can keep moving forward.  And I don’t know about you, but I want to move forward.  I think America wants to move forward.

Now, the first step in building a new foundation that allows us to move forward has been to address the costs and risks that have made our economy less competitive — outdated regulations, crushing health care costs, and a growing debt.

To start with, we can’t compete as a nation if the irresponsibility of a few folks on Wall Street can bring our entire economy to its knees.  That’s why we’re on the verge of passing the most sweeping financial reform since the Great Depression.  It’s a reform that will help prevent another AIG.  It will end taxpayer-funded bank bailouts.  It contains the strongest consumer protections in history — protections that will empower Americans with the clear and concise information they need before signing up for a credit card or taking out a mortgage.   

Financial reform will not guard against every instance of greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street.  But it will enshrine a new principle in our financial system:  From now on, instead of competing to see who can come up with the cleverest scheme to make the quickest buck, financial institutions will compete to see who can make the better product and the better service.  And that’s a competition that benefits Wall Street and Main Street.  That’s why we need to get this legislation done.  It’s why we can’t afford to go back; we have to move forward.

We also know we can’t compete in a global economy if our citizens are forced to spend more and more of their income on medical bills; if our businesses are forced to choose between health care and hiring; if state and federal budgets are weighed down with skyrocketing health care costs.  That’s why we finally passed health insurance reform.

Now, let’s be clear.  The costs of health care are not going to come down overnight just because legislation passed, and in an ever-changing industry like health care, we’re going to continuously need to apply more cost-cutting measures as the years go by.  But once this reform is in full effect, middle-class families will pay less for their health care, and the worst practices of the insurance industry will end.  People with preexisting medical conditions will no longer be excluded from coverage.  People who become seriously ill will no longer be thrown off their coverage for reasons contrived by the insurance company.  Taxpayers will no longer have to pay — in the form of higher premiums — for trips to the ER by uninsured Americans.  Businesses will get help with their health care costs.  In fact, small businesses are already learning they’re eligible for tax credits to cover their workers this year.  And with less waste and greater efficiency in the system, this reform will do more to bring down the deficit than any step we have taken in more than a decade.

The other party has staked their claim this November on repealing these health insurance reforms instead of making them work.  They want to go back.  We need to move forward.

Making health care more cost-efficient is critical, because it’s also true that we cannot be competitive as a nation if we remain dragged down by our growing debt.  So let me talk about debt just for a second.

By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade.  Most of this was the result of not paying for two major tax cuts skewed to the wealthy, and a worthy but expensive prescription drug program that wasn’t paid for.  I always find it interesting that the same people who participated in these decisions are the ones who now charge our administration with fiscal irresponsibility.

And the truth is if I had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficits that they created.  But we took office amid a crisis, and the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget before I even walked through the door.  Additionally, the steps that we had to take to save the economy from depression temporarily added more to the deficit — by about $1 trillion.  Of course, if we had spiraled into a depression, our deficits and debt levels would be much worse. 

Now, the economy is still fragile, so we can’t put on the brakes too quickly.  We have to do what it takes to ensure a strong recovery.  A growing economy will unquestionably improve our fiscal health, as will the steps we take in the short-term to put Americans back to work.

And that’s why I signed a bill that will provide tax cuts for small businesses that hire unemployed workers.  That’s why I’ve urged Congress to pass a small business lending fund so that small businesses can get the credit they need to create jobs and grow.  That’s why I believe it’s critical we extend unemployment insurance for several more months, so that Americans who’ve been laid off through no fault of their own get the support they need to provide for their families and can maintain their health insurance until they’re rehired.  And we have to work with state and local governments to make sure they have the resources to prevent the likely layoffs of hundreds of thousands of public school teachers across the country over the next few months.

But as we look ahead, we can’t lose sight of the urgent need to get our fiscal house in order.  There are four key components to putting our budget on a sustainable path.  Maintaining economic growth is number one.  Health care reform is number two. The third component is the belt-tightening steps I’ve already outlined to reduce our deficit by $1 trillion.

Starting in 2011, we will enact a three-year freeze on all discretionary spending outside of national security — something that was never enacted in the last administration.  We will allow the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire.  We’ve gone through the budget, line by line, and identified more than 120 programs for elimination.  We’ve restored a simple budgeting rule that every family and business understands called pay-as-you-go. And we will charge the largest Wall Street firms a fee to repay the American people for rescuing them during the financial crisis — a fee that will bring down the deficit by $90 billion — (applause) — a fee that will bring down the deficit by $90 billion over the next decade.  By the way, that $90 billion represents about one-eighth of the amount these banks will pay out in bonuses over the same time period in time.

Now, finally, the fourth component in improving our fiscal health is the bipartisan Fiscal Commission that I’ve established that will provide a specific set of solutions by the fall to deal with our medium- and long-term deficit.  And I have to warn you this will not be easy.  I know that some like to make the argument that if we would just eliminate pork barrel projects and foreign aid, we could eliminate our deficit.  Turns out such spending makes up just 3 percent of our deficit.  You combine all foreign aid and all earmarks — that’s 3 percent of our budget.  So meeting the deficit challenge will require some very difficult decisions about the largely popular programs that make up the other 97 percent.  It means we’ll have to sort through our priorities and figure out what programs that we can do without.

On this point, I strongly agree with my friends in the other party.  What I don’t agree with is the notion that we should also sacrifice critical investments in our people and our future.  You know, if you’re a family who’s tightening your belt, you will definitely sacrifice going out to dinner, but you’re not going to sacrifice saving for your child’s college education.  It’s precisely our investments in education and innovation that will make America more competitive in the 21st century.  And we can’t go back; we’ve got to move forward.  (Applause.)

That’s why I’ve made education reform a top priority — because countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.  And so we want every citizen to have the skills and training they need in a global economy — from the day that you’re born through whatever career you may choose.

Last year, we launched a national competition to improve our schools based on a simple idea:  Instead of funding the status quo, we will only invest in reform — reform that raises student achievement, that inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans.

And to achieve my goal of ensuring America once more has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, we passed a law that will make college more affordable by ending the unnecessary taxpayer subsidies that go to financial institutions for student loans.  That means we’re saving billions of dollars that will go directly to students, including students right here at Carnegie Mellon.  (Applause.)

It’s a bill that will also revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.

In addition to training our workers for the jobs of the future, we’re also investing in the innovation that will create those jobs here in America — the research, the technology, the infrastructure that will secure our economic future.

Right now, as we speak, the Recovery Act is putting Americans to work building a 21st century America.  There’s no reason China should have the fastest trains or that rural Pennsylvania should be without high-speed Internet access.  We’ve got to make those investments.  From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, this nation has always been built to compete.  So we’re going to invest, and are investing right now, in new infrastructure — expanding broadband, health information technology, advanced manufacturing facilities, America’s first high-speed rail network.  We’re also investing in the ideas and technologies that will lead to new jobs and entire new industries.

Consider what we’ve done with clean energy.  The tax credits and loan guarantees in the Recovery Act alone will lead to 720,000 clean energy jobs in America by 2012 — 720,000.  (Applause.)  I’ll give you one example.  The United States used to make less than 2 percent of the world’s advanced batteries for hybrid cars.  By 2015, because of the investments that we made, we’ll have enough capacity to make up to 40 percent of these batteries. 

Now, this brings me to an issue that’s on everybody’s minds right now — namely, what kind of energy future can ensure our long-term prosperity.  The catastrophe unfolding in the Gulf right now may prove to be a result of human error, or of corporations taking dangerous shortcuts to compromise safety, or a combination of both.  And I’ve launched a National Commission so that the American people will have answers on exactly what happened.  But we have to acknowledge that there are inherent risks to drilling four miles beneath the surface of the Earth, and these are risks — (applause) — these are risks that are bound to increase the harder oil extraction becomes.  We also have to acknowledge that an America run solely on fossil fuels should not be the vision we have for our children and our grandchildren.  (Applause.)

We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves.  So without a major change in our energy policy, our dependence on oil means that we will continue to send billions of dollars of our hard-earned wealth to other countries every month — including countries in dangerous and unstable regions.  In other words, our continued dependence on fossil fuels will jeopardize our national security.  It will smother our planet.  And it will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.

Now, I understand that we can’t end our dependence on fossil fuels overnight.  That’s why I supported a careful plan of offshore oil production as one part of our overall energy strategy.  But we can pursue such production only if it’s safe, and only if it’s used as a short-term solution while we transition to a clean energy economy.

And the time has come to aggressively accelerate that transition.  The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future.  (Applause.)  Now, that means continuing our unprecedented effort to make everything from our homes and businesses to our cars and trucks more energy-efficient.  It means tapping into our natural gas reserves, and moving ahead with our plan to expand our nation’s fleet of nuclear power plants.  It means rolling back billions of dollars of tax breaks to oil companies so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development. 

But the only way the transition to clean energy will ultimately succeed is if the private sector is fully invested in this future — if capital comes off the sidelines and the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs is unleashed.  And the only way to do that is by finally putting a price on carbon pollution.  

No, many businesses have already embraced this idea because it provides a level of certainty about the future.  And for those that face transition costs, we can help them adjust.  But if we refuse to take into account the full costs of our fossil fuel addiction — if we don’t factor in the environmental costs and the national security costs and the true economic costs — we will have missed our best chance to seize a clean energy future.

The House of Representatives has already passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill, and there is currently a plan in the Senate — a plan that was developed with ideas from Democrats and Republicans — that would achieve the same goal.  And, Pittsburgh, I want you to know, the votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months.  (Applause.)  I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can.  (Applause.)  I will work with anyone to get this done — and we will get it done.

The next generation will not be held hostage to energy sources from the last century.  We are not going to move backwards.  We are going to move forward.

This overarching principle — that we must invest in and embrace the innovation and technology of the future and not the past — that applies beyond our energy policy.  That’s why we’ve decided to devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development — to spur the discovery of services and products and businesses that we have yet to imagine.

We’ve proposed making the research and experimentation tax credit permanent — a tax credit that helps businesses afford the high costs of developing new technologies and new products.  Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history.

The possibilities of where this research might lead are endless.  Imagine a new treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched; regenerative medicine that ends the agonizing wait for an organ transplant.  Imagine a lightweight vest for soldiers and police officers that can stop armor-piercing bullets; educational software that’s as effective and engaging as a personal tutor; intelligent prosthetics that can enable a wounded veteran to play the piano again.  And now imagine all the workers and small business owners and consumers who would benefit from these discoveries.

We can’t know for certain what the future will bring.  We can’t guess with 100 percent accuracy what industries and innovations will next shape our world.  I’m sure there were times when this city couldn’t imagine life without steel mills and heavy smog that filled these streets.  And when that industry shrank and so many jobs were lost, who could have guessed that Pittsburgh would fare better than many other Rust Belt cities, and reemerge as a center for technology and green jobs, health care, and education?  Who would have thought that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s logo would one day adorn the U.S. Steel Tower, or that this institute — Carnegie Mellon — would be the region’s largest employer?

All of this came to be because as a community, you prepared and adapted and invested in a better future — even if you weren’t always sure what that future would look like.

And that’s what America does.  That’s what we’ve always done.  The interests of the status quo will always have the most vocal and powerful defenders at every level of government.  There will always be lobbyists for the banks or the insurance industry that doesn’t want more regulation; or the corporation that would prefer to see more tax breaks instead of more investments in infrastructure or education.  And let’s face it — a lot of us find the prospect of change scary, even when we know the status quo isn’t working for us.

But there’s no natural lobby for the clean energy company that may start a few years from now.  There’s no natural lobby for the research that may lead to a lifesaving medical breakthrough.  There’s no natural lobby for the student who may not be able to afford a college education, but if they got one could end up making discoveries that would transform America and the world.

It’s our job as a nation to advocate on behalf of the America that we hope for — to make decisions that will benefit the next generation — even if it’s not always popular; even if we can’t always see those benefits in the short-term.  We make decisions like this on behalf of our own children every single day.  And while it’s harder to do with an entire country as large and diverse as ours, it’s no less important.

The role of government has never been to plan every detail or dictate every outcome.  At its best, government has simply knocked away barriers to opportunity and laid the foundation for a better future.  Our people — with all their drive and ingenuity — always end up building the rest.  And if we can do that again — if we can continue building that foundation and making those hard decisions on behalf of the next generation — I have no doubt that we will leave our children the America that we all hope for.

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
2:04 P.M. EDT