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Rev. Jesse Jackson Comments on President Obama's State of the Union Address

January 28, 2010

LOS ANGELES (January 28, 2010)--A year ago, we basked in the high noon of our politics, with renewed hope and vision for a new America and world. We embraced a new spirit, and a hope for change.

But storm clouds were brewing all around, as President Obama inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an unwinnable and costly war in Iraq, and the decline of America’s integrity and diplomatic leadership in the world. In one year, the Obama administration brought our economy back from the brink of disaster, engineering a necessary but costly bail out of the global economy. He embarked on an ambitious stimulus plan to save and create jobs, stave off the devastating home foreclosure crisis, provide new hope for our college youth, open up lending to small businesses, and implement comprehensive health care for all Americans.

Not one day has gone by without the roar of conservative resistance, the most mean-spirited in many years. They have been intent on undermining the progressive agenda with cynicism, fear and division.

Wall Street has been unwilling to restructure. After receiving hundreds of billions in taxpayer bail out funds, they have rebuilt and reorganized; they’ve rebranded and restored; and now they have re-emerged with record-breaking profits and billions of dollars in executive bonuses. But they have not – and were not required to - fundamentally restructure. In 2010, we must demand real, fundamental financial reform, and hold the banks and Wall Street accountable.

The President’s address sought to reset the moral compass of American, and recapture the spirit and hope that brought him into the Presidency. He sought to revitalize hope and desire for a new America and new world. He implored us to never give in, never give up. We, the people, must answer the call – it’s time to educate, act, and organize for Change.

It’s time to put a laser focus on jobs, foreclosure prevention, and elimination of student loan debt for our future. Years ago, the line, “It’s the economy, stupid” was coined. Today, with 7 ½ million jobs lost since the recession began, with real unemployment at almost 20%, with 3 million homes in danger of foreclosure, ”Jobs must be our #1 focus for 2010,” the President declared, insisting that Congress deliver a new jobs bill immediately.

It’s time to step up home foreclosure prevention, and implement provisions to reduce principal on mortgages and bankruptcy reform to empower judges to modify mortgages in bankruptcy court. As one official reported earlier, “The Hope for Homeowners program is unique in that it involves equity write downs, principal balance reductions to help the underwater borrower.” We must demand a moratorium on foreclosures until this, and other measures, are put in place to stare down the risk of foreclosure facing as many as 10 million families whose homes are “underwater”.

The President clearly articulated his vision to make America a world leader in the clean energy economy. He placed emphasis on community banks to spur lending to small businesses and called for a national export initiative to double exports, both steps in the right direction. He expressed his commitment to provide a world-class education for our children, “the best anti-poverty around,” and reiterated his emphasis on a strong community college system. To relieve the burden of the high cost of college education, he called for a tax credit for four-year college education and increased Pell Grants; most welcome was the proposal that students spend just 10% of their post-graduation income on student loan repayment. He spoke passionately about tackling the HIV-AIDS crisis, ending the ban on gays in the military, and restoring America’s prestige in the global community.

To achieve real change, we need more than incremental steps. We need a bold, “big idea”, Roosevelt vision. A Stimulus II that waters the roots at the bottom, not just the leaves at the top. We need direct investment and creation of jobs, perhaps a WPA-like program. It is inexcusable that 3 million Americans face foreclosure and 10 million are under water, yet our banks have done just 30,000 permanent loan modifications. We need a comprehensive, systematic plan – including bankruptcy reform and reducing the principal on loan values – to restructure loans and not foreclose on homes.

Critically, the President stated emphatically that he will not back down from the goal of comprehensive health care insurance reform that insures the uninsured and makes health care affordable.

But we must fight for this progressive change. The President cannot do it on his own and Congress won’t. There is no time to waste. It’s time to organize. This is no time to quit. It’s time to act. It’s time to go forward by hope not backward by fear. We, the people, will not succumb to tea parties and courts giving unlimited political power to corporations. It’s no time to sit idly by while more people lose their jobs, homes, and health insurance, and young people are forced to drop out of school. It’s time that we stand up and make our voice heard and felt. It’s time to get to work!

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. For more information about the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, please visit www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 373-3366.

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