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The State of the Union speech Obama would give in a more honest world

I pledge to veto any bill that increases the national debt unless it authorizes a bipartisan commission to recommend a plan to bring down the deficit through spending cuts and tax increases. I will do so even if it means shutting down the government until a commission is authorized.

Next week, I will send to Congress for its immediate consideration a health-care package that blends the best features of the House and Senate proposals while stripping out provisions meant to buy the support of individual legislators or special interests.

Given the urgency of global warming and the political difficulties of passing a complex cap-and-trade bill, I am asking Congress, as an interim step, to impose a modest carbon tax beginning in 2011 equal to 25 cents on a gallon of gasoline, rising to 50 cents in five years, with the revenue to be used to reduce payroll taxes. That will result in no net increases in federal taxes.

Tonight, I am instructing the secretary of the Treasury and other financial regulators to draw up a plan to implement as many of the financial reforms that I have proposed as possible, using the broad regulatory authority they have under existing law. The plan will take effect April 1 unless Congress acts on a broader regulatory reform bill.

I look forward to discussing these initiatives with you. I am open to reasonable and principled compromises. But there will be no more games, no more business as usual -- just straight talk and the hard work of governing. On one thing we should all be clear: The do-nothing option is not acceptable -- not to me, and more importantly not to the voters who sent us here.

Steven Pearlstein will host a Web discussion today at 11 a.m. at

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