Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama’s deficit speech: More than just numbers on a page

Prepared text.

WHAT THIS DEBATE IS MORE ABOUT THAN JUST: “This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page, more than just cutting and spending. It’s about the kind of future we want. It’s about the kind of country we believe in.”

FAITH: “From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity.” Unless you count the high protective tariffs and, you know, slavery.

RUGGED: HAVING A ROCKY AND UNEVEN SURFACE. “More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.” Actually, by definition, everyone is against too much government because it’s, you know, too much.

YOU JUST BLEW MY MIND: “But there has always been another thread running throughout our history - a belief that we are all connected”.

WHO THE TEA PARTY WOULD DENOUNCE AS A BIG-GOVERNMENT TRAITOR WHO WAS PROBABLY BORN IN KENYA RATHER THAN A LOG CABIN: “We believe, in the words of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln...”

BURNING ATLANTA? “...that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.”

He says we “would not be a great country” without Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and unemployment insurance.

THAT VALUES WHAT NOW? “As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally born a greater share of this burden than the middle class or those less fortunate.”

SPEAK FOR YOURSELF: “This is not because we begrudge those who’ve done well”.

AH, THE GOOD OLD DAYS: “But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed.”

WHAT SOME OF YOU MIGHT BE WONDERING: “Now, before I get into how we can achieve this goal, some of you might be wondering, ‘Why is this so important? Why does this matter to me?’”

AMERICANS HATE ABSTRACT THINGS: “You see, most Americans tend to dislike government spending in the abstract, but they like the stuff it buys.”

EAGER: “politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse -that tackling the deficit issue won’t require tough choices. Or they suggest that we can somehow close our entire deficit by eliminating things like foreign aid, even though foreign aid makes up about 1% of our entire budget.” Phew, that clears up that little misconception, I’m sure.

OH, A SERIOUS PLAN: “So any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget.”

He goes on to criticize “one vision” – for some reason he can’t bring himself to use Paul Ryan’s name. (By the way, I think much more attention should be paid to another Wisconsin congresscritter: Rep. Reid Ribble (R). I don’t know anything about him, I just want to hear his name on the news as often as possible: Reid Ribble Reid Ribble Reid Ribble Reid Ribble.)

He says it “would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known throughout most of our history. A 70% cut to clean energy. A 25% cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year.” Have we had “clean energy” and Pell Grants for most of our history? “These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America we believe in.”

RYAN’S A REAL DOWNER, MAN: “And they paint a vision of our future that’s deeply pessimistic.”

He’s nicely tough on Ryan: “ It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck - you’re on your own. ... This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves. Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. ... They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? ... The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. ... There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.”

BOY, WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO LIVE IN THE MYTHICAL AMERICA THAT HE “KNOWS?” “And this is not a vision of the America I know. The America I know is generous and compassionate”.

So he wants a “more balanced approach” and to preserve “core spending.” Oh, and to “win the future.” Phew, for a second there I thought he was going to propose losing the future.

He says he’ll find “additional savings” in the military budget. He doesn’t say what those might be.

And “to further reduce health care spending in our budget. Here, the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer: their plan lowers the government’s health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government’s health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.” More generic drugs, no “erroneous payments,” incentives to doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries, and “an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services seniors need.” DEATH PANEL! DEATH PANEL! DEATH PANEL!

He will refuse to renew again the tax cuts to the wealthy that he said he wouldn’t renew in the first place, before he renewed them.

He wants to limit itemized deductions for the wealthy.

He says his approach will cut $2 trillion in spending over 12 years, $1 trillion in interest payments (does that make sense?), and $1 trillion in tax reform (which he calls “reducing spending in the tax code,” just in case you thought he was calling for tax increases).

REALLY? ARE YOU SURE? “Of course, there will be those who disagree with my approach.”

DOES HE ACTUALLY KNOW ANY WEALTHY AMERICANS? “And I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to the country that’s done so much for them. Washington just hasn’t asked them to.” See, and you thought they were all greedy fuckwads, when in fact they were just sitting at home (well, mansion), waiting for an engraved invitation to give back to the country that’s done so much for them, because they’re just polite that way.

HE STILL BELIEVES IN THE BI-PARTISANSHIP FAIRY: “Of course, there are those who will simply say that there’s no way we can come together and agree on a solution to this challenge. They’ll say the politics of this city are just too broken.... But I also know that we’ve come together and met big challenges before. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill came together to blah blah blah... I believe we can and must come together again.”

HOW MANY ENDS DOES A SPECTRUM HAVE? “I don’t expect the details in any final agreement to look exactly like the approach I laid out today. I’m eager to hear other ideas from all ends of the political spectrum.”

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