Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama Affirms Our Vision Of America And Lays Down Markers

President Obama delivered a speech on April 13, 2011 that not only laid out is plan for dealing with long term fiscal issues but showed how his proposals reflect the shared vision we have of our nation. The speech was not only great on substance it was fantastic on its message. It also laid out the contrast the between the Democratic vision of a prosperous, compassionate and growing America with the Republican down cast view of a country in decline with a middle class sacrificing to enrich billionaires.

There are many memorable passages. Here are a few of mine. Probably the one that will sting the Republicans the most is this one,

Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes? 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? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.

That was but one of many statements on both taxes and health care that drew sharp difference. In talking about the Republican plan to give the wealthy tax cuts financed by taking money away from seniors, he said what needs to be said. The Republicans want to end Medicare as we know it.
It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that ten years from now, if you’re a 65 year old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. 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. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

No more of this silly "reform Medicare" language that some in the media spout. It ends the Medicare we have known for almost fifty years.

Here are a few more key passages on Medicare and Medicaid. This passage sums up the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats want to control how much health care costs, and make sure seniors get it without increasing their out of pocket expenses. Republicans don't care how costs go up, they just want to shift those costs from the government to seniors.

The third step in our approach is 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.

His commitment could not be clearer. This is a line in the sand. Republovouchercare and Medicaid block grants are dead.

But let me be absolutely clear: I will preserve these health care programs as a promise we make to each other in this society. I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves. We will reform these programs, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations.

He set up the tax discussion with a reminder of how we got here and a restatement of his commitment to end the cuts for the wealthy.

In December, I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. And I refuse to renew them again.

He also opened up a new avenue for making billionaires pay their fair share. I hope he really presses this one.

Beyond that, the tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions. And while I agree with the goals of many of these deductions, like homeownership or charitable giving, we cannot ignore the fact that they provide millionaires an average tax break of $75,000 while doing nothing for the typical middle-class family that doesn’t itemize.

Here he took a well needed swipe at those who praised Paul Ryan's so-called courage
The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. As Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. 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. And this is not a vision of the America I know.

These last two paragraphs summarize his vision of America, a vision that on can dare say is shared by the vast majority of the people.

I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. I don’t need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn’t need another tax cut. Not if we have to pay for it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. Or by cutting kids from Head Start. Or by taking away college scholarships that I wouldn’t be here without. That some of you wouldn’t be here without. 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.

. . . . . . .

Part of this American belief that we are all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. “There but for the grace of God go I,” we say to ourselves, and so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, and those with disabilities. We are a better country because of these commitments. I’ll go further – we would not be a great country without those commitments.

This was a fantastic statement of the American vision we all thought most of us shared. He has laid it out and made clear not only where he wants to lead us, but also where he will refuse to allow us to be dragged. The battles will be many, but the playing field is clear.

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