Slams GOP for a “vision of our future that’s deeply pessimistic.”
President Obama promised today to trim the federal deficit by $4 trillion over a dozen years through new spending cuts, tax hikes and tax reform. But one thing he said he wouldn’t do is stop investing in clean energy.
Obama gave his big deficit reduction speech today (text “as prepared for delivery” here). One of his harshest economic critics, Nobelist Paul Krugman, liked the style — and on substance said it was “Much better than many of us feared.”
On energy it was pretty good too. As E&E News (subs. req’d) reports:
But the president said that unlike the Republican budget that was unveiled this week, his plan will trim $4 trillion from the deficit while also protecting crucial recovery and investments that the country needs.
“The way [the Republican] plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known certainly in my lifetime,” Obama said. “A 70 percent cut to clean energy. A 25 percent cut in education. A 30 percent cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That’s their proposal. … They paint a vision of our future that’s deeply pessimistic.”
And he said those cuts will leave the United States woefully behind in a world where countries like China are developing new solar energy facilities and Brazil is making new strides in biofuel development.
The GOP plan “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,” he said.
Obama’s comments on clean energy investments were exactly what Daniel Weiss, a senior fellow and director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, was looking for in the president’s address.
“Today’s speech is about contrasting visions,” Weiss said. The Republican plan “is tax breaks and subsidies for Big Oil and cutting investment in clean tech, thereby cutting growth and jobs. President Obama’s vision is the opposite.”
The President was blunter than usual in drawing a distinction between his vision and the Republican’s. If he sticks to his guns — a big IF, I know — this could be a (modest) turning point in his Presidency. Krugman ended up with this observation:
I should probably say, I could live with this as an end result. If this becomes the left pole, and the center is halfway between this and Ryan, then no “” better to pursue the zero option of just doing nothing and letting the Bush tax cuts as a whole expire.
Joan Walsh at Salon praised the speech for laying out a real narrative, in her piece, “That’s what it means to be a Democrat; The president laid out a vision of optimism and equal opportunity that made Paul Ryan and the GOP look small”:
Obama acknowledged our American history as “rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.” But he quickly identified “another thread running throughout our history”:
A belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. We believe, in the words of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves. And so we’ve built a strong military to keep us secure, and public schools and universities to educate our citizens. We’ve laid down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce. We’ve supported the work of scientists and researchers whose discoveries have saved lives, unleashed repeated technological revolutions, and led to countless new jobs and entire industries. Each of us has benefited from these investments, and we are a more prosperous country as a result.
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.
So far, so good. It got even better when Obama took direct aim at Paul Ryan’s cruel and ludicrous budget plan. He laid out its many cuts, and concluded:
These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America we believe in. And they paint a vision of our future that’s deeply pessimistic. It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can’t afford to send them. Go to China and you’ll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the United States of America – the greatest nation on Earth – can’t afford any of this.
Then he attacked the Gilded Age social inequality and tax cuts that have helped create our troubles:
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.
Indulge me here, because this is how Democrats should be talking, and rarely do:
The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share. We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI bill and saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.
This is who we are. This is the America I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.
That’s the president I voted for.