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Robert Kuttner: Changing the Tone in Washington (the speech he wants Obama to give) [View All]

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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-03-11 10:06 PM
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Robert Kuttner: Changing the Tone in Washington (the speech he wants Obama to give)
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Robert Kuttner: Changing the Tone in Washington

My fellow Americans,


I ran for president to do two things -- to change the tone of bitter partisanship in Washington, and to accomplish constructive economic change so that more Americans can share the blessings of prosperity.

I need to speak candidly to you tonight. Despite my best efforts, I find that I cannot do both things. You see, it takes two to compromise.


It's understandable that many people who had high hopes in 2008 felt those hopes dashed in 2010. The president's party normally loses some seats in his first off-year election, especially in hard economic times, and these times have been more difficult than most.

Those of you who voted for the opposition had every right to do so. But the vast majority of Americans did not vote to slash public spending on children, university students, the elderly, the disabled, the sick, and people who are unemployed through no fault of their own. You did not vote to blame the recession on nurses, teachers, police and fire-fighters or to punish them for the sins of Wall Street.


This is the leader I thought I was voting for. Judging by his performance so far, I was wrong.


If President Obama gave a speech like that he'd be lambasted for enabling Republicans.

The President delievered a much better statement during a press conference in mid March:


Now, with respect to the budget, I think its important to understand that right now the discussion is about last years business. Were talking about how to fund the remainder of this fiscal year. This is an appropriations task. And we have been in very close contact with all members of Congress -- both parties. Ive had conversations with Mr. McConnell, Ive had conversations with Mr. Boehner, Ive had conversations with Nancy Pelosi, and Ive had conversations with Harry Reid about how they should approach this budget problem.

Heres what we know: The Republicans in the House passed a budget that has been now rejected in the Senate. They are not going to get 100 percent of what they want. The Democrats have put forward spending cuts, many of them pretty painful, that give Republicans already half of what they were seeking, because theyre the right thing to do. Many of those cuts are ones that were already embodied in the budget that I proposed for 2012. Now, thats been rejected as well.

So heres what we know -- that both sides are going to have to sit down and compromise on prudent cuts somewhere between what the Republicans were seeking thats now been rejected and what the Democrats had agreed to that has also been rejected. It shouldnt be that complicated. And so what Ive done is, every day I talk to my team, I give them instructions in terms of how they can participate in the negotiations, indicate whats acceptable, indicate whats not acceptable. And our expectation is, is that we should be able to get this completed.

Now, because I think neither Democrats or Republicans were in the mood to compromise until their 100-percent maximal position was voted down in the Senate, weve probably lost some time. And we may not be able to fully resolve this and meet next weeks deadline for the continuing resolution, which means that there may be potentially one more short-term extension.

But let me just make some broad points about this. Number one, we cant keep on running the government based on two-week extensions. Thats irresponsible. Weve got a war in Afghanistan going on. Weve got a wide range of issues facing the country on a day-to-day basis. And the notion that we cant get resolved last years budget in a sensible way with serious but prudent spending cuts I think defies common sense. So we should be able to get it done.

Point number two. There are going to be certain things that House Republicans want that I will not accept. And the reason I wont accept them is not because I dont think weve got to cut the budget; we do. And weve already put forward significant cuts in the discretionary budget, some of which have not made members of my own party happy.

But the notion that we would cut, for example, Pell Grants, when we know the single most important thing to our success as a nation long term is how well-educated our kids are, and the proposal that was coming out of the House would cut this year about $800 out of Pell Grants for 8 million kids, and if were extended into next year would cut in half the Pell Grants that theyre receiving -- that makes no sense. The notion that we would decide that, under the Republican budget proposal, to eliminate 200,000 Head Start slots that also would mean the layoffs of 55,000 teachers -- that doesnt make sense.

The principle that Ive tried to put forward since the State of the Union is weve got to live within our means, weve got to get serious about managing our budget, but we cant stop investing in our people. We cant stop investing in research and development. We cant stop investing in infrastructure -- those things that are going to make us competitive over the long term and will help us win the future.

And so Ive communicated directly to Speaker Boehner as well as to Republican Leader McConnell that we want to work with them to get to a sustainable discretionary budget. And we think it is important for us to stop funding programs that dont work. But were going to make sure that we hold the line when it comes to some critical programs that are either going to help us out-educate, out-innovate, or out-build other countries.

Last point Ill make on the budget. The Republican budget that passed out of the House included a whole range of what are called riders. These arent really budget items. These are political statements. And I want -- Ive said, again, directly to Speaker Boehner that were happy to discuss any of these riders, but my general view is, lets not try to sneak political agendas into a budget debate. If Republicans are interested in social issues that they want to promote, they should put a bill on the floor of the House and promote it, have an up or down vote, send it over to the Senate. But dont try to use the budget as a way to promote a political or ideological agenda.

I think thats the American peoples view as well. I think one of the messages that the American people have clearly sent is get serious about living within our means and managing our budget in a responsible way, and stop with the political bickering. And if we have that view in mind, then I think that not only can we get this short-term issue resolved, but I think we can actually solve the long-term budget issues as well.


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