On Labor Day, many Americans will be thinking about jobs, and steaming about the economy even while they fire up the barbecue. Here's the speech I wish President Obama would give, to restore the faith of Democrats and independents, and to let the majority of Americans -- who haven't gone "birther" and don't want to "tea party their country back," that he feels their pain. Obama should defend what he and the Democrats have done in the last 19 months, and he should give the country a clear, straightforward message about where we've been, and where he intends to take us. It sure couldn't hurt.
REMARKS BY FICTIONAL PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
September 6, 2010
As prepared for delivery --
My fellow Americans,
Today, as we celebrate the people who get up first in the morning, go to bed last at night, and who are the backbone of American economic strength and power – America's great, hard working employees, we are still a troubled, anxious nation. The economy has improved, but not enough. Jobs are coming back, but not fast enough. And we stand on the brink of another crucial election, causing many to put aside what’s best for the country, and think instead what will help their party win in November.
Well on this Labor Day, I want to speak specifically to the people who have expressed, in polls, and in the letters I read every day, their disappointment that in the past 19 months, change has not been change they feel they can believe in.
People all over this country are expressing their anxiety – even anger – at the direction we’re headed. They feel that the pace of the economic recovery has been too slow, or that we’ve been too focused on things that don’t matter to their everyday lives.
We spent a year on healthcare. In fact, we spent a year allowing some who opposed reform, to drag us into a quagmire – a false fight over healthcare by people who never intended to improve what we were doing, but rather, intended only to kill it, because that’s what the big insurance companies wanted.
In the end, we won an historic reform. But the process made many of you doubt the outcome. Made you cynical about whether it was all worth it.
Understand that our victory on healthcare, providing coverage to a record number of people who didn’t have it before, including young people, was not perfect. It was not everything that I wanted, or that you wanted. It has flaws. We can fix those flaws, but I want you to know a few things as we move forward together.
First, I want you to know that I get it.
I recognize that the year we spent on healthcare felt like a wasted year to you. I understand that you watched the process on Capitol Hill, and the town hall takeovers and the demagoguery about “death panels” and other lies, and figured Washington just doesn’t work. Obama just doesn’t get it. We need the economy to be fixed and we need jobs, and they’re up there fighting about healthcare.
I get that you think we gambled away some important, bedrock principals that you and I share, like the belief that if we were going to mandate that everyone have healthcare, we should also offer a public option.
I get that you think we gave too much to the Republicans, and got nothing in return.
And I get that you think that we took too long, and took our eye off the ball, which is the economy and jobs.
But I also want you to understand this:
House and Senate Democratic and I fought so hard on healthcare for one reason, and one reason only: because healthcare costs are the biggest weight dragging this economy down. Healthcare costs make up nearly 18 percent of our gross domestic product. That means for every dollar we spend as a country, 18 cents goes to healthcare. By 2018, that will rise to 20 cents. That’s more than any other country. And it will keep going up from there. Had we done nothing, healthcare spending in this country would have jumped from $2.5 trillion in 2009, to $4.5 trillion by 2019, money this country simply can’t afford to spend, especially since we get less healthcare for our money than nearly every other industrialized country.
We took on the insurance industry lobbyists and their well-funded front groups because spending on healthcare threatens to further weaken our economy and kill jobs.
Just look at the auto industry, where healthcare costs were crushing the big three American automakers. Think about your own state and local governments, which are buckling under the weight of pension costs, with the biggest issue being retiree health benefits.
We had to tackle healthcare, not because it was some pet project of mine, but because it was the first step in bringing our economy back.
Second, while our opponents claim that healthcare reform was about a “government takeover,” or about “socialism,” or about “cutting Medicare, let me explain in very simple terms what we did.
We passed a law that says people no longer have the right to get their healthcare at the emergency room and then pass those high costs on to you.
We passed a law that says insurance companies can’t take your money and then drop you when you get sick.
And the law we passed says the government will no longer pay private insurance companies to do something they can do with their own money – namely, provide extra services alongside Medicare. If insurance companies want to supplement Medicare, they can do so on their own, without government subsidies. That’s what the healthcare law does.
Finally, we closed the donut hole, so that seniors can afford their prescription drugs, instead of hitting a gap, where they have to take money out of their pockets to pay for live-saving prescriptions that are supposed to be covered by Medicare Part D. This summer, millions of seniors will receive a rebate check to pay them back for the money the previous law forced them to spend.
All of those things will make our economy stronger, will give Americans peace of mind about their healthcare, and will help business, and state and local governments afford to provide healthcare to our teachers, firefighters and police.
Next, I want to say in very clear terms: I also get that the number one thing you care about is the economy.
It’s the thing I wake up in the morning thinking about, and the thing I go to bed thinking about.
When I came into office, we had to take drastic measures to keep this country from going into another Great Depression.
The previous administration had instituted the TARP program to bail out the banks. But we had to administer it.
We had to save the American auto industry, because I refuse to hand an industry that started right here in America, over to foreign competitors, when we can and do build better cars right here in our country. We did save the industry, kept millions of people on the job, and kept America in the lead in a vital industrial sector. Now, all three American car companies are profitable, and millions of jobs at auto plants, and with parts suppliers, were saved.
It’s not enough, but it was a very important start.
Second, I haven’t done the job I should have done in explaining the stimulus bill, so let me break it down to three very simple things.
First, the bill was one third tax cuts, and 95 percent of Americans, meaning those who aren’t millionaires, will see that in a lower tax bill this year.
Second, if you know a teacher, a fireman or a policeman, chances are their job was saved because we passed the stimulus bill.
Third, we’re funding infrastructure projects – rebuilding our roads and bridges. If you see highway construction on your local roads, that too is the stimulus bill at work. Republicans are happy to try and take credit for the projects, and pose for pictures next to the cranes and heavy machinery, but not a single one of them voted for this job-saving bill.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has made it clear, and every credible economist agrees: without the stimulus bill, we would right now, still be in a deep recession, and the unemployment rate would be up to 1.8 percent higher.
Did we think unemployment would be lower by now? Absolutely. But we also couldn’t have anticipated that after my election, the economy would continue to bleed 750,000 jobs a month right through my inauguration.
My fellow Americans, know that my administration, and my Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill are throwing everything we have at fixing this economy. And my team and the Democrats who represent you in Congress, will continue to introduce bills that will help accelerate this recovery.
This month, we plan to offer tax cuts for small business to hire American workers, and we’ll see if our Republican colleagues will help us pass that bill.
We plan to offer tax breaks for businesses who expand into green technologies, and we’ll see if we get any support from our Republican friends.
Republicans like to pretend that they have been powerless in Washington over the last two years. But they have enough members in the Senate to stop any bill with a filibuster, and they have used it time and time again, even to block unemployment benefits for middle class parents who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads while they look for another job. Our Republican colleagues have been relentless, using arcane Senate rules to block nearly every attempt we’ve made to keep this economy growing.
If you want to know why Washington doesn’t seem to work, it’s because partisanship and politics, “taking back the House and Senate” – has taken the place of leadership on Capitol Hill.
I’m not in the business of questioning anybody’s motives, but you’ve got to wonder why anyone would try and block help for middle class Americans who are unemployed, why anyone would talk about handing Social Security over to Wall Street after what we saw happen to this economy in 2008; or why anyone would want to hand Medicare over to the same private insurance companies who needed a law to make them stop dropping people who have paid their premiums, when they get sick.
In fact, I don’t care why it’s being done. I just know that we’re not going to let the cynics succeed.
We’re going to protect our seniors, protect Social Security from the same predatory scams that took down our housing market, we’re going to keep Medicare out of the hands of the insurance companies, and we’re going to stand up for middle class Americans who don’t want a handout, but do want a little help until they can find a good-paying job.
We’re going to defend what we did to stop the federal government from paying banks to do what they’re supposed to be doing anyway: providing student loans. If they have to be paid a government subsidy to do it, maybe the government should just eliminate the middle man, and help our young people get to college without subsidizing banks. And that’s what we did.
We're going to defend our reforms of Wall Street, and we're going to push the banks who gladly took our money when they were in trouble, to start lending some of that money out to small businesses, and to start working with homeowners to help keep people in their homes.
We’re going to defend tax cuts for the middle class, and stand against permanently extending the Bush tax cuts for the very rich.
We're going to fight unfair trade practices that keep American goods out of countries who ship their products here, and we're going to push to open up new markets for American-made products and innovations, including making America the number one manufacturer of green technologies like advanced batteries and the tools to produce solar and wind energy.'
We're going to continue to push for education reform, so that America will once again be the best educated, best prepared nation on earth. And we will do so in a way that respects the profound responsibility and incredible professionalism of our teachers.
We will defend the gains we made on healthcare reform, and we’re going to continue to improve the bill, so that it meets your high expectations, and our shared goals.
We’re going to take a stand for American values against bashing immigrants, who contribute every day to the vitality of this nation; against intolerance and hatred of people of the Muslim faith, who are part of the fabric of this country too, including serving in our military, and who were among those who died on 9/11; and will stand against the divisiveness of cynics who would rather win an election than bring this country together.
And we will conclude the war in Afghanistan in the same responsible way that we have ended combat operations in Iraq, with success in our mission, respect for our troops, and a warning to our enemies never to doubt our resolve.
Lastly, I want you to know that I understand that change hasn’t come fast enough in other areas having to do with who we are as a people.
From environmental legislation, which has passed the House but still languishes in the Senate under Republican filibusters; to marriage equality to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, change has been slower than many of you hoped. But know that I am with you, and with this country’s historic march toward freedom and equality; whether it’s freedom of religion, freedom to serve, or freedom to marry. None of our freedoms was ever won easily. It took 15 years to desegregate the military, even after Truman’s historic executive order; and 219 years for an African-American to become president.
Change is much more complex from this side of the campaign trail, and I am sobered by that reality as president.
And yet, I am a firm believer that change will come, must come, and can only come if we keep pushing back against the forces of cynicism and stagnation, together. And if you keep pushing me.
I will see these things done. I will see these changes made. Don’t give up on this president just yet.
Our opponents want you to be cynical. They want you to be angry. They want you to give up. They are betting against the resilience and strength and unity of the American people for one reason: to win an election. But this country is bigger than that. We’re better than that.
You need to know that as president of the United States, I will work every day, every hour, and do everything in my power to bring this economy back, to reunite us as a people, and to keep America the strongest, most prosperous, and greatest nation on earth.
We can do this. We ARE doing this. It’s going to take time, and I know you’re impatient, but stay with me. Let’s keep building, and let’s keep moving forward.
Thank you, and may God bless the United States of America.
Cross-posted at The Reid Report