Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama Assures Nation: ‘We Will Rebuild’

Nancy Pelosi looked almost giddy. The Republicans looked largely sullen and glum. There was scant evidence of bipartisanship here as Obama laid out his plan to rebuild the US from the disaster of the recent financial collapse.

Indeed, the only time the Republicans appeared happy was when Obama stated that he would not pass the deficit on to the next generation, although they were instantly put back in their places when he reminded them of, "this deficit which we have inherited".

They say that some speeches define an era, well this one appeared to declare than an era had officially drawn to a close. The era of Reaganism is well and truly over and Barack Obama last night stood over it's corpse and declared there was a new way forward.

Gone is the Republican notion that the more one gives to the rich the better it is for the whole of society, as wealth will eventually trickle down to the benefit of all. Indeed, he promised to roll back the tax cuts of the Bush years to make those who earn over $250,000 a year once more pay their way whilst promising tax cuts for the other 95% of Americans. And he appeared to reject the entire philosophy which has guided Republicanism for the past thirty years.

We have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jump start job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

Suddenly, the government has an active role again in creating jobs and jump starting the economy, and the emphasis has moved away from an obsession with "small government" to asking what the government needs to do that people can't do on their own.

And, underneath it all, there was an overwhelming feeling of optimism and the belief that, out of crisis, comes great opportunity.
While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

"The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.
He promised to make banks more accountable for any bailouts they receive whilst acknowledging the anger that the bailouts had generated.

I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions. But such an approach won’t solve the problem. And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

However, he asked that people look beyond those concerns and see the bigger picture.
But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job – our job – is to solve the problem. It’s not about helping banks – it’s about helping people.
He promised that, "Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover." And the way to do that he declared was an end to the deregulation which has defined Republicanism since the Reagan era:
I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.
And he argued that, after the civil war and the Second World War the "government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise". It really was as profound a reversal of Reagan's arguments as one could ever hope to hear. Here, Obama was placing the government at the forefront of the recovery rather than repeating the Reagan mantra that the government must get out of the way.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

He vowed to revamp the auto industry and to address "the crushing cost of health care". He wants to wean the nation away from dependence on foreign oil and towards renewable energy sources. And he promised that the government would help make the education system work better, but he also laid a challenge - and a responsibility - on to the shoulders of the students themselves.
And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American.
It was nothing if not ambitious. It was also authoritative and bold. I was reminded of the people who used to come here when Obama was challenging Clinton and claim that he was "just talk", that he had "no policies", and that his appeal depended on, "just words".

I am sure even they must have realised how wrong they were tonight. Obama has just set a more progressive agenda than I have ever heard from any American president in decades. And, in doing so, he has reversed every truth which the Republicans hold dear.

I thought he was, quite simply, outstanding.

Click title for transcript.


Steel Phoenix said...

"Nancy Pelosi looked almost giddy."
Really? She just looked really surprised to me. Then again, she always looks really surprised to me. Must be a combination of too many facelifts, botox, and shaving off her eyebrows and painting them on higher.

Were we watching the same speech? I didn't see much of real interest there. I don't have much criticism of it, it was a decent campaign pitch, but too short on specifics to be more than wind. I did get the impression that we will be seeing a sudden strong push for health care reform, which has had enough support that it may have a chance now that there is no Republican veto. I'm just afraid it will be Hillarycare lite, which is about the only system that could be worse than what we have now.

Ingrid said...

off topic Kel, I've been busy with 'sickness' (hoozah) and trying to figure out how to set up an actual paid blog account (need to reconfigure stuff, will keep you posted).. topic you twitter?
I respect your desire for privacy but I was just me if you would/could..


Kel said...

Were we watching the same speech? I didn't see much of real interest there.

SP, I am staggered. I saw a brutal condemnation of Reaganism. I saw a Democrat lay out a truly progressive agenda, unlike the Clinton "third way", which is really just a softer version of the Republican agenda.

Obama was saying that the truths the Republicans have held since the days of Reagan are wrong.

Ingrid, I don't twitter. That's the thing where you have to make your point in a limited amount of words isn't it?

Steel Phoenix said...

Yeah, sure, but did he tell us anything he hadn't already said months ago? Was there reason for those of use who have been watching to have tuned in? Anything specific that he proposed? He was speaking to congress, not accepting the Democratic nomination.

Kel said...

I wasn't bothered about whether he had stated it months ago or not, as often what one states on the campaign trail vanishes the second one comes to office.

I was impressed by the fact that he was making this argument to Congress.

And yes, it was short on detail, especially as regarding foreign policy, but he was repeating the main tenets that he intends to use to govern. And they are the complete opposite of the tenets which have guided the US for the past thirty years.

That impressed me hugely.