Biden on the Record: Progressive Governance Conference

But this component of our economic plan seems to fly in the face of what some of our friends internationally, and at home, can’t understand. It, in the near term, also further raises the deficit. And our budget is over $3.7 trillion. And the budget has three goals. One is to set aside the needed funds to meet the current challenge we face, begin to make the long-term investments critical to our economic future, and ramp down the currently elevated spending levels to get to a sustainable fiscal path.

The major lesson from the Great Depression, in our view, is that forbearance is not an option. That’s what Herbert Hoover did for a couple years, and Franklin Roosevelt inherited the Depression and he started to change it. It’s not just a question of having a social safety net to save people from falling; we want to lay a foundation for a new economy so that prosperity can be broadly shared and we can build a platform and not just a safety net.

I would respectfully suggest that with the advent of the social welfare state after World War II, which made sense and was necessary, we find out that a safety net that relies upon the largess of the wealthy and wealthy nations in not the best bet always to make. It’s not always available. We’d like to go beyond that and actually begin to change access to wealth formation for all people.

We want to reform our health care system, reducing costs and increasing coverage, and we invest in the budget of $600 billion in health care over the next decade to do that.

Now, we have a meeting of the minds, believe it or not, we’re no longer engaged in the polemic argument at home that we went through — and most of you settled years ago — about whether or not health care is a right or a privilege, and all of that. American businesses figured out they’re at a serious competitive disadvantage without a rational health care system.

We also realized that there’s no way to gain control of our out-budget years and our deficit without controlling the cost of health care. Health care costs went up 54 percent in the last eight years and wages increased 3 percent. It is an unsustainable position purely from a budgetary point. So we believe we’re generating some consensus.

We also want to make our country energy-sufficient [sic] while creating sustainable clean energy for the 21st century. As President Obama has said, the country that harnesses the power of sustainable renewable energy is going to lead the 21st century. And like all of you, we want to enter the competition to do that, to lead. By investing in development of clean, renewable energy, the President’s budget is going to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, create millions of good-paying jobs in the private sector in a new green economy. And at the same time, we hope and believe that we will begin finally to meet the threat of climate change.

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