was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship in 1996, and last year he received both the John W. Gardner Award for independence — from Independent Sector and Heinz Award for Public Policy in recognition of his work to improve the economic outlook for many Americans — of many of America’s poorer citizens.
And as I understand it, we’re going to — I’m now turning the program over to Mark, if I’m not mistaken. Mark, welcome. (Applause.)
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President Barack Obama: Thank you, everybody. Please, have a seat. Thank you very much. Thank you to Mark and Bob and to Peter. It is wonderful to see the Speaker here. And we’ve got our — I don’t see Harry here, but we’ve got Dick Durbin in his stead. Mitch, thank you for being here. John Boehner, to all the congressional leadership, thank you.
My administration came into office one month ago in the depths of an economic crisis unlike any that we’ve seen in generations. And we recognized that we needed to act boldly, decisively and quickly — and that is precisely what we did.
Within our first 30 days in office, we passed the most sweeping economic recovery package in history to create or save 3.5 million new jobs, provide relief to struggling families, and lay the foundation for long-term growth and prosperity. And I had an opportunity to talk to the nation’s governors today — both Republicans and Democrats have ideas about how they are going to use that money to make sure that people are put back to work and that we can stem some of the job loss that’s taking place.
I also laid out my housing plan to break the cycle of falling home values and rising foreclosures that has devastated so many communities. And we put forth a Financial Stability Plan to start shoring up our banks, so we can free up credit and jumpstart lending and restore confidence in our financial system.
These are all extraordinary — but necessary — measures to address this economic emergency, and as has already been noted, they will come at a cost. This administration has inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit — the largest in our nation’s history — and our investments to rescue our economy will add to that deficit in the short term. We also have long-term challenges — health care, energy, education and others — that we can no longer afford to ignore.
But I want to be very clear, if the message was not effectively delivered by the three previous speakers: We cannot, and will not, sustain deficits like these without end. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Washington these past few years, we cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation.
We are paying the price for these deficits right now. In 2008 alone, we paid $250 billion in interest on our debt — one in every 10 taxpayer dollars. That is more than three times what we spent on education that year; more than seven times what we spent on VA health care.