Obama on the Record: News Conference on the Economy

And more broadly — I just want to follow up on Chip and Jake — you’ve been very critical of President Bush doubling the national debt. And to be fair, it’s not just Republicans hitting you — Democrat Kent Conrad, as you know, said, “When I look at this budget, I see the debt doubling again.” You keep saying that you’ve inherited a big fiscal mess. Do you worry, though, that your daughters — not to mention the next President — will be inheriting an even bigger fiscal mess if the spending goes out of control?

THE PRESIDENT: Of course I do, Ed, which is why we’re doing everything we can to reduce that deficit. Look, if this were easy, then we would have already had it done, and the budget would have been voted on and everybody could go home. This is hard. And the reason it’s hard is because we’ve accumulated a structural deficit that’s going to take a long time, and we’re not going to be able to do it next year or the year after or three years form now. What we have to do is bend the curve on these deficit projections. And the best way for us to do that is to reduce health care costs. That’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of almost every single person who has looked at our long-term fiscal situation.

Now, how do we — how are we going to reduce health care costs — because the problem is not just in government-run programs; the problem is in the private sector, as well. It’s experienced by families, it’s experienced by businesses. And so what we’ve said is, look, let’s invest in health information technologies; let’s invest in preventive care; let’s invest in mechanisms that look at who’s doing a better job controlling costs while producing good quality outcomes in various states, and let’s reimburse on the basis of improved quality, as opposed to simply how many procedures you’re doing. Let’s do a whole host of things, some of which cost money on the front end but offer the prospect of reducing costs on the back end.

Now, the alternative is to stand pat and to simply say we are just going to not invest in health care, we’re not going to take on energy; we’ll wait until the next time that gas gets to $4 a gallon; we will not improve our schools, and we’ll allow China or India or other countries to lap our young people in terms of their performance; we will settle on lower growth rates; and we will continue to contract, both as an economy and our ability to provide a better life for our kids.

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