Q&A: Fiscal Summit

continuing to reach out to the minority?  And I think the answer lies in part — a couple weeks ago the minister in our church gave a sermon that was based on the parable of the sower, the sower of the seeds.  As you may recall, some of the seeds were sown in stony ground and rough ground, and some of the seeds were sown in places that had thorns, some of the seeds were sown in the — in shallow soil, and nothing much came out of it.  But some of the seeds were sown in fertile soil, and multiplied tons in fold.

I urge you to continue to reach out not just to Democrats in the House and Senate, but to continue to reach out to Republicans in both chambers, as well, because some of that will fall in fertile soil.  And when it does, the minority has a responsibility —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I will certainly do that, Tom, because I’m just a glutton for punishment.  (Laughter.)  I’m going to keep on talking to Eric Cantor.  Some day, sooner or later, he is going to say, boy, Obama had a good idea.  (Laughter.)  It’s going to happen.  You watch, you watch.  (Laughter.)

Well, look, just in closing, again, the sooner everybody can respond to our report coming out of each of these groups, the sooner then we can circulate a summary of everything that happened, and then start speaking with you individually and in groups about moving the process forward.

One last point I want to make, just because I think that from the press perspective, there — I was reading some of the newspapers today and there was this sense of — that maybe we were doing a pivot because we had just moved forward on the recovery package, now we’re talking about fiscal responsibility; how did those two things match up?

I just want to be very clear about this.  I’ve said it to the governors this morning and I’ve said it to my staff in the past:  We chose to move forward on a recovery package because there was a strong sense among the vast majority of economists that if we did not try to fill a $1 trillion-a-year hole in demand, because of the drastic pulling back of businesses and consumers, that the recession would get worse, unemployment would increase, and as a consequence, tax revenues would go down, and the long-term deficit and debt projections would be even higher.  That was the basis for the decision.

It was not ideologically driven.  I have no interest in making government bigger for the sake of it.  I’ve got more than enough on my plate, as Lindsey knows, between Afghanistan and Iraq and issues of terrorism, that if the private sector was just humming along and we could just make government more efficient and not have to worry about this financial crisis, I would love that.  But that’s not the circumstance we find ourselves in.  So I made the best judgment about the need

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