Obama on the Record: Job Creation and Economic Growth

Full text of the president's address at the Brookings Institute, as prepared for delivery

The fact is, we have refused to go along with business as usual; we’re taking responsibility for every dollar we spend. We’ve done what some said was impossible: preventing wasteful spending on outdated weapons systems that even the Pentagon said it didn’t want. We’ve combed the budget, cutting waste and excess wherever we could. I’m still committed to halving the deficit we inherited by the end of my first term. And I made clear from day one that I would not sign a health insurance reform bill if it raised the deficit by one dime – and neither the House nor Senate bill does. We have begun to not only change policies but also to change the culture in Washington.

In the end, the economic crisis of the past year was not just the result of weaknesses in our economy. It was also the result of weaknesses in our political system. For decades, too many in Washington put off hard decisions. For decades, we’ve watched as efforts to solve tough problems have fallen prey to the bitterness of partisanship, to the prosaic concerns of politics, to ever-quickening news cycles, and to endless campaigns focused on scoring points instead of meeting our common challenges.

We have seen the consequences of this failure of responsibility. The American people have paid a heavy price. And the question we’ll have to answer now is if we are going to learn from our past, or if – even in the aftermath of disaster – we are going to repeat it. As the alarm bells fade, and the din of Washington rises, as the forces of the status quo marshal their resources, we can be sure that answering this question will be a fight to the finish. But I have every hope and expectation that we can rise to this moment, that we can transcend the failures of the past, that we can once again take responsibility for our future.

Almost every night, I read letters and emails sent to me from folks across America – people who share their hopes and their hardships, their faith in this country and their frustrations with what’s happened in this economy. I hear from small business owners worried about making payroll and keeping their doors open. I hear from mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who have seen one or two or more family members out of work. The toughest letters are in children’s handwriting: kids who can’t just be kids because they’re worried after mom had her hours cut or dad lost his job and with it the family’s health insurance. These folks aren’t looking for a hand out. They’re not looking for a bail out. They’re hoping for a chance to make their own way, to work, to succeed using their talents and skills. All they’re looking for from Washington is a seriousness of purpose that matches the reality of their struggle.

Everywhere I’ve gone, every stop I’ve made, there are people like this, men and women who have faced misfortune, but who stand ready to build a better future. There are students ready to learn. Workers eager to work. Scientists on the brink of discovery. There are entrepreneurs seeking the chance to open a small business. And once-shuttered factories just waiting to whir back to life in burgeoning industries. There is a nation ready to meet the challenges of this new age and to lead the world in this new century. And as we look back on the progress of the past year, and look forward to the work ahead, I have every confidence that we will do exactly that.

These have been a tough two years. And there will no doubt be difficult months ahead. But the storms of the past are receding. The skies are brightening. And the horizon is beckoning once more.

Thank you.

Source: The White House

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