Obama on the Record: State of the Economy - Page 13 of 14

Obama on the Record: State of the Economy

But let’s not kid ourselves and suggest that we can solve this problem by trimming a few earmarks or cutting the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. That’s just not true. (Applause.) Along with defense and interest on the national debt, the biggest cost drivers in our budget are entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — all of which get more and more expensive every year. So if we want to get serious about fiscal discipline, and I do, then we’re going to not only have to trim waste out of our discretionary budget — which we’ve already begun — we will also have to get serious about entitlement reform.

Now, nothing will be more important to this goal than passing health care reform that brings down costs across the system, including in Medicare and Medicaid. (Applause.) So make no mistake, health care reform is entitlement reform. That’s not just my opinion — that was the conclusion of a wide range of participants at the Fiscal Responsibility Summit that we held at the White House in February. And that’s one of the reasons why I firmly believe we need to get health care reform done this year. (Applause.)

Once we tackle rising health care costs, we must also work to put Social Security on firmer footing. It’s time for both parties to come together and find a way to keep the promise of a sound retirement for future generations. And we should restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code including by shutting down corporate loopholes and ensuring that everyone pays what they owe. (Applause.)

All of these efforts will require tough choices. All these efforts will require compromise. But the difficulties can’t serve as an excuse for inaction — not anymore — which brings me to one final point I’d like to make today. I’ve talked a lot about the fundamental weakness in our economy that led us to this day of reckoning. But we also arrived here because of a fundamental weakness in our political system.

For too long, too many in Washington put off hard decisions for some other time on some other day. There’s been a tendency to spend a lot of time scoring political points instead of rolling up sleeves to solve real problems.

There’s also an impatience that characterizes this town — an attention span that has only grown shorter with the 24-hour news cycle that insists on instant gratification in the form of immediate results or higher poll numbers. When a crisis hits, there’s all too often a lurch from shock to trance, with everyone responding to the tempest of the moment until the furor has died down, the media coverage has moved on to something else, instead of confronting the major challenges that will shape our future in a sustained and focused way.