After being battered by both the right and the left, President Barack Obama made an attempt to take himself back to center-stage in the national economic debate on Tuesday with a Rose Garden speech.
But anyone looking for immediate Washington help in resurrecting the economy would be disappointed by Obama’s 8½ minute speech, in which he made it clear that Washington’s summer break will get in the way of immediate action.
“When Congress gets back from recess, I will urge them to immediately take some steps – bipartisan, common-sense steps – that will make a difference, that will create a climate where businesses can hire, where folks can have more money in their pockets to spend, where people who are out of work can find good jobs,” he said in the speech that followed the Senate’s passage of the deal to raise the ceiling by $2.4 trillion. Obama signed the bill shortly thereafter.
He urged Congress to pass trade deals, bills on patent reform and to end the shutdown of the Federal Aviation Authority, saying, “There’s no reason for Congress not to send me those bills so I can sign them into law right away – as soon as they get back from recess.”
The recess isn’t due to start until August 8. It lasts through Labor Day.
Much of Obama’s speech used phrases similar to those he has made during the debt ceiling crisis. He once again called for an end to tax loopholes “so that the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations pay their fair share.”
He mentioned billionaires who “pay a lower tax rate than teachers and nurses,” and he talked of “economic headwinds” coming from Europe.
“I’ve said it before; I will say it again: We can’t balance the budget on the backs of the very people who have borne the biggest brunt of this recession,” he reiterated.
“We can’t make it tougher for young people to go to college or ask seniors to pay more for health care or ask scientists to give up on promising medical research because we couldn’t close a tax shelter for the most fortunate among us.
“Everyone is going to have to chip in. It’s only fair. That’s the principle I’ll be fighting for during the next phase of this process.”
Obama said all the uncertainty caused by the debate over the debt ceiling and the possibility of default was a “Washington-manufactured crisis.”
“It was something we could have avoided entirely,” the president said.
“Voters may have chosen divided government, but they sure didn’t vote for dysfunctional government. They want us to solve problems. They want us to get the economy growing and adding jobs. And while deficit reduction is part of that agenda, it is not the whole agenda.
“Growing the economy isn’t just about cutting spending; it’s not about rolling back regulations that protect our air and water and keep our people safe. That’s not how we’re going to get past this recession. We’re going to have to do more than that.”
Among the steps he will ask Congress to take – once they are back from recess – is an extension of middle-class tax cuts to give people more money to spend, and patent reform to “cut the red tape that stops too many inventors and entrepreneurs from quickly turning new ideas into thriving businesses.”
“And I want Congress to pass a set of trade deals – deals we’ve already negotiated – that would help displaced workers looking for new jobs and would allow our businesses to sell more products in countries in Asia and South America.”
He added, “We’ve seen in the past few days that Washington has the ability to focus when there’s a timer ticking down and when there’s a looming disaster. It shouldn’t take the risk of default – the risk of economic catastrophe – to get folks in this town to work together and do their jobs.
“There’s already a quiet crisis going on in the lives of a lot of families, in a lot of communities, all across the country. They’re looking for work and they have been for a while or they’re making do with fewer hours or fewer customers, or they’re just trying to make ends meet.
“That ought to compel Washington to cooperate. That ought to compel Washington to compromise and it ought to compel Washington to act.”
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