President Obama gives another great speech—great not just because he’s a compelling speaker but because he’s laying out so much about what’s wrong with the economy.
I ran for President because for much of the last decade, a very specific governing philosophy had reigned about how America should work: Cut taxes, especially for millionaires and billionaires. Cut regulations for special interests. Cut trade deals even if they didn’t benefit our workers. Cut back on investments in our people and in our future -– in education and clean energy, in research and technology. The idea was that if we just had blind faith in the market, if we let corporations play by their own rules, if we left everyone else to fend for themselves that America would grow and America would prosper.
And for a time this idea gave us the illusion of prosperity. We saw financial firms and CEOs take in record profits and record bonuses. We saw a housing boom that led to new homeowners and new jobs in construction. Consumers bought more condos and bigger cars and better TVs.
But while all this was happening, the broader economy was becoming weaker. Nobody understands that more than the people of Ohio. Job growth between 2000 and 2008 was slower than it had been in any economic expansion since World War II -– slower than it’s been over the last year. The wages and incomes of middle-class families kept falling while the cost of everything from tuition to health care kept on going up. Folks were forced to put more debt on their credit cards and borrow against homes that many couldn’t afford to buy in the first place. And meanwhile, a failure to pay for two wars and two tax cuts for the wealthy helped turn a record surplus into a record deficit.
I ran for President because I believed that this kind of economy was unsustainable –- for the middle class and for the future of our nation. I ran because I had a different idea about how America was built.
I believe government should be lean; government should be efficient. I believe government should leave people free to make the choices they think are best for themselves and their families, so long as those choices don’t hurt others. (Applause.)
But in the words of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, I also believe that government should do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves. (Applause.) And that means making the long-term investments in this country’s future that individuals and corporations can’t make on their own: investments in education and clean energy, in basic research and technology and infrastructure. (Applause.)
That means making sure corporations live up to their responsibilities to treat consumers fairly and play by the same rules as everyone else. (Applause.) Their responsibility is to look out for their workers, as well as their shareholders, and create jobs here at home.
And that means providing a hand-up for middle-class families –- so that if they work hard and meet their responsibilities, they can afford to raise their children, and send them to college, see a doctor when they get sick, retire with dignity and respect. (Applause.)
That’s what we Democrats believe in -– a vibrant free market, but one that works for everybody. (Applause.) That’s our vision. That’s our vision for a stronger economy and a growing middle class. And that’s the difference between what we and Republicans in Congress are offering the American people right now.