Barack Obama made several important points in his economic address today (full transcript here). He began with an essential point for his campaign. This is not just a vote as to whether people are satisfied with the economy at present, as Romney would like, but a vote between two different paths to follow:
And in the coming weeks, Governor Romney and I will spend time debating our records and our experience, as we should. But though we will have many differences over the course of this campaign, there is one place where I stand in complete agreement with my opponent: This election is about our economic future.
Yes, foreign policy matters, social issues matter. But more than anything else, this election presents a choice between two fundamentally different visions of how to create strong, sustained growth; how to pay down our long-term debt; and most of all, how to generate good, middle-class jobs so people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.
Now, this isn’t some abstract debate. This is not another trivial Washington argument. I have said that this is the defining issue of our time and I mean it. I said that this is a make-or-break moment for America’s middle class, and I believe it.
OBAMA: The decisions we make in the next few years, on everything from debt to taxes to energy and education, will have an enormous impact on this country, and on the country we pass on to our children.
Now, these challenges are not new. We’ve been wrestling with these issues for a long time. The problems we’re facing right now have been more than a decade in the making.
And what is holding us back is not a lack of big ideas. It isn’t a matter of finding the right technical solution. Both parties have laid out their policies on the table for all to see.
What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take. And this election is your chance to break that stalemate.
At stake is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two paths for our country. And while there are many things to discuss in this campaign, nothing is more important than an honest debate about where these two paths would lead us.
Obama challenged the failed economic philosophy of George Bush and Mitt Romney:
We were told that huge tax cuts, especially for the wealthiest Americans, would lead to faster job growth. We were told that fewer regulations, especially for big financial institutions and corporations, would bring about widespread prosperity. We were told that it was OK to put two wars on the nation’s credit card; that tax cuts would create a enough growth to pay for themselves.
That’s what we were told.
So how did this economic theory work out?
OBAMA: For the wealthiest Americans it worked out pretty well.
Over the last few decades the income of the top 1 percent grew by more than 275 percent, to an average of $1.3 million a year. Big financial institutions, corporations saw their profits soar.
But prosperity never trickled down to the middle class. From 2001 to 2008 we had the slowest job growth in half a century. The typical family saw their incomes halt.
Obama continued to show the differences between his views and those of his opponent:
OBAMA: Now, Governor Romney and his allies in Congress believe deeply in the theory we tried during the last decade, the theory that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down.
OBAMA: So they maintain that if we eliminate most regulations, we cut taxes by trillions of dollars, if we strip down government to national security and few other basic functions, then the power of businesses to create jobs and prosperity will be unleashed and that will automatically benefit us all.
That’s what they believe. This — this is their economic plan. It has been placed before Congress. Governor Romney has given speeches about it, and it’s on his website.
So if they win the election their agenda will be simple and straightforward; they have spelled it out. They promise to roll back regulations on banks and polluters, on insurance companies and oil companies. They’ll roll back regulations designed to protect consumers and workers.
They promise to not only keep all of the Bush tax cuts in place, but add another $5 trillion in tax cuts on top of that.
Now, an independent study said that about 70 percent of this new $5 trillion tax cut would go to folks making over $200,000 a year. And folks making over a million dollars a year would get an average tax cut of about 25 percent.
Now, this is not my opinion. This is not political spin. This is precisely what they have proposed.
Now, your next question may be: How do you spend $5 trillion on a tax cut and still bring down the deficit?
Well, they tell us they’ll start by cutting nearly a trillion dollars from the part of our budget that includes everything from education and job training, to medical research and clean energy.
He brought up health care:
Not only does their plan eliminate health insurance for 33 million Americans by repealing the Affordable Care Act, according to the independent Kaiser Family Foundation, it would also take away coverage from another 19 million Americans who rely on Medicaid, including millions of nursing home patients and families who have children with autism and other disabilities.
OBAMA: And they propose turning Medicare into a voucher program, which will shift more costs to seniors and eventually end the program as we know it.
With people overly obsessed with tiny differences in tax rates these days, it is important to point out that out of pocket health care costs will be higher not only for seniors, but also for those in private insurance plans, if we follow Romney’s policies.Obama should be able to increase his share of votes from seniors as he explains what the Republicans plan to do to Medicare and Social Security.
Obama brought up the lack of a meaningful mechanism to reduce the deficit under Romney’s policies and the failure of Congress to act on his economic plan:
I see a future where we pay down our deficit in a way that is balanced — not by placing the entire burden on the middle class and the poor, but by cutting out programs we can’t afford and asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute their fair share.
That’s my vision for America: education, energy, innovation, infrastructure, and a tax code focused on American job creation and balanced deficit reduction.
OBAMA: This is the vision behind the jobs plan I sent Congress back in September, a bill filled with bipartisan ideas that, according to independent economists, would create up to 1 million additional jobs if passed today.
This is the vision behind the deficit plan I sent to Congress back in September, a detailed proposal that would reduce our deficit by $4 trillion through shared sacrifice and shared responsibility.
This is the vision I intend to pursue in my second term as president because I believe…
… because — because I believe if we do these things — if we do these things more companies will start here and stay here and hire here, and more Americans will be able to find jobs that support a middle class lifestyle.
Understand, despite what you hear from my opponent, this has never been a vision about how government creates jobs or has the answers to all our problems.
Over the last three years I’ve cut taxes for the typical working family by $3,600.
I’ve cut taxes for small businesses 18 times.
I have approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.
OBAMA: And I’m implementing over 500 reforms to fix regulations that were costing folks too much for no reason.