Anna Sale is the host and managing editor of Death, Sex & Money, WNYC’s interview show about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.
Obama Reacts to Debt Downgrade, Trades Chiding for Reassurance
Monday, August 08, 2011
As the stock market shed value on Monday afternoon, President Obama offered sweeping remarks designed to sure up confidence and to appeal to the patriotism of his colleagues in Washington.
In a break from the chiding tone that characterized many of his public statements during the debt ceiling debate, Obama sought to create a sense of calm by emphasizing the fundamental soundness of the American economy.
He made three key points, which taken together, came down to one message: We are better than this.
1. Don't panic. America is still America:
"Our problems are imminently solvable and we know what we need to do to solve them," Obama stressed as he took to the podium. With Congress on recess and out of Washington, the president turned his eye to the big picture, and the tenacity of the American people.
"Ultimately the reason I am so hopeful about our future, the reason I have faith in these United States of America, is because of the American people. It's because of their perseverance and their courage and their willingness to shoulder the burdens we face together as one nation."
2. Patriotism demands a different approach:
During an afternoon that saw economic anxiety shift to real monetary losses, Obama's tone was somber and serious. In making his case for a more solutions-driven approach in Washington, he invoked the memory of the Navy SEALs killed in action over the weekend.
"No matter what differences they had as individuals, they served this nation as a team. They meet their responsibilities together. And some of them, like the 30 Americans who were lost this weekend, give their lives for their country. Our responsibility is to ensure that their legacy is an America that reflects their courage, their commitment, and their sense of common purpose."
3. We have all the answers we need:
All this partisan wrangling might has set us up for some action, Obama argued. Whether the gang of six, the deficit commission, his talks with House Speaker John Boehner and the super committee that is to begin work soon to lay out specifics on cutting the debt, there's been a lot of talk. The moment is now right, Obama argued, to make some decisions. He repeated his calls for higher tax rates from for the wealthy and what he called "modest adjustments" to health care programs like Medicare.
"Making these reforms doesn't require any radical steps. What is does require is common sense and compromise," he said.
Obama also underscored that all the debt talk is not the same as stoking the economy and hiring. For that, Obama said it's time to extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut to give more spending power for consumers and businesses.
"It's not a lack of plans or policies that's the problem here. It's a lack of political will in Washington," President Obama said. "It's the insistence on drawing lines in the sand. A refusal to put what's best for hte coutnry ahead of self-interest or party or ideology, and that's what we need to change."