Obama Calls for Greater Fiscal Responsibility
By Perry Bacon Jr.
LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Sen. Barack Obama invoked the legacy of the last Democratic president as he called for greater fiscal responsibility in Washington, arguing mistakes on Wall Street and in Washington have threatened the country's economic stability.
"It's time to put an end to the run-away spending and the record deficits," the Democratic nominee told a crowd of thousands at a rally where supporters crowded into the middle of blocked-off streets. "It's time to return to the fiscal responsibility and pay as you go, the kind budgeting that we had in the 1990s. You remember Bill Clinton left a surplus for George W. Bush."
Despite cool fall weather and a temperature of about 50 degrees, the Democratic nominee spoke for more than 35 minutes, detailing his ideas for improving the economy and reducing the deficit. He again called on Congress to pass a rescue package that would help ease a Wall Street crisis that the Democratic nominee has said severely threatens the country's well-being.
But he pointed emphasized the deficit, telling the audience, "I'm going to start by telling you how we're going to save when I am president."
Obama said ending the war in Iraq, reducing subsidies for agribusiness and eliminating corporate tax loopholes would be among the changes he would enact. He promised to make current government programs more efficient and cost-effective and said he would appoint a "high-performance team of experts" to closely scrutinize spending.
It's not clear if such proposals would actually reduce the deficit, and some independent analysts, including the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, have said Obama's current proposals would increase the deficit by trillions of dollars, as would Sen. John McCain's.
Obama is proposing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on tax cuts for middle-income families and expand health insurance to more Americans -- while also pushing an economic stimulus plan he says he would enact as soon as he enters office, to help Americans who are struggling with the current economic slowdown.
While Obama suggested the $10 billion a month currently spent in Iraq could be drastically reduced, experts say withdrawing from Iraq will also be very expensive, and the Democratic nominee has not committed to withdrawing all troops from that country.
McCain has made been criticized for making similarly vague remarks about finding and reducing waste in government.
Obama has strongly pushed the Wall Street rescue package over the past two days, and he did so again here, twice mentioning in his speech that he would fly back to Washington after the rally to vote for the bill in the Senate.
"To the Democrats and Republicans who have opposed this plan, I say: Step up to the plate and do what's right for the country," Obama said.
Obama added that if he becomes president, such intervention would never be needed.
"American taxpayers will never again have to put their money on the line to pay for the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street," Obama said. "That's a pledge I make today, and it's one that I'll keep as president of the United States."
Posted at 1:13 PM ET on Oct 1, 2008
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