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Posted at 6:22 PM ET, 12/22/2010

Highlights from the president's press conference

By Ezra Klein

PH2010121606746.jpgThe president said a couple of things during his press conference that are worth pulling out. First, on the continuing resolution:

I’m also disappointed we weren’t able to come together around a budget to fund our government over the long term. I expect we’ll have a robust debate about this when we return from the holidays -- a debate that will have to answer an increasingly urgent question -- and that is how do we cut spending that we don’t need while making investments that we do need -- investments in education, research and development, innovation, and the things that are essential to grow our economy over the long run, create jobs, and compete with every other nation in the world.

He doesn't say anything about the inadequate budgets for implementing financial reform and health-care reform. But he does preview a "robust debate" in which his position, and presumably the Democrats' position, will be that that deficit reduction needs to be paired with necessary investments. As readers know, I think that's the right position.

Later in the conference, Jake Tapper asked if it really makes sense to allow gay soldiers to serve openly, but not to marry. The wording of President Obama's reply was interesting:

With respect to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be able to get married, I’ve spoken about this recently. As I’ve said, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about. At this point, what I’ve said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think -- and I think that’s the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we’re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.

The president also made some amends to his base -- and promised a future fight -- over the tax cuts for the rich:

Look, the frustration that people felt about that was frustration I share. I’ve said that before, and I’ll probably say it again. I don't think that over the long run we can afford a series of tax breaks for people who are doing very well and don't need it; were doing well when Bill Clinton was in office. They were still rich then, and they will still be rich if those tax cuts went away.

And so this is going to be a debate that we’re going to be having over the next couple of years because I guarantee you, as soon as the new Congress is sworn in, we’re going to have to have a conversation about how do we start balancing our budget, or at least getting to a point that's sustainable when it comes to our deficit and our debt. And that's going to require us cutting programs that don't work, but it also requires us to be honest about paying for the things that we think are important. If we think it’s important to make sure that our veterans are getting care that they need when they come back home from fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq, we can’t just salute and wish them well and have a Veterans Day Parade. We got to make sure that there are doctors and nurses and facilities for post-traumatic stress disorder -- and that costs money.[...]

So we are going to have to compare the option of maintaining the tax cuts for the wealthy permanently versus spending on these things that we think are important. And that's a debate that I welcome.

Photo credit: Saul Loeb Photo.

By Ezra Klein  | December 22, 2010; 6:22 PM ET
 
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Comments

"and that is how do we cut spending that we don’t need while making investments that we do need"

Another way to read this is that Obama is accepting the Republicans position that any new spending has to be offset with cuts to existing spending. Increasing revenue (at least rhetorically) is off the table. This is as much a concession to the Republicans governing philosophy as his comments about government needing to tighten it's belt just like regular families.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/14/my-obama-problem/

Posted by: jnc4p | December 22, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

--*[H]ow do we cut spending that we don’t need while making investments that we do need -- investments in education, research and development, innovation, and the things that are essential to grow our economy*--

Studies show that private investment outperforms so-called government investment (more aptly termed politicized redistribution), so it would be very easy to cut spending and create growth by getting government OUT of the education, R&D, innovation (that's a beaut, that one), and those other erstwhile essential things (spead the wealth, for votes!) that the feds really have no business being in, in the first place.

But, of course, there aren't going to be ANY spending cuts under Obama. All the alphabet agencies are in the news of late, and all of them are making bigger grabs out of the country's freedoms and bank accounts. FCC, FTC, FDA, HHS, DOJ, and more, they're all grabbing more power and screaming for more dough.

It won't end well.

Posted by: msoja | December 22, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Re MSOJA:

Studies don't show any such thing. Academic studies consistently find that the typical infrastructure project has a relatively high internal rate of return, on the order of 12%. The U.S. is at the bottom of the developed country distribution in the share of national income spent on infrastructure, and the egregiously poor condition of our capital stock shows it. (Flying from JFK to Shanghai feels like traveling from a third-world to a first-world country, especially when you add in the subway to JFK and the bullet train from Pudong.) And the budgets of none of the agencies you mention has done more than keep up with inflation. You're just making your facts up.

Posted by: madhoboken | December 22, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,

No comment about President Obama's remarks on GitMo? In which he said we can't close it because we can't find another place to put them indefinitely. Along with how we can't try them because we tortured them, and because of that they will have to stay indefinitely because you know unless we know we are going to win our case we don't follow the rule of law.

Why no mention Ezra? Pretty sure that is a major highlight.

Posted by: jasonedwards88 | December 22, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

--*Academic studies consistently find that the typical infrastructure project has a relatively high internal rate of return, on the order of 12%.*--

What percent of federal gov't spending goes for infrastructure? Five? Ten?

Paying teachers to babysit malcontents isn't infrastructure, is it?

Paying pasty faced Genachowski to play favorites with his old computing business cronies isn't infrastructure, is it?

Forcing insurance companies to front as government agencies isn't infrastructure, is it?

Paying lawyers at the FTC to intrude into a thousand business deals and delay them for years isn't infrastructure, is it?

Throwing 800,000 people a year in jail for smokin' the whacky isn't infrastructure, is it?

etc.

--*[T]he budgets of none of the agencies you mention has done more than keep up with inflation.*--

That's the funniest thing I've seen all day.

The government just added two trillion to the national debt. We must have some serious inflation.

Posted by: msoja | December 22, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

--*(Flying from JFK to Shanghai feels like traveling from a third-world to a first-world country, especially when you add in the subway to JFK and the bullet train from Pudong.)*--

JFK was new, once upon a time. Tell me what the Shanghai airport looks like in seventy years.

And there's no doubt that command and control economies (elsewise known as commienism) can produce some lovely show pieces, but there is always a cost, and not just monetarily, though there is that, too (there is excruciating poverty outside the metropolitan areas of China.)

I would rather be free, and free not to pay for a bullet train that I would never use, than to have my entire life picked over and mandated one way and another by poly-sci majors stupified by their own earnestness.

Posted by: msoja | December 22, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse


I think that health care reform is a great idea. I have type 1 diabetes and for me to get insurance, it was a nightmare until I found "Wise Health Insurance" search for them online and you can get affordable health insurance instantly.

Posted by: daleleblanc | December 23, 2010 2:11 AM | Report abuse

you found his gay marriage bit interesting? I just found it to be confirmation that his position is driven by the polls (or you could like Tim Carney that he's lying about this). After all, he used to support gay marriage before he became a national politician. Hardly a surprise that politicians think like this, but still...

Posted by: jfcarro | December 23, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

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