Highlights from the president's press conference
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.
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