Remarks by the President at University of Maryland Town Hall July 22 , 2011 THE PRESIDENT : Hello , Maryland ! ( Applause . ) Hello ! Nice to see you . Thank you so much . ( Applause . ) Everybody , please have a seat . I see some smart folks up there wore shorts . ( Laughter . ) My team said I should not wear shorts . ( Laughter . ) My legs arenâ€™t good enough to wear shorts . AUDIENCE MEMBER : ( Inaudible . ) ( Laughter . ) THE PRES IDENT : Thank you . I’ll tell Michelle you said so . ( Laughter . ) It is wonderful to be back in Maryland . ( Applause . ) I hope everybody is keeping cool , staying hydrated . It is great to be back here in College Park . I have a few acknowledgments that I want to make , some special guests that we have . First of all , one of the best governors in the country , Martin O’Malley is in the house . ( Applause . ) Where’s Martin ? He was here . There he is over there . ( Applause . ) By the way , for those of you who have not heard him , outstanding singer and rock – and – roller . So if you ever want to catch his band , it is top – notch . Also , one of the best senators in the country , Ben Cardin is in the house . ( Applause . ) We’ve got College Park Mayor Andrew Fellows is here . ( Applause . ) Former congressman , Frank Kratovil , is here . ( Applause . ) You wouldn’t know it looking at him , but Frank is an outstanding basketball player . ( Laughter . ) The Terps might be able to use him even at this age . ( Laughter . ) He is a point guard , got all kinds of moves . ( Laughter . ) And I want to thank your still quasi – new president here at Maryland , Wallace Lob , for the outstanding work that he’s doing . ( Applause . ) So this is a town hall . I want to spend some time answering some of your questions , but just want to say a few things at the top . First of all , I have to say it’s nice to get out of Washington . ( Laughter . ) Donâ€™t get me wrong – - thereâ€™s nothing I enjoy more than sitting , hour after hour , day after day – - ( laughter ) – - debating the fine points of the federal budget with members of Congress . ( Laughter . ) But after a while you just start feeling a little cooped up . So Iâ€™m happy to be spending my morning with you . Iâ€™m going to spend most of my time answering your questions , but let me say a few words about the debate thatâ€™s taking place right now in Washington about debt and deficits . Obviously , itâ€™s dominating the news . Even though itâ€™s taking place in W ashington , this is actually a debate about you and everybody else in America and the choices that we face .
And most people here , whether youâ€™re still a student or youâ€™re a graduate or youâ€™re a parent , your number one concern is the economy . That’s my number one concern . Itâ€™s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning . Itâ€™s the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night . And I wonâ€™t be satisfied until every American who wants a job can find one , and until workers are getting paychecks that actually pay the bills , until families donâ€™t have to choose between buying groceries and buying medicine , between sending their kids to college and being able to retire in some dignity and some respect . ( Applause . ) So we have gone through a very difficult two and a half years – - the worst financial crisis and the worst recession weâ€™ve seen since the Great Depression . And although some progress has been made , there’s no doubt that this economy has not recovered as fast as it needs to . And the truth is , itâ€™s going to take more time because a lot of the problems that weâ€™re facing right now – - slow job growth , stagnant wages – - those were there even before the recession hit . For a decade , the average income , the average income of the American worker had flat – lined . Those at the very top saw their incomes going up 50 percent , 100 percent . But those in the middle , the vast majority of Americans , they had been struggling to keep up before the recession hit . And so these challenges werenâ€™t caused overnight ; theyâ€™re not going to be solved overnight . But as John F . Kennedy once said , â€œ Our problems are manmade , therefore they can be solved by man . â€ In the United States , we control our own destiny . The question we have to answer , though , is : Where do we want to go ? Whatâ€™s our vision for the future , and how do we get there ? Now , in the short term , Iâ€™ve been urging Congress to pass some proposals that would give the economy an immediate boost . A nd these are proposals , by the way , that traditionally have had support in both parties . I want to extend the tax relief that we put in place back in December for middle – class families , so that you have more money in your paychecks next year . If youâ€™ve got more money in your paychecks next year , youâ€™re more likely to spend it , and that means small businesses and medium – sized businesses and large businesses will have more customers . And theyâ€™ll be in a position to hire . I want to give more opportunities to all those construction workers out there who lost their jobs when the housing bubble went bust . We can put them to work , giving loans to private companies that want to repair our roads and our bridges and our airports – - rebuilding our infrastructure , putting Americans to work doing the work that needs to be done . We have workers in need of a job and a country thatâ€™s in need of rebuilding , and if we put those two things together we can make real progress . I want to cut red tape that stops too many inventors and entrepreneurs from turning new ideas into thriving businesses . I want Congress to send me a set of trade deals that would allow our businesses to sell more products in countries in Asia and South America that are stamped with the words , â€œ Made in America . â€ So these are some things that we could be doing right now . There are proposals in
Congress , as we speak , and Congress needs to act now . But I also believe that over the long term , the strength of our economy is going to depend on how we deal with the accumulated debt and deficits that have built up over the last decade . And thatâ€™s what the discussion in Washington is about right now . Now , I know itâ€™s hard to keep up with the different plans and the press conferences and the back – and – forth between the parties , but hereâ€™s what it all boils down to – - itâ€™s not that complicated . For a decade , we have been spending more money than we take in . Last time the budget was balanced was under a Democrati c President , Bill Clinton . ( Applause . ) And a series of decisions were made – - whether it was cutting taxes , or engaging in two wars , or a prescription drug benefit for seniors – - that werenâ€™t paid for , and then a financial crisis on top of that , Recovery Act to try to pull us out of a Great Depression – - all those things contributed to this accumulated debt . And regardless of what you feel about the particular policies – - some of you may have supported the wars or opposed the wars ; some of you may have agreed with the Recovery Act ; some of you may be opposed – - regardless of your views on these various actions that were taken , the fact is they all cost money . And the result is that thereâ€™s simply too much debt on Americaâ€™s credit card . Neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem , but both parties have a responsibility to solve it . ( Applause . ) If we donâ€™t solve it , every American will suffer . Businesses will be less likely to invest and hire in America . Interest rates will rise for people who need money to buy a home or a car , or go to college . We wonâ€™t have enough money to invest in things like education and clean energy , or protect important programs like Medicare , because weâ€™ll be paying more and more interest on this national debt and that money just flows overseas instead of being spent here on the things that we need . Now , the one thing we canâ€™t do – - cannot do – - is decide that we are not going to pay the bills the previous congresses have already racked up . So thatâ€™s what this whole issue of raising the debt ceiling is all about . Basically , thereâ€™s some people out there who argue weâ€™re not going to raise the debt ceiling any more . And the problem is , effectively what thatâ€™s saying is weâ€™re not going to pay some of our bills . Well , the United States of America does not run out without paying the tab . We pay our bills . ( Applause . ) We meet our obligations . ( Applause . ) We have never defaulted on our debt . Weâ€™re not go ing to do it now . But even if we raise the debt ceiling , this debate shouldnâ€™t just be about avoiding some kind of crisis , particularly a crisis manufactured in Washington . This is a rare opportunity for both parties to come together and choose a path where we stop putting so much debt on our credit card . We start paying it down a little bit . And thatâ€™s what weâ€™ve been trying to do . So , for my part , Iâ€™ve already said that Iâ€™m willing to cut a historic amount of government spending in order to reduce the deficit . Iâ€™m willing to cut spending on domestic programs , taking them to the lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower . Iâ€™m willing to cut defense spending at the Pentagon by hundreds of billions of dollars . ( Applause . ) Iâ€™m willing to take on the rising costs of health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid , so that these programs will be there for the next generation , for folks – - for a
population generally thatâ€™s getting older and living longer . Weâ€™ve got to make sure that these programs , which are the crown jewels of our social safety net , that – - sort of mixed metaphors there – - ( laughter ) – - that those are there for the future . And some of these cuts would just eliminate wasteful spending – - weapons we donâ€™t need , fraud and abuse in our health care system . But I want to be honest . Iâ€™ve agreed to also target some programs that I actually think are worthwhile . Theyâ€™re cuts that some people in my own party arenâ€™t too happy about . And , frankly , I wouldnâ€™t make them if money wasnâ€™t so tight . But itâ€™s just like a family . If youâ€™ve got to tighten your belts , you make some choices . Now , hereâ€™s the thing , though – - and this is what the argument is about – - we canâ€™t just close our deficit with spending cuts alone , because if we take that route it means that seniors would have to pay a lot more for Medicare , or students would have to pay a lot more for student loans . It means that laid – off workers might not be able to count on temporary assistance or tr aining to help them get a new job . It means weâ€™d have to make devastating cuts in education and medical research and clean energy research – - just at a time when gas prices are killing people at the pump . So if we only did it with cuts , if we did not get any revenue to help close this gap between how much money is coming in and how much money is going out , then a lot of ordinary people would be hurt and the country as a whole would be hurt . And that doesnâ€™t make any sense . Itâ€™s not fair . And itâ€™s why Iâ€™ve said if weâ€™re going to reduce our deficit , then the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations should do their part as well . ( Applause . ) Before we stop funding clean energy research , letâ€™s ask oil companies and corporate jet owners to give up the tax breaks that other companies donâ€™t get . I mean , these are special tax breaks . ( Applause . ) Before we ask college students to pay more for their education , letâ€™s ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes that are lower on their rates than their secretaries . ( Applause . ) Before we ask seniors to pay more for Medicare , letâ€™s ask people like me to give up tax breaks that we donâ€™t need and we werenâ€™t even asking for . ( Applause . ) Look , I want everybody in America to do well . I want everybody to have a chance to become a millionaire . I think the free market system is the greatest wealth generator we’ve ever known . This isnâ€™t about punishing wealth . This is about asking people who have benefited most over the last decade to share in the sacrifice . ( Applause . ) I think these patriotic Americans are willing to pitch in – - if they’re asked – - because they know that middle – class families shouldnâ€™t have to pick up the whole tab for closing the deficit . So this idea of balance , this idea of shared sacrifice , of a deficit plan that includes tough spending cuts but also includes tax reform that raises more revenue – - this isnâ€™t just my position . This isnâ€™t just the Democratic position . This isnâ€™t some wild – eyed socialist position . ( Laughter . ) This is a position thatâ€™s being taken by people of both parties and no party . Itâ€™s a position taken by Warren Buffet – - somebody who knows about business and knows a little something about being wealthy . ( Laughter . ) Itâ€™s a position thatâ€™s been taken by every Democratic and Republican President whoâ€™ve signed major deficit deals in the past , from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton . And I was pleased to see this week that it’s a position taken by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate .
So we can pass a balanced plan like this . It’s not going to make everybody happy . In fact , it will make everybody somewhat unhappy . The easiest thing for a politician to do is to give you more stuff and ask less in return . It’s a lot harder to say , we got to cut back on what you’re getting and you got to pay a little more . That’s never fun . But we can do it in a balanced way that doesnâ€™t hurt anybody badly , that doesnâ€™t put the burden just on one group . So we can solve our deficit problem . And Iâ€™m willing to sign a plan that includes tough choices I would not normally make , and there are a lot of Democrats and Republicans in Congress who I believe are willing to do the same thing . The only people we have left to convince are some folks in the House of Representatives . Weâ€™re going to keep working on that . ( Laughter . ) Because I still believe we can do what you sent us here to do . In 2010 , Americans chose a divided government , but they didnâ€™t choose a dysfunctional government . ( Applause . ) So there will be time for political campaigning , but right now this debate shouldnâ€™t be about putting on – - scoring political points . It should be about doing whatâ€™s right for the country , for everybody . You expect us to work together . You expect us to compromise . Youâ€™ve all been working hard . You’ve been doing whatever you have to do in order to get by and raise your families . Youâ€™re meeting your responsibilities . So itâ€™s time for those of us in Washington to do the same thing . And I intend to make that happen in the coming days . ( Applause . )
About Debt and Deficits: Remarks at University of Maryland Town HallPresident Barack Obama deficit,debt,tax,Democrat