This is a new thread. Live video below and prepared remarks, plan analysis, and earlier commentary here.
President Obama is really laying waste to the GOP vision of austerity. In his words:
It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that ten years from now, if you’re a 65 year old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck – you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.
This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.
Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.
The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.
Update: Now Obama is offering his alternate vision, informed by a different idea of what America is. "The America I know," he says, "is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share." To afford the government we want, Obama argues, a sound fiscal policy is necessary. But it must be one consistent with our nation's values, and it must be one that allows government to accomplish what we want it to accomplish. For details of his proposal, see the first post in this live blog.
Update: Another crushing blow delivered to the GOP plan to abolish Medicare (which, by the way, they will vote on tomorrow):
The difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer: their plan lowers the government’s health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government’s health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself. ... Let me be absolutely clear: I will preserve these health care programs as a promise we make to each other in this society. I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves. We will reform these programs, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations.
That includes, by the way, our commitment to Social Security.
Update: We are now in the final stretch of the speech. We're getting the obligatory 'tsk-tsk' to progressives who supposedly oppose any cuts whatsoever to government. (We don't, especially not useless defense and security spending, and we'd love to cut the fat out of Medicare by trying a public option.) And we're getting calls to bipartisan action, and a reminder that ultimately, to get anything done, we're going to have to find an approach that all the stakeholders can agree to. We have a responsibility to come together and get things done, a responsibility to each other and our nation, Obama says. (Republicans apparently don't agree, having blasted his speech earlier this morning before he even delivered it.)
Update: The speech is over. My quick take: it was a terrific speech, and offered a credible approach to long-term fiscal policy. It did an effective job of making the case for not just a progressive revenue stream, but a progressive government, and properly framed the GOP proposal as antithetical to the vision of America shared by most of the people in this country. He framed fiscal policy, properly, as being the way by which we fund government so that it can do what we want it to do, in contrast to the GOP's vision of fiscal policy, which seems to mean nothing but "cut government." Obviously, the true test here isn't just President Obama's speech today, but also what he manages to accomplish in the coming months and years as this debate unfolds. But at least in my view, today was a great way to start.
Update: One thing that I hope gets a lot of play, and attention, was Obama's devastating critique of Ryan's plan to reduce debt by eliminating Medicare and replacing it with vouchers. It was far tougher than I expected—any Republican who hears it should think twice before voting for it tomorrow.
Update: Last update—just was talking with someone about how sweet it was to hear Obama reject the notion that Ryan's plan was somehow courageous. As he said, "There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill."