From today's speech:
The America I know 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. We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI bill and saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.
This is who we are. This is the America I know. We don't have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I'm President, we won't.
Today, I'm proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years. It's an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission I appointed last year, and builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget. It's an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table, but one that protects the middle-class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.
This is why I still want to believe in the candidate I voted for.
Some people might consider this a politically-motivated speech (which speech ever isn't?) to answer to the tough budget deal that got made and the debt ceiling issue looming ahead, but I think it's more than that. He's not just addressing the issues that his administration and the Democratic party are facing this year, but a long-standing impression that has been damaging to Democratic leadership and has inhibited the embrace of liberal values as American values.
I recall when there were a few voices on the left that gagged a little when Obama described the Reagan presidency as "transformative", but I understood what he meant. The Reagan years created memes that are still with us today in the form of reluctance to embrace a liberal identity after the progressive point of view was dubbed "the 'l-word'", or the image of "welfare queens" or "tax and spend" Democrats. Through the magic of messaging, p.r. techniques, balls-out propaganda, and a willfully blinkered press, "voodoo economics" was transformed into "fiscal conservatism" and have-nots were given less in the name of being "conservative" as deficits actually ballooned. The conservative caution of anti-monopolists like Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt fell to the Rand/Freidman libertarian-style deregulation.
And for whatever reason, even though all of this was bullshit (liberalism is not a dirty word nor a synonym for "socialist"; there just isn't much evidence for his "welfare queens"--but the image sure is racist, amirite?;"tax and spend" would pretty much be the definition of what every government or collective system actually ended up doing, evar, dur; no, lowering revenues actually doesn't yield a higher return--what are you idiots talking about?; and what part of the S&L bail-out, the dot-com bubble, the mortgage/credit crisis and subsequent bail-out, there, makes anyone think that a) Markets are totally rational and never need any regulation or b) Creative, earning, entrepreneurial-types are special little snowflakes who only contribute to society and don't ever, ever, ever, make things so fucking bad that other people have to pay for the special little snowflakes' mistakes by spending their old age in menial jobs because their hard-earned retirement/savings got wiped out by predators, or like, have to live in cardboard boxes and charity institutions because only special little snowflakes with money count in this big, bad world. And little children go to bed hungry every night only to learn how to be character-having heroes! Even if their growth and ability to learn have been set back by their circumstances--somehow, a meme got created that all bootstraps were of a size. All rich people were deserving, and the deserving poor? Deserved to be poor.
It was bullshit, but it worked on so many peoples' brains for so long. Only a transformational change in our thinking can get us back into FDR-mode. Can take us back to Camelot. Can remind us that this nonsense of the past quarter-century has only been about a quarter-century long, and that before that--America gave more of a damn about her people. In fact--I think America was made up of her people. In fact--I think we the people need to wake to fuck up and take America back--not tea party style.
In the wards style. In the districts style. On our feet style. Petitioning for recalls. Educating the unfamiliar. Community organizing. But we can only do it claiming the high road--and here it is:
The Democratic plan regarding deficit reduction is a serious plan that addresses all aspects of the budget in a sensible manner--and, if you play with tax cuts for "whoever"--you just aren't serious.
Our government requires revenues that help fulfill our promises to our people to keep this country strong, so if you want to undercut any citizen's dues--you just aren't serious.
We need to address the big ticket items in our budget in order to settle these numbers, and that means nothing is sacred, so if you aren't willing to address the defense budget--you just aren't serious.
We promised our older citizens that they would have something to live on and health care, and they are entitled to these things because they paid into them, and if you want to play with that social contract--you just aren't serious.
This is how we got our great big old government--because a bunch of people said "Yes, we can" and yes, we still will.
Republicans have not been and aren't right now serious. But they have been told by the grown-up in charge what we all could do. And whether they want to be part of the solution or part of the problem is up to them.