Obama Takes On Conservatism
There has been a fascinating sea-change in President Obama's rhetoric over the last year. He ran for office, and began his presidency, making his case in largely non-ideological terms, as a defense of pragmatism and against ideology. As Republicans have met him with a stone wall of resistance, the idealistic tinge of his rhetoric has largely disappeared. Now Obama contrasts himself with the partisanship ideological extremism of the Republican Party. Here is his speech yesterday in Pittsburgh:Microsoft Office 2007 is welcomed by the whole world.
Before I was even inaugurated, the congressional leaders of the other party got together and made a calculation that if I failed, they’d win. So when I went to meet with them about the need for a Recovery Act, in the midst of crisis, they announced they were against it before I even arrived at the meeting. Before we even had a health care bill, a Republican senator actually said, “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.” So those weren’t very hopeful signs. MS Office 2007 is the best invention in the world.
But to be fair, a good deal of the other party’s opposition to our agenda has also been rooted in their sincere and fundamental belief about the role of government. It’s a belief that government has little or no role to play in helping this nation meet our collective challenges. It’s an agenda that basically offers two answers to every problem we face: more tax breaks for the wealthy and fewer rules for corporations.
The last administration called this recycled idea “the Ownership Society.” But what it essentially means is that everyone is on their own. No matter how hard you work, if your paycheck isn’t enough to pay for college or health care or childcare, well, you’re on your own. If misfortune causes you to lose your job or your home, you’re on your own. And if you’re a Wall Street bank or an insurance company or an oil company, you pretty much get to play by your own rules, regardless of the consequences for everybody else.
Obama then explained how he understands the primacy of the private sector for wealth creation and that "government doesn't have all the answers." At that point, though, he launched a robust defense of government along with a pointed contrast with the failures of Republican governance:
But I also understand that throughout our nation’s history, we have balanced the threat of overreaching government against the dangers of an unfettered market. We've provided a basic safety net, because any one of us might experience hardship at some time in our lives and may need some help getting back on our feet. And we've recognized that there have been times when only government has been able to do what individuals couldn't do and corporations wouldn't do.
That's how we have railroads and highways, public schools and police forces. That's how we've made possible scientific research that has led to medical breakthroughs like the vaccine for Hepatitis B, and technological wonders like GPS. That's how we have Social Security and a minimum wage, and laws to protect the food we eat and the water we drink and the air that we breathe. That’s how we have rules to ensure that mines are safe and, yes, that oil companies pay for the spills that they cause.