Obama's Big Deficit Speech: 'I Still Believe'

Read the transcript of the president's remarks on his plan to reduce the deficit (and how Republican proposals reflect pessimism about America).

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This afternoon, President Obama delivered a speech titled "The Country We Believe In," outlining a four-part plan to reduce the federal deficit. Read the remarks as prepared for delivery here:

Remarks of President Barack Obama -- As Prepared for Delivery
The Country We Believe In
The George Washington University
Washington, D.C.
April 13, 2011

Good afternoon. It's great to be back at GW. I want you to know that one of the reasons I kept the government open was so I could be here today with all of you. I wanted to make sure you had one more excuse to skip class. You're welcome.

Of course, what we've been debating here in Washington for the last few weeks will affect your lives in ways that are potentially profound. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page, more than just cutting and spending. It's about the kind of future we want. It's about the kind of country we believe in. And that's what I want to talk about today. 

From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America's wealth and prosperity. More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government. 

But there has always been another thread running throughout our history -- a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. We believe, in the words of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves. And so we've built a strong military to keep us secure, and public schools and universities to educate our citizens. We've laid down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce. We've supported the work of scientists and researchers whose discoveries have saved lives, unleashed repeated technological revolutions, and led to countless new jobs and entire industries. Each of us has benefitted from these investments, and we are a more prosperous country as a result. 

Part of this American belief that we are all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. "There but for the grace of God go I," we say to ourselves, and so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, and those with disabilities. We are a better country because of these commitments. I'll go further -- we would not be a great country without those commitments.   

For much of the last century, our nation found a way to afford these investments and priorities with the taxes paid by its citizens. As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally born a greater share of this burden than the middle class or those less fortunate. This is not because we begrudge those who've done well -- we rightly celebrate their success. Rather, it is a basic reflection of our belief that those who have benefitted most from our way of life can afford to give a bit more back. Moreover, this belief has not hindered the success of those at the top of the income scale, who continue to do better and better with each passing year.

Now, at certain times -- particularly during periods of war or recession -- our nation has had to borrow money to pay for some of our priorities. And as most families understand, a little credit card debt isn't going to hurt if it's temporary.

But as far back as the 1980s, America started amassing debt at more alarming levels, and our leaders began to realize that a larger challenge was on the horizon. They knew that eventually, the baby boom generation would retire, which meant a much bigger portion of our citizens would be relying on programs like Medicare, Social Security and possibly Medicaid. Like parents with young children who know they have to start saving for the college years, America had to start borrowing less and saving more to prepare for the retirement of an entire generation. 

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