Obama Strikes Serious Yet Hopeful Tone on Economy
President Barack Obama says America's economy is in crisis but can be repaired. America's 44th president struck a determined, but pragmatic tone, on economic matters in his inaugural address.
In his first speech to the nation as president, Barack Obama pledged America will not shrink from or compromise on core ideals when it comes to civil liberties, the rule of law, the quest for peace, and democracy.
But on economic matters Mr. Obama sought to distance himself from ideological debates on the role of government and the free market that have raged in Washington for decades. He argued that what matters is not the size of government, but rather its effectiveness. He had similar words about the promise and risks of capitalism.
"Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill," said Mr. Obama. "Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous."
The president is inheriting a recession, with rising unemployment and a huge budget deficit. Mr. Obama said America remains the most prosperous nation on earth, with a productive workforce and almost boundless capacity to innovate and generate goods and services. But he said there is work to be done.
"The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth," said Mr. Obama. "We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together."
"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age," he added.
The president added that America's economic well-being cannot be separated from that of the global community.
"To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds," he said. "And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect."
In the weeks leading up to his inauguration, Mr. Obama worked with his economic team to forge an economic stimulus package totaling more than $800 billion. The plan consists of tax breaks for middle-income earners and small businesses, funding for infrastructure projects, incentives for alternative energy initiatives, and other measures. Congressional leaders have pledged expedited consideration of the package in coming weeks.