WASHINGTON - Thank you, Neera, for that kind
introduction, and thanks to the Center for American Progress for having me
This is your 10th Anniversary, and I want to commend John
and all of you for creating an institution that has become so central to the
shape and direction of public policy today.
As we meet this morning, it has been just a little over a
week since Democrats and Republicans came together to end the government
shutdown and eliminate the risk of default threatening our nation. This
bipartisan action marked a turning point. Because even though the process
was messy and damaging, our political leaders chose to come together for our
country and our economy.
We now have the opportunity to build on last week’s
events. There is no reason to let this moment slip through our
fingers. Not when the American people are yearning for the parties to
come together. And not when the stakes for America’s workers and
businesses are so high.
Now, if you think about where we were five years ago, we
have come a long way. Back then, the financial system was in
crisis. The auto-industry was in free fall. And foreclosures were
mounting. In fact, in the months before President Obama was sworn into
office, we were shedding roughly 800,000 jobs a month and our economy was
shrinking at an 8.3 percent annual rate.
But the American people fought their way back from the
brink. And because of our nation’s resilience, we have seen our economy
grow, our businesses expand and create jobs, and our deficits shrink.
Private employers have added 7.6 million jobs over the past 43 months, and
businesses have added more than 2 million jobs over the last year alone.
Manufacturing has expanded while the housing market continues to improve.
At the same time, our deficits are half of what they were a few years ago.
But even though progress has been made, our economy is still
not performing at full steam. The pace of growth and hiring has not been
nearly strong enough. And one reason for this trajectory is a series of
crises marked by the political brinksmanship in Washington in recent
years. The government shutdown and the debt ceiling impasse were examples
of that brinksmanship. A manufactured crisis, but a crisis
nonetheless. And even though we do not yet know the full extent of
the damage, we do know that it slowed economic growth and job creation this
What we should learn from this searing experience is that
Washington politics should not hurt our workers, businesses, and economy nor
should their well-being be used for political leverage. That does not
mean either side should abandon its beliefs. But we should be willing to
find common ground to achieve real solutions to our most pressing
problems. And with Congressional leaders now working together to build a
budget, this is the moment to do that.
As we move forward, we should make a pro-jobs, pro-growth
agenda our focus. And we can advance this agenda by taking bipartisan
action to replace sequestration, fix our broken immigration system, and pass a
farm bill. We should craft a budget agreement that propels growth and
hiring while maintaining fiscal discipline. We recognize that we do not
have a monopoly on good ideas, and welcome thoughts from Democrats and
Republicans. But any bipartisan agreement should be animated by a
commitment to doing two things at once: rebalancing fiscal savings to reduce
our medium and long-term deficits while taking steps now to make our economy
more competitive. So as we pursue a path of fair and balanced deficit
reduction, it is crucial that we close wasteful tax loopholes, eliminate costs
where it makes sense, and use some of the resources we free up to make targeted
investments in a few key areas like manufacturing, infrastructure, and
As we do that, we need to replace the harmful,
across-the-board cuts known as sequestration with commonsense measures that
rein in spending. These cuts were designed to be so mutually disagreeable
that they would compel Democrats and Republicans to come together to create
sensible and balanced deficit reduction policies.
It should be no surprise that a policy never intended to go
into effect is now producing results that raise many problems and there is now
broad bipartisan concern that these cuts are constraining our ability to
maintain crucial commitments in areas like infrastructure, education and
defense. We know sequestration has already been a drag on economic growth
and job creation. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget
Office, sequestration will reduce real GDP by as much as 1.2 percent by the
third quarter of next year. That translates into as many as 1.6
million fewer American jobs. If we can agree on sensible medium and
long-term policies to replace these short-term cuts, we can do something good
for the economy and our national security.
Now, in addition to putting together a budget and replacing
sequestration, Congress can complete some unfinished work that will accelerate
economic growth and job creation. Congress needs to finish the job of
fixing our broken immigration system. A bipartisan bill has already
passed the Senate, and it is waiting for passage in the House of
Representatives. This legislation would not only bolster our borders and
clear a way to earned citizenship, it would increase growth by more than a
trillion dollars. It would drive this growth by attracting highly skilled
scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to our shores. On top of that,
it would generate new consumer demand and spark business activity, while
producing payroll tax revenue that will reduce our deficit and put Social
Security and Medicare on a more stable footing.
Another bipartisan bill that can strengthen our economy is
the farm bill. Bipartisan legislation that has already passed the
Senate is designed to protect America’s farmers and ranchers and provide a
safety net for America’s most vulnerable children. The farm bill
conferees have an opportunity to work together to develop a bipartisan package
that promotes economic growth and job creation while protecting the most
vulnerable. It is time to get a bipartisan farm bill signed into
A comprehensive budget, a sensible alternative to
sequestration, immigration reform, the farm bill—all these amount to a powerful
jobs and growth plan. But there is more to do to shift the economy into
higher gear so that it is growing faster and creating jobs. The thing is,
we can make progress by simply moving forward on things Democrats and
Republicans have already come together to work on in the past. That
means fixing our housing finance system, renewing trade promotion authority,
and reforming our business tax code in conjunction with making needed repairs
to our aging roads, bridges, ports and pipelines.
So the key now is to move forward on all these fronts.
Each of these will help create jobs and grow the economy, and taken together,
they will significantly reduce our budget deficits even further. Getting
this done will require tough choices, but it will make a big difference for our
country. I remain convinced that the tradition of compromise,
bipartisanship, and building consensus is not a thing of the past.
Because when we focus on what is in the best interest of our nation and not on
what divides us, we can still find a pathway to progress.
We will meet the great tests before us. And we will
secure our economic future.
Thank you for all that you do to advance policy ideas to
tackle the challenges we face today and as we look ahead to a future of growth
and shared prosperity.
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