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Obama Speaks with Pastor Rick on Fiscal Responsibility

August 17th, 2008 . by economistmom

Last night CNN broadcast the “Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency,” live from the church of Pastor Rick Warren (of Purpose-Driven Life fame).  Here is the CNN story that contains links to the video (in four parts).  And here is a link to the written transcript, now available on Rick Warren’s website.

The whole forum–back to back interviews of the two candidates separately, but on the same tough questions–was really well done.  It seems this format is really effective at helping the public really get to know how the candidates think on the issues–I mean how they really think and deeply feel about the issues, and not just how they debate with their opponent about them.

Two highlights for me:  (i) the question on “who is rich”–i.e., at what income level does the candidate consider a family “rich”–and I believe it was asked with reference to taxes, or at least was answered that way by both; and (ii) Obama’s response to the very last question on what he would tell the American public if he “knew there wouldn’t be any repercussions.”

On the question of who’s rich regarding taxes, the candidates answered very differently, as to be expected.  Obama made reference to his $250,000+ standard.  McCain began with a flippant mention of $5 million, but eventually got to his supply-side (really, Laffer Curve) claim that you have to cut taxes to raise revenue, and that the deficit problem was due to spending, not to tax cuts.  (This AP story by Charles Babington and Beth Fouhy highlights part of that McCain response.)

I was moved by Obama’s answer to Pastor Rick’s last question, on what he would tell the American public (in 30 seconds) if he knew there wouldn’t be any “repercussions.”  In his response, Obama made reference to shared sacrifice and fiscal responsibility–the (moral) issue of what we leave for future generations (I’m cutting and pasting from the all-caps text and then editing/correcting here, so sorry this isn’t very pretty):

YOU KNOW, WHAT I WOULD TELL THEM IS THAT SOLVING BIG PROBLEMS LIKE FOR EXAMPLE ENERGY IS NOT GOING TO BE EASY AND EVERYBODY’S GOING TO HAVE TO GET INVOLVED AND WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO ALL THINK ABOUT HOW ARE WE USING ENERGY MORE EFFICIENTLY AND THERE IS GOING TO BE A PRICE TO PAY IN TRANSITIONING TO A MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT ECONOMY AND DEALING WITH ISSUES LIKE CLIMate CHANGE.  IF WE PRETEND LIKE EVERYTHING IS FREE AND THERE IS NO SACRIFICE INVOLVED THEN WE ARE BETRAYING THE TRADITION OF AMERICA.

I THINK ABOUT MY GRANDPARENT’S GENERATION COMING OUT OF A DEPRESSION, FIGHTING WORLD WAR TWO; YOU KNOW THEY’VE CONFRONTED SOME CHALLENGES WE CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE.  IF THEY WERE WILLING TO MAKE SACRIFICES ON OUR BEHALF, WE SHOULD BE ABLE to be TOLD to MAKE SOME SACRIFICES ON BEHALF OF THE NEXT GENERATION.

3 Responses to “Obama Speaks with Pastor Rick on Fiscal Responsibility”

  1. comment number 1 by: Blue Dog Staffer

    The real money shot for me in Sen. Obama’s comments was this:

    “But the question that I think we have to ask ourselves is if we believe in good schools, if we believe in good roads, if we want to make sure that kids can go to college, if we don’t want to leave a mountain of debt for the next generation, then we’ve got to pay for these things. They don’t come for free.”

    A lot has been made over whether or not the respective campaigns’ economic plans are responsible. After hearing this, it can honestly be said that at least one candidate understands why that conversation is important.

  2. comment number 2 by: Unsympathetic

    McCain is laughably ignorant.

    The federal debt does not just sit around - we have to pay it back. This fool does not want to pay it back - that would necessitate a decrease in profits for all of the companies in the “military industrial complex.” McCain and his neocon cronies have no concept of fiscal prudence; Arnold is the only Republican in the entire country who’s even attempting to confront monetary reality.

    McCain’s plan does not address paying back the debt. McCain’s plan does not address the requisite upgrades to the nation’s energy infrastructure - which, not surprisingly, was bled dry by the so-called “free market” due to the desire for profits instead of efficient power distribution. McCain’s plan does not address the research and support of alternative energy sources such as wind, nuclear, and algae which are necessary to wean the US grid away from oil-fired energy generation.

    McCain’s plan does include lots of rhetorical jawboning, so he’s got that going for him.

  3. comment number 3 by: economistmom

    Blue Dog Staffer: You’re right–that’s a good one, and succinctly makes the point I was trying to make in this post from a couple weeks ago (which I know you also liked):
    http://economistmom.com/2008/08/does-better-government-require-giving-up-on-deficit-reduction/