- (Photo: REUTERS/Jim Young)
President Barack Obama endorsed the recommendations of his debt commission in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention Thursday. Arguing that he will fight for the middle class, Obama asked voters to give him four more years to finish the work he started.
Obama initially did not endorse the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Report, also known as "Bowles-Simpson," when it was released in December 2010.
"Now, I'm still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission," Obama said in Charlotte, N.C. "No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise."
Bowles-Simpson recommended reducing future deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years by cutting spending, reforming the tax code and reforming Social Security. The tax reforms would raise about $900 billion in revenue by eliminating many deductions and credits while lowering all of the tax rates.
Last summer, House Republicans refused to sign onto an increase to the nation's debt limit without cuts to government spending. This showdown led to the Budget Control Act of 2011, which cut spending by about $1 trillion and will reduce spending by about another $1 trillion beginning next year.
Obama lauded that effort in his speech, saying, "Last summer, I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut $1 trillion in spending -- because those of us who believe government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it so that it's leaner, more efficient, and more responsive to the American people."
While embracing Bowles-Simpson was new, the rest of the agenda discussed in his speech was based upon proposals he has already been championing as a candidate in 2008 and as president. He called for increasing taxes on the wealthy, reducing the interest rate on student loans, and reforming Medicare by reducing the cost of health care.
In one of the biggest applause lines of the night, Obama joked that Republicans have no new ideas on how to better the economy.
"All they have to offer is the same prescription they've had for the last 30 years. Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning."
Obama also evoked another campaign theme when he argued that Republicans and their candidate, Mitt Romney, would leave Americans on their own while he and the Democrats will help them.
"This is what the election comes down to," Obama said. "Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can't do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can't afford health insurance, hope that you don't get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that's just the price of progress. If you can't afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent's advice and borrow money from your parents. You know what? That's not who we are. That's not what this country's about."
At one point, Obama seemed to criticize his own campaign strategy, which has largely focused on Romney's tax returns and his work at Bain Capital, rather than the policy issues that voters say they care about.
"I know that campaigns can seem small, and even silly," Obama said. "Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. And the truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising. If you're sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me, so am I."
Obama has been criticized by many religious groups for requiring them to cover birth control, sterilization and some abortifacient drugs, even if their religious doctrine opposes those services. Some religious organizations complain that they are being forced to choose between violating their religious doctrine or providing services to their communities. In his speech, Obama acknowledged that religious organizations play an important role in reducing poverty.
"We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone," he said.
At times, Obama sounded humble. He said he was mindful of his failings as president and quoted President Abraham Lincoln, who said, "I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go."
The end of the speech echoed one of his 2008 campaign themes – hope. Obama said he has never been more hopeful about America, and, "I'm hopeful because of you." Quoting Jeremiah 29:11, he said America's future is one "filled with hope."
The next major event before the Nov. 6 election will be the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 in Denver.