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President Obama told a packed audience of supporters in Vermont on Friday that America faces a stark choice between a society based on “shared responsibility” and a society “where you’re on your own.” He pledged to continue his efforts to equalize the tax burden and to push legislation which he believes will continue to create jobs and strengthen the economy.
Speaking of his rivals in the Republican presidential primary, Obama said, “Their philosophy is simple: in America, you’re on your own. If you’re out of work and can’t find a job, too bad; you’re on your own. If you get sick and don’t have healthcare, you’re own your own. If you’re born into poverty, you’re supposed to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don’t have boots.” He continued, “They believe that’s how America advanced. That’s their cramped, narrow conception of liberty, and they are wrong.”
Obama said the Republican philosophy is reflected in their efforts to cut government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, deregulate the banks, and create a tax structure that favors the wealthy. That is the same approach that caused the recession in 2008, he said.
“The recovery is happening,” said Obama. “In three years, we’ve created four million new jobs. We’ve rescued the American auto industry. American manufacturing is stronger than it’s been in years. I know there are still a lot of people out of work, and things haven’t gone as fast as we would like, but the last thing we can afford to do is go back to the same policies that caused this mess in the first place.”
Obama’s speech at the University of Vermont in Burlington was the first leg of a fundraising tour through New England. He drew laughs from the heavily partisan crowd when he pointed out that he was the first American president to visit the state in 17 years. President George W. Bush avoided Vermont, a perennial stronghold of the Democratic party and bastion of liberal politics, through all eight years of his presidency. President Bill Clinton visited the state during his first term.
“We’re going the reset the clock on that,” he said. “We love you,” shouted a woman in the audience. “Love you back,” Obama responded, drawing more laughs and cheers.
While avoiding the Supreme Court hearings on his healthcare reform bill, Obama touted the benefits of the law and said it has already had a positive impact. “Two and a half million more young people now have health insurance because they’re allowed to stay on their parents plans until they’re 26,” said Obama. “Seniors have already saved hundreds of millions on their Medicare prescription drug benefits. The healthcare reform we’ve passed will ensure that no one will go broke just because they got sick.”
He said the Republican party originally supported many of the ideas included in the healthcare reform law and that their uncooperative, anti-government attitude is something new. He said some of the country’s greatest achievements, such as the GI Bill, the space program, and the interstate highway system, were only possible with bipartisan support.
“There used to be a common spirit of cooperation, but not anymore, at least not in Washington D.C.,” said Obama. “But outside of Washington, most Americans understand that no matter who you are or where you’re from, we rise and fall as one people.”
Obama concluded by telling his supporters not to be discouraged by the opposition to the changes and improvements he promised when he ran for office in 2008.
“I told you change would not be easy,” said Obama. “I’m not a perfect man – Michelle will tell you that. But I promised I would keep fighting as hard as possible for positive change, and I have kept that promise. We’ll keep working until we’ve finished what we started in 2008. Press on with me. Press on, and we’ll remind the world what America is all about.”