Barack Obama Press Avail
St. Louis, Missouri
*The questions are all paraphrased because it was difficult to hear the audio from questions.*
Q: Question about healthcare mandates?
BO: Obviously this is a debate we had during the primary season. My opposition to mandates is based on what I’m seeing as I’m traveling around the country, and that is that people are not without health insurance because they’re trying to avoid getting health insurance – it’s because they can’t afford it. And it’s my strong belief that if we set up a system in which everybody has access to health care at affordable rates and there are no exclusions for pre-existing conditions; if insurers are not in a position to cherry-pick the healthiest, but rather are taking on all comers; that the overwhelming majority of Americans are going to get health insurance. They want health insurance. There may be some waverers out there, most of whom, by the way, are very young and healthy, who think that they’re invulnerable and don’t need health insurance. A large portion of that population I’m looking to cover by allowing parents to keep their children on their health care plans until the age of 25. That would eliminate a huge segment of that population. And what I’ve said is that we’ll then evaluate whether there are, in fact, any sizable parts of the population that are still not covered. But what I think is a mistake is to set up a system in which, while we’re still creating access, you start penalizing and fining those who don’t have it.
BO: One of the things that we’re seeing in Massachusetts where they set this up is that people are getting modest fines on top of still not having to worry about to pay the premiums to buy health care, so they’re actually worse off than they were before. And that’s a situation I’m hoping for.
Q: Yesterday you said you wouldnt take an ideological view of taxes and the economycan the same be said of your approach to Iraq?
BO: well what I’ve said is that it is very important for us to send a fair signal to the Iraqi government that our time in Iraq is coming to a close, that were establishing a time table for withdrawal and what I’ve also said is that we’re going to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. and I’ve said before that there are contingencies that were worse than genocide or some other event which require this to be of value that of course I would take into consideration. What I won’t do is to be an open-ended strategic policy that says we are going to leave it up to essentially the Iraqis to determine he pace at which they train their folks, pace which they negotiate on critical issues like how oil (inaudible). We’ve got to light a fire under their feet to start taking responsibility. The only way to do that I think is to have a clear time table. I’ve said before, I will listen to our commanders on the ground; I will be paying attention to the facts as I make these assessments.
Q: You said Senator McCain doesnt even come close to paying for his planbut you havent said how you would pay for yours?
BO: That’s actually not true.
Q: Follow up?
BO: There is an article in your newspaper, the wall street journal, which I will be happy to distribute to you, which specifically says that we paid for our proposals. Now it’s true we haven’t a done line-by-line itemized button, but we have identified the revenue sources where by we would pay for our proposals. Now, so let’s make a contrast. People who have evaluated my spending plans and my revenue sources said there is rough alignment there although some of the, like in any budgets, it’s not completely detailed. John McCain is proposing in addition to the Bush, the Bush tax cuts, an additional 300 billion dollars in tax cuts, corporate tax cuts, and when asked on how he would pay for them his answer is earmarks. Earmarks in the broadest definition amount to 18 billion dollars. So, right off the top you have a gap of 282 billion dollars that he isn’t even pretending he’s paid for. Now, when you actually look at what constitutes that 18 billion dollars in earmarks it turns out that even some of that is a loser. Because for example one of those earmarks is the everglades and the money the federal government has committed to helping save the everglades. He was down in Florida the other day and was asked about it, he said well my objections is not spending the money, it’s the process that is going through earmarks as opposed to regular appropriations. Well, I actually agree with him that we need to reform the earmarks process but if he’s still committing to the everglades in Florida, that’s just 2 billion we just took off the 18 billion that he says is helping to pay for (inaudible). So you can’t compare the fact that we may not be able to document every dime that’s paying for our proposals, but where were in in the ballpark versus John McCains rule has no way of paying for 300 billion dollars worth of tax cuts that are the center piece of his economic policies. That would go directly to the federal debt and our long term national debt every year.
Q: How do you offset the revenue for your tax cuts?
BO: Well the, we have identified a series of corporate tax loopholes and tax aids that would be (inaudible) and for example, just to give one example, the referral of paying off taxes on profits that are 8 over 6, which are (inaudible) encourages businesses to leave the country and set-up operations in places like China and Mexico, not repatriate those profits and continue to reinvest them in other countries. We asked to make, and this is just an example, but we can obtain somewhere in the range of 10 billion dollars just by closing some of those loopholes.
Q: You have used countrywide as an example—Question about Jim Johnson as member of VP search committeehow do you respond to this?
BO: I mean, first of all, I am not vetting my VP search committee for their mortgages, so you’re going to have to direct — it becomes, sort of — I mean this is a game that can be played. Everybody who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships. I would have to hire a vetter to vet the vetters. I mean at some point, you know, we’ve just asked people to do their assignments. Jim Johnson has a very discreet task, as does Eric Holder, and that is simply to gather up information about potential vice presidential candidates. They’re performing the job well. It’s a volunteer, unpaid position, and they’re giving me information, and I will then exercise judgment in terms of who I’ll want to select as a vice presidential candidate. So these are folks who are working for me, not people who I have assigned to a particular job in the future administration, and ultimately, my assumption is is that this is a discreet task they’ll be performing over the next two months.
Q: Isnt he involved in your VP process?
BO: Well, they’ve got a job of gathering information about potential vice presidential candidates. Thats what they’re doing.
Q: Do you expect to release more medical records? When was the last time you fell off the wagon for smoking?
BO: I don’t remember, but it was probably, it’s been a while. You know, months, and in terms in additional records, the particular things that people have questions about then we’d be happy to give them the information.
Q: JM request for townhall meetings?
BO: You know what we’ve said is we are happy to do more than the three typical presidential debates in the fall. If I’m not mistaken, we’ve gone back with a counter-proposal to them, and our communications people are working on that right now, and our hope is we will have those negotiations soon.
Q: What is it that you would like to see?
BO: You know, I think what we’re looking at is, and I don’t know all the details about this, but I think, you know, it’s not realistic for us to do 10. We’re dealing with all the campaign events that I have to do, since we’ve just finished our primary election. So it will probably be somewhat fewer than 10, but more than the 3 that have been already agreed to, and we’ll probably propose a mix of formats.
Q: Do you plan to incorporate Senator Clinton into campaign? Debt?
BO: You know, I had a meeting with Senator Clinton, which was very constructive. I was extraordinarily grateful to her for her strong endorsement that she provided on Saturday. Our teams are now working together to figure out how we move forward on a whole variety of fronts. We have not had detailed discussions about her [inaudible]. And, you know, I think that what she’s really interested in, as she said on Saturday, is figuring out how we are going to move forward to make sure we win the White House.
Q: Follow up?
BO: Well, it was not a topic that was the focus of my meeting with her. Our staffs are going to be having conversations moving forward. Our main priority is going to be winning in November.
Q: Question about gun violence among African American males. Mayors are complaining that there is not a lot of federal assistance?
BO: No, I think the Feds can do a lot about it. I would start by restoring cops funding, which puts police officers on the streets, this was a smart program that Bill Clinton helped implement when he was president, and when you’ve got police officers on the beat, then they are able to intervene and prevent crime before it happens. This is true, by the way, not just in urban areas. There are sources of funding like [inaudible] that can help rural districts pull together — you know, they can’t afford their own drug task forces — in order to deal with the scourge of methamphetamines in ravaged portions of rural communities throughout the Midwest. I think it’s also important for us to get more after school programs and summer school programs in place, so that young people have a place to go, an instructive place to be, and are able to continue their education outside of class. And so I’ve got very specific planks for increasing funding on those fronts. And I think that there — we need to do a better job when it comes to tracing guns that are used in crimes. And this has been an example of what I consider to be a common-sense gun law that has been blocked. I think it’s a mistake – I believe in the Second Amendment, I believe in the rights of Americans to bear arms, but for us to prevent law enforcement from tracing guns that are used in crimes to potentially unscrupulous gun dealers, who are dumping these guns into neighborhoods and selling them to gang members, I think that’s a mistake. And that’s something that I think the federal government can work with local officials to do.
Q: What would an Obama administration do about the global food crisis?
BO: Well there a lot of factors involved right now. One of the things I want to do is make sure that we’re dealing with climate change in a meaningful way, because changing weather patterns are the likely cause of some of the problems that we’re having, for example, in Australia, with the drought. And those problems could get worse. Every degree of temperature that — every degree that the global temperature goes up, we see 10% reductions in rice production, and so we could have some long-term problems, and that’s why I’ve proposed a cap-and-trade system that will start aggressively dealing with global warming. The second thing that we need to do is we’ve got to, I think, examine our food policies to figure out, how can we encourage increased production in poor countries that are having the biggest problems with potential hunger. You know, traditionally, our foreign aid is designed so that we grow food here and then we export it there. We have to, I think, start thinking about, can we buy some of the food there for distribution in that country to encourage increased production, and to give farmers in those countries more of an incentive to grow, and then we’ve obviously got to provide technical assistance so we’re increasing their production more effectively. I think that we’ve got to stockpile food reserves at a global level more effectively than we have in the past. Those stockpiles have shrunk considerably. And finally, we’re going to have to deal with increasing energy costs, which are having an impact on overall food production and cost. So this is going to be long challenge, and is something that an Obama administration is going to monitor closely and take aggressive action.
Q: Did you have time to reflect?
BO: Um, you know, in between the sleepover with seven seven-year-olds, and a bike ride, I did reflect on it. And I am extraordinarily proud of what my team did, and I think am most — I am most of all humbled and grateful to the American people for giving me this opportunity. Humbled because we’ve got a big job ahead of us, and it makes me want to redouble my efforts and deliver on the promises that have been made so far in the campaign.
Q: Question about CNBC interview and whether he would consider deferring tax increase?
BO: No, first of all, I didnt say I would defer, what I said was I always take facts into account, I cant predict yet where the economy is going to be six months from now or eight months from now so it would be foolish for me to say that Ive got my economic plan and word going forward with it regardless of what circumstances, my principal when it comes to taxes is we should keep them as low as possible, while still investing in the basic infrastructure, and human capital that is need to make the economy grow, and so I have no, this notion that John McCains peddling which is sorta the standard fair out republican candidates that somehow Democrats are interested in tax and spend, this just isnt, Im going to get to the economics question, this just its just not true, thats not how I, thats not what I believe, by the way, you look at the track record, I would put Bill Clintons fiscal stewardship against George Bushes any day, now, I think that there, you can get to a point where, taxes are so burdensome on business that it hinders there investment and equipment, research and development, but nobodys talking about huge shifts in our tax system. You know when I said for example, capital gains is the area thats gotten the most attention because its the business tax that, Ive suggested that may need to be modified. What Ive said is that we would adjust potentially upwards but not a remarkably higher level, if we send the capital gains rate up to 20 % and by the sketches by people like Warren Buffet, indicate that it will probably not have any significant impact in terms of investment you know that wont be skewing investment decisions, now if it got raised to 40 % or 50 yes it could have impact, but nobodys talking about that, so on the flip side of this, if we, because taxes that have disproportionably developed the wealthy have been lowered, while middle class taxes have not been substantially lowered, what were getting is the largest increase in inequality in a very long time. And we have have a situation that in over the last decade or so, up to of the economic growth thats happened in this country has been captured by the top 1 % and most of that has been captured by the top 1/10 of 1 % meanwhile the average family has actually gone down by a thousand dollars, because while there wages and incomes are stagnant, cost of everything from food to gas, to medical care, to college tuition have all skyrocketed, so what were trying to do is restore some balance, put some money in the pockets of working families, and the pockets of consumers that actually, I believe will be good for business, because those folks will be spending money and that means business will have a products and services that they can sell. You know when ever you get a situation in which the economy is to out of balance and ordinary workers are feeling squeezed that produces demand and consumer demand is whats been driving this economy for a long time, if we are going to avoid the deep long recession then weve got to make sure there getting some of the benefit out of increased productivity and economic growth okay? All right guys.