of President-elect Barack Obama
I speak to you today, mindful that we meet at a moment of great
challenge for America, as our credit markets are stressed, and our
families are struggling. But as difficult as these times are, I’m
confident that we will rise to meet this challenge – if we’re willing
to band together and recognize that Wall Street cannot thrive so long
as Main Street is struggling; if we’re willing to summon a new spirit
of ingenuity and determination; and if Americans of great intellect,
broad experience, and good character are willing to serve in government
at this hour of need.
Yesterday, I announced four such Americans to help lead the
economic team that will advise me as we seek to climb out of this
crisis. Today, Vice President-elect Biden and I are pleased to announce
two other key members of our team – Peter Orszag as Director and Robert
Nabors as Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Before I explain why I selected these outstanding public
servants, let me just say a word about the work I am asking them to
undertake. As I said yesterday, the economic crisis we face demands
that we invest immediately in a series of measures that will help save
or create two and a half million jobs and put tax cuts in the pockets
of the hard-pressed middle class. Many of those new jobs will come
in areas such as energy independence, technology, and health care
modernization that will strengthen our economy for the future.
November 25, 2008
But if we’re going to make the investments we need, we must also be
willing to shed the spending we don’t. In these challenging times,
when we are facing both rising deficits and a sinking economy, budget
reform is not an option. It is an imperative. We cannot
sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs
that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the
power of a politician, lobbyist, or interest group. We simply
cannot afford it.
This isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about
building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That is why I
will ask my team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges.
We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line –
eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we
do operate in a sensible cost-effective way.
Let me give you one example of what I’m talking about. There’s a
report today that from 2003 to 2006, millionaire farmers received $49
million in crop subsidies even though they were earning more than the
$2.5 million cutoff for such subsidies. If this is true, it is a prime
example of the kind of waste I intend to end as President.
And we will also focus on one of the biggest, long-run challenges
that our budget faces – namely, the rising cost of health care in both
the public and private sectors. This is not just a challenge but also
an opportunity to improve the health care that Americans rely on and to
bring down the costs that taxpayers, businesses, and families have to
That is what the OMB will do in my administration – it will not
only help design a budget and manage its implementation, it will also
help make sure that our government – your government – is more
efficient and more effective at serving the American people.
There is no better person to help lead this effort as Director of
the OMB than my friend Peter Orszag. Peter has been one of our nation’s
leading voices on budgetary issues. It is said that a nation’s budget
reflects its priorities. I believe that is true. And I know that Peter
will bring to his work at the OMB a set of priorities that I – and the
American people – share.
Throughout his career, he has made significant contributions in
our understanding of all the major economic challenges we are now
confronting – from reducing medical costs to saving Social Security to
fighting global climate change to helping put the dream of a college
degree within reach for more students.
As Director of the Congressional Budget Office, he reenergized
and reinvigorated the agency, while shifting its focus to confront the
health care crisis that is not only a cause of so much suffering for so
many families, but a rapidly growing portion of our budget and a drag
on our entire economy.
But it is not simply Peter’s past career that makes him qualified
for his new appointment, it is his vision for the future. He believes,
as I do, that even as we take steps to restore discipline to our
budget, we must also take the steps right now that are necessary to
solve our immediate crisis.
Peter doesn’t need a map to tell him where the bodies are buried
in the federal budget. He knows what works and what doesn’t, what
is worthy of our precious tax dollars and what is not. Just because a
program, a special interest tax break or corporate subsidy is tucked
into this year’s budget, does not mean it should survive the next. The
old ways of Washington simply can’t meet the challenges of today and
And no one is more able or more qualified to assist Peter in this
work as Deputy Director of the OMB than Robert Nabors. Rob will bring
to this post experience in the executive branch, at the OMB, where he
helped the Clinton administration achieve balanced budgets, as well as
in the legislative branch, where he led the appropriations committee
staff as a driving force for a responsible budget. Together with Peter,
Rob will help steer our budget through Congress so that I can sign it
Now, let me be clear: these appointments and the appointments I
announced yesterday are not the sum of my economic team. These
appointees will work with those I have yet to announce – including the
secretaries of Energy and Labor, Commerce and Health and Human Services
and others in my administration – to design a recovery plan for both
Wall Street and Main Street, and to put our economy on a path to
long-term growth and prosperity.
Because at this moment, we must not only restore confidence in
our markets. We must also restore the confidence of middle class
families that their government is on their side – that it’s working for
them – on their behalf – to meet their families’ needs. And that is
exactly what I intend to do as President of the United States of
America. Thank you.