Samstag, 26. Februar 2011
Berlin, diese Stadt, die heute auch deshalb kulturell aufblüht, weil junge Europäer sich hier wieder in Freiheit treffen und austauschen können.
Auch dank Ihres Einsatzes, Herr Gorbatschow, konnten die Völker Europas der langen und wechselhaften Chronik unseres Kontinents ein friedliches, glückliches Kapitel hinzufügen.
Ihrem Einsatz verdanken wir aber auch eine Stiftung und eine Umweltschutzorganisation, die uns wertvolle Erkenntnisse liefern:
zur Wechselwirkung von Konflikten und Umweltzerstörung, zur Behandlung leukämiekranker Kinder, zum Dialog der Kulturen oder auch zum Verständnis von Perestroika.
Auch heute noch verbinden wir mit ihnen Dankbarkeit und Freude.
Denn ohne Offenheit und Transparenz, ohne den in der Sowjetunion begonnenen Prozess der gesellschaftlichen und politischen Veränderung hätten unser Land und unser Kontinent nicht jene geschichtliche Sternstunde erlebt, die uns 1989 und 1990 in Atem hielt.
Die Freiheitsliebe der Völker Europas traf damals auf die Weitsicht und den Mut großer Politiker, allen voran Michail Gorbatschows, die den "Bau eines gemeinsamen Hauses Europa" ermöglichten.
Besonders wichtig werden sie aber dann, wenn plötzlich wenige Wochen, Tage und Stunden über den Lauf der Geschichte entscheiden.
Wenn ein historischer Moment bestimmt, welche Richtung die Zukunft von Menschen und Völkern einschlagen wird.
Einen solchen Moment erleben wir auch heute wieder - bei unseren Nachbarn im Nahen und Mittleren
Wir teilen die millionenfache Hoffnung auf mehr Freiheit.
Wir sehen die großen Chancen für Demokratie, Teilhabe und gesellschaftliche Öffnung.
Wir bangen aber auch, weil jeder Umbruch Missbrauch von Gewalt nicht automatisch ausschließt.
Die Menschen in Tunesien, Ägypten, Libyen und anderen Ländern erwarten heute zu Recht, dass wir in Europa jenen konstruktiven Beistand zeigen, den vor über zwanzig Jahren die Deutschen und die Mittel- und Osteuropäer von unseren Partnern in der Welt erhalten haben.
Heute liegt es an den Frauen und Männern der arabischen Länder, an der Weisheit ihrer Führenden und an der Unterstützung von uns allen, die wir eng wie nie weltweit in Verbindung stehen, einen neuen historischen Moment zu nutzen:
Es geht um die Rechte aller Menschen, ihre Grundfreiheiten zu genießen und den Kurs ihrer Länder auf demokratische Weise mitzubestimmen.
Freitag, 18. Februar 2011
Intel CorporationHillsboro, Oregon
11:53 A.M. PST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Everybody, please have a seat.
Thank you so much. I am thrilled to be here. I want to, first of all, thank Paul for that introduction, and I want to thank Paul for agreeing to be part of our administration’s new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. I look forward to our continuing conversations when we meet next week.
I also want to acknowledge a wonderful governor, Governor Kitzhaber, who is here. Thank you so much for all the work that you’re doing. (Applause.) And the mayor of Hillsboro, Jerry Willey, thank you for the great work that you do. (Applause.)
And I want to thank everybody here at Intel for hosting us here today. We just had an amazing tour. One of my staff, he said, it’s like magic. (Laughter.) He did, that’s what he said. (Laughter.)
I had a chance to see everything from an electron microscope to the inside of your microprocessor facility, the clean room. And I have to say, for all the gadgets you’ve got here, what actually most impressed me were the students and the science projects that I just had a chance to see. It gave them a chance to talk about things like quantum ternary algorithms -- (laughter) -- and it gave me a chance to nod my head and pretend that I understood what they were talking about. (Laughter and applause.)
So that was the high school guys. Then we went over to -- (laughter) -- seriously. Then we went over to meet some seventh graders, six girls, and it was wonderful -- all girls -- who had started a science program after school that involved Legos. So I’m thinking, now this is more my speed. (Laughter.) I used to build some pretty mean Lego towers when I was a kid. (Laughter.) I thought I could participate -- only these students used their Legos to build models -- to build robots that were programmable to model brains that could repair broken bones. So I guess that’s different than towers. (Laughter.) It’s not as good. (Laughter.) The towers. (Laughter.)
So I couldn’t be prouder of these students and all the work that they’ve done. And in my State of the Union address, I said that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but also the winner of science fairs. And since the Packers beat my Bears -- (laughter) -- I’m reserving all my celebrating for the winners of the service fairs this year -- the science fairs. They deserve applause. (Applause.) They deserve our applause and our praise, and they make me optimistic about America’s future, just as visiting this facility makes me optimistic about America’s future.
I’m so proud of everybody here at Intel, not only because of what you do for these students or this community, because -- but because of what you do for the country. A few weeks ago, I went to the Chamber of Commerce and I talked about the responsibility that American businesses have to create jobs and invest in this country. And there are few major companies that take this responsibility as seriously as Intel.
In 1968, Intel started as one of Silicon Valley’s first start-ups. And as you grew in leaps and bounds in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, you experienced the competitive pressures of globalization -- the changes in technology that made it cheaper for many computer companies to start hiring and manufacturing overseas. And over the years, you’ve done some of this yourself. And yet, by and large, Intel has placed its bets on America.
As Paul just mentioned, three-fourths of your manufacturing still happens right here in the United States. This year you’ll hire another 4,000 American workers. You’ll create good construction jobs upgrading your facilities and building new plants in Arizona and right here in Oregon.
And this kind of commitment has always been part of Intel’s philosophy. The founder of this company, the legendary Andy Grove, has said that he’s always felt two obligations. One obligation is to your shareholders. But the other obligation is to America, because a lot of what Intel has achieved has been made possible, in Andy’s words, “by a climate of democracy, an economic climate, and investment climate provided by our domicile, the United States.”
Intel is possible because of the incredible capacity of America to reinvent itself and to allow people to live out their dreams. And so the question we have to ask ourselves now is, how do we maintain this climate that Andy Grove was talking about? How do we make sure that more companies like Intel invest here, manufacture here, hire here?
In a world that is more competitive than ever before, it’s our job to make sure that America is the best place on Earth to do business. Now, part of that requires knocking down barriers that stand in the way of a company’s growth, which is why I’ve proposed lowering the corporate tax rate and eliminating unnecessary regulations. It also requires getting our fiscal house in order, which is why I’ve proposed a five-year spending freeze that will reduce the deficit by $400 billion. That's a freeze that will bring our annual domestic spending to its lowest share of the economy since Eisenhower was President.
Now, to really get our deficit under control we’re going to have to do more. And I want to work with both parties to find additional savings and get rid of excessive spending wherever it exists, whether it’s defense spending or health care spending or spending in the tax code, in the form of loopholes.
But even as we have to live within our means, we can’t sacrifice investments in our future. If we want the next technological breakthrough that leads to the next Intel to happen here in the United States -- not in China or not in Germany, but here in the United States -- then we have to invest in America’s research and technology; in the work of our scientists and our engineers.
If we want companies like yours to be able to move goods and information quickly and cheaply, we’ve got to invest in communication and transportation networks, like new roads and bridges, high-speed rail, high-speed internet.
If we want to make sure Intel doesn’t have to look overseas for skilled, trained workers, then we’ve got to invest in our people -- in our schools, in our colleges, in our children.
Basically, if we want to win the future, America has to out-build, and out-innovate, and out-educate and out-hustle the rest of the world. That's what we’ve got to do. (Applause.)
So today I want to focus on one component of that, and that is education. That's what I want to talk about today.
Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree. Times have changed. It used to be if you were willing to work hard, you could go to a factory and you might be able to get a job that lasts 20 years, provide good benefits, provide decent salary. These days those jobs are far and few between. Many of the jobs that are going to exist in the future, that exist now -- like the ones here at Intel -- require proficiency in math and science.
And yet today as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. As we just heard Paul say, companies like Intel struggle to hire American workers who have the skills that fit their needs.
So we can’t win the future if we lose the race to educate our children. Can’t do it. In today’s economy, the quality of a nation’s education is one of the biggest predictors of a nation’s success. It is what will determine whether the American Dream survives. And so it’s the responsibility of all of us to get this right: parents, teachers, students, workers, business and government. We’re all going to have to focus on this like a laser.
And over the past two years, my administration’s guiding philosophy has been that when it comes to reforming our schools, Washington shouldn’t try to dictate all the answers. What we should be doing is rewarding and replicating the success of schools that have figured out a way to raise their standards and improve student performance.
And so here’s what we did. Instead of pouring federal money into a system that wasn’t working, we launched a competition. We called it Race to the Top. To all 50 states we said if you show us reforms that will lead to real results, we’ll show you the money.
Race to the Top has turned out to be the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states -- 40 -- to raise their standards for teaching and for learning. And these standards weren't developed in Washington -- they were developed by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country.
Because we know that, other than parents, perhaps the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman who’s sitting or who is standing in front of the classroom, we've also focused a lot on teaching, on teachers. We want to make teaching an honored profession in our society. We want to reward good teachers. We want to stop making excuses for bad teachers. And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math -- fields that will give the students the skills they need for the jobs that exist in places like Intel.
To ensure that higher education is within the reach of every American, we extended -- we put an end to unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that used to go to banks, and we put the savings towards making college more affordable for millions of students. And this year, we want to make permanent our tuition tax credit, which is worth $10,000 for four years of college.
And finally, to make sure anyone can get trained and prepared for whatever career they pursue, we want to revitalize America’s community colleges. Not everybody needs to go to a four-year college. And so we’ve launched a nationwide initiative to connect graduates that need a job with businesses that need their skills.
And we've drawn lessons from Intel’s experience. For years, Intel has recognized the value of these kinds of partnerships between schools and businesses. This company understands that your success depends on a pipeline of skilled workers who are ready to fill high-tech jobs.
And so over the last decade, you’ve invested $50 million to support education in the state of Oregon. You’ve started programs -- (Applause.) That's worth applause.
You’ve started programs that get kids interested in engineering and technology as early as elementary school, like those six girls that I met. You’ve sponsored mentoring and engineering competitions for poor and underserved high school students. Your employees volunteer -- some of you probably here have volunteered -- as tutors in nearby schools and universities. You’ve helped train 7,000 Oregon teachers over the last 10 years.
Your science fairs, your talent searches are some of the largest and most prestigious in the world, producing multiple Nobel Prize winners -- and I expect some of the students I met will qualify soon. (Laughter and applause.)
And we were so grateful that Intel was one of the four companies that initially joined our administration’s nationwide campaign to boost math and science education here in America, as part of a new organization called “Change the Equation.”
So you guys have been pretty busy here at Intel. (Laughter.) You’ve given countless students the chance to succeed, and for that you should be very proud. But you’re not just a good corporate role model. You’re a corporation who understands that investing in education is also a good business model. It’s good for the bottom line.
A lot of your employees were engineering undergraduates at Oregon State or Portland State, right? (Applause.) How many Beavers here, by the way? (Applause.) You know my brother-in-law is coach there. (Laughter and applause.) Just wanted to -- just wanted to point that out. They’re a young team, but they're on the move. (Laughter.)
But here’s what we know. If you can spark a student’s interest in math or science who would have otherwise dropped out, you might not just change a child’s life; you may nurture the talent that one day discovers the breakthrough that changes this industry forever.
In fact, before I came here, I read a story about a young University of Oregon graduate. His name is Nabil Mistkawi, and he joined Intel as an engineer in 1993. After working with so many other employees who had doctorate degrees, Nabil decided to go back to school and get his PhD in chemistry at Portland State University. And thanks to Intel, he was able to pay for his degree and keep his full-time job.
During that time, Intel was trying to find a faster, more efficient way to process their microchips, but nobody could figure it out. And they asked at least eight other companies and research labs for help. Some said it couldn’t be done. Others worked on it for nearly a year with no success. And so they asked Nabil if he wanted to give it a shot.
Within three days -- three days -- he came up with a solution that is now saving this company millions of dollars a year. And I will not embarrass myself by trying to explain what his answer was -- (laughter) -- and most of you probably know how it works anyway. (Laughter.) The point is, an investment in education paid off in a big way -- for Nabil, for Intel, for the millions of workers and consumers who benefited from that discovery.
So for all the daunting statistics about our educational failings as a nation, for all the naysayers predicting America’s decline -- you’ve been hearing them lately -- stories like this give me hope. Stories like these give me confidence that America will win the future. We know what works. We know how to succeed. We know how to do big things. And all across this nation -- in places just like one -- we have students and teachers, local leaders and companies, who are working together to make it happen.
When it comes to competing with other nations for the jobs and industries of the future, we are all on the same team -- the American team. And if we start rowing in the same direction, I promise you, there is nothing that we cannot achieve. That’s what you’re proving here at Intel. That’s what you’re proving in the schools and colleges of this state. That’s what America will prove in the months and years ahead.
Thank you, guys. God bless you. (Applause.)
12:11 P.M. PST
Donnerstag, 17. Februar 2011
Pressestatements der deutschen Bundeskanzlerin Merkel, des deutschen Bundesaußenminister Westerwelle und Bundesfinanzminister Schäuble zum Personalwechsel bei der Bundesbank
Jeder, der Jens Weidmann kennt, weiß, dass er über höchste Sachkompetenz verfügt, dass er einen brillanten Intellekt hat, dass er ein unabhängiger Kopf ist.
Nur so konnte er seine wichtigen Aufgaben in den letzten fünf Jahren hier im Bundeskanzleramt erfüllen.
Sie wissen alle, dass dies besonders schwierige Aufgaben waren, insbesondere in der internationalen Finanz- und Wirtschaftskrise.
Zum Schluss war er als Sherpa auch mein persönlicher Beauftragter für die G8 und die G20.
Mit diesen Fähigkeiten, seinen Gaben und auch seinem ganzen Wesen wird er ‑ davon sind wir alle drei hier überzeugt ‑ ein ausgezeichneter Präsident der Bundesbank werden, und er wird ein Vertreter für Deutschland werden, der seine Stimme für eine Stabilitätskultur auch in der Europäischen Zentralbank erheben wird. Damit wird er also auch ureigenste deutsche Interessen vertreten.
Ich möchte in diesem Zusammenhang auch dem jetzigen Bundesbankpräsidenten, obwohl er noch einige Zeit lang im Amt sein wird, ganz herzlich für seine Tätigkeit danken; denn auch er hat sich während seiner gesamten Amtszeit immer für genau diese Stabilitätskultur, die für uns so wichtig ist, eingesetzt.
Herr Weidmann wird, wie es die Anforderungen an sein zukünftiges Amt mit sich bringen, mit dem heutigen Tag seine Arbeit als Abteilungsleiter im Bundeskanzleramt beenden.
Ich will ganz persönlich sagen: Der Abschied von ihm fällt mir schwer, sowohl in fachlicher Hinsicht als auch in menschlicher Hinsicht; denn wir haben immer sehr gut zusammengearbeitet.
Im Bundeskanzleramt wird für einen nachhaltigen und schnellen Übergang gesorgt. Der Volkswirt Dr. Uwe Corsepius, der jetzige Europa-Abteilungsleiter, wird bis zu seinem Ausscheiden im Juni, 2011 wenn er als Generalsekretär des Europäischen Rates nach Brüssel gehen wird, die Abteilung "Wirtschaft und Finanzpolitik" führen, und Herr Meyer-Landrut wird als Europa-Abteilungsleiter arbeiten.
Deutscher Bundesaußenminister und Vizekanzler Dr. Guido Westerwelle:
Das wichtigste Ziel ist, dass wir eine unabhängige und starke Bundesbank haben, die auch für einen starken Euro sorgen kann.
Deswegen ist das Entscheidende bei der Auswahl dieser Personalvorschläge auch gewesen, dass es hochanerkannte und hochkompetente Experten sind.
Deswegen ist hiermit auch eine wirklich bedeutende, aber streng an der Qualität ausgerichtete Entscheidung getroffen worden.
Wir freuen uns natürlich auf die Zusammenarbeit mit beiden in ihren neuen Funktionen wie auch mit dem kompletten Direktorium insgesamt.
Zu Herrn Weidmann hat die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin bereits einiges gesagt.
Er ist natürlich auch den meisten durch seine bisherige Tätigkeit bekannt. Ich will noch etwas zu Frau Lautenschläger sagen:
Damit wird auch das Thema Bankenaufsicht bei der Bundesbank gestärkt; denn Frau Lautenschläger ist ja bisher bei der BaFIN eine Expertin für die Bankenaufsicht gewesen.
Das ist natürlich auch eine wichtige politische Weichenstellung.
Die Geldwertstabilität ist bei der Bundesbank in besten Händen, und deshalb ist auch diese Personalentscheidung von großer Bedeutung. Sie stärkt die Bundesbank insgesamt.
Natürlich ist es so, dass durch den Rücktritt des bisherigen Bundesbankpräsidenten die Abläufe etwas anders sind, als man es sonst kennt.
Aber ich denke, vor dem Hintergrund dieser Entscheidung von Herrn Prof. Axel Weber ist dies eine zügige und eine hochkompetente Auswahl, die hier getroffen worden ist.
Es geht natürlich auch darum, dass wir unverändert das Ziel haben, bei der Europäischen Zentralbank unseren Einfluss mit unserer Stabilitätskultur als Deutsche wahrzunehmen. Auch das galt es zu berücksichtigen.
Wir haben unsere Ambitionen in Europa, bei der Europäischen Zentralbank, natürlich nicht aufgegeben, sondern wir wollen einen gemeinsamen Beitrag dafür leisten, dass sich die Stabilitätskultur, die Deutschland über Jahrzehnte hinweg geprägt hat, selbstverständlich auch auf Europa überträgt und in Europa fortgesetzt werden kann.
Deutscher Bundesfainanzminister Wolfgang Schäuble:
Eigentlich muss ja nicht alles dreimal gesagt werden. Dies ist eine gute Personalentscheidung. Das Kabinett wird in der kommenden Woche den formellen Beschluss fassen.
Wir werden uns zunächst mit den Sachentscheidungen im Sinne der mittelfristigen Stabilisierung des Euro beschäftigen, und wenn die getroffen sind, dann werden die Personalentscheidungen getroffen. Dabei wird es auch gute Entscheidungen geben.
Fragen von Journalistinnen und Journalisten:
Herr Westerwelle, in Ihrer Fraktion gab es Vorbehalte gegen einen so schnellen Wechsel von Herrn Weidmann an die Spitze der Bundesbank und auch grundsätzlich gegen Herrn Weidmann. Sind die ausgeräumt?
Für mich ist eine Sache vom Werdegang her natürlich klar: Wenn es diesen Rücktritt nicht gegeben hätte, dann würde man sicherlich auch über längere Zeiträume hinweg Dinge anders planen können. Aber der Rücktritt ist nun einmal geschehen, die Ankündigung ist da, und deswegen galt es auch, zügig zu entscheiden. Wir können uns bei so einer heiklen Phase, wenn es um die Währung, die Währungsstabilität und um die Zukunft des Euro geht, nicht eine lange Hängepartie leisten, sondern es muss zügig und beherzt entschieden werden. Das ist richtigerweise auch genau so geschehen.
Frage an die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin: Was ist Ihrer Ansicht nach die hervorstechendste der Eigenschaften von Herrn Weidmann? Was werden Sie vermissen, wenn er nicht mehr im Bundeskanzleramt sein wird?
Antwort BK´in Merkel: Ich glaube, dass Herr Weidmann von seinem ganzen Werdegang her im Bereich der Notenbanken bereits erhebliche Erfahrung hat.
Er war beim IWF, und er war auch Abteilungsleiter in der Deutschen Bundesbank, bevor er ins Kanzleramt gekommen ist.
Ich habe ihn als jemanden kennengelernt, der in heiklen Situationen immer ruhig Blut bewahrt, nach dem Motto "In der Ruhe liegt die Kraft" die Entscheidungen sehr sorgfältig vorbereitet trifft und dann vor allen Dingen auch alle Argumente auf den Tisch legt.
Ich glaube, das ist gerade in der Situation, in der sich die internationalen Finanzmärkte befinden, eine Eigenschaft, die sehr wichtig ist und die auch sehr hilfreich ist. Insofern glaube ich, dass er ein guter Bundesbankpräsident sein wird.
Ich habe nicht umsonst gesagt: Er ist ein unabhängiger Kopf.
Er hört sich Argumente an, aber er weiß dann auch, seine Meinung vorzutragen. Ich glaube, das wird unabhängig von der Position, in der er sich befindet, auch das Merkmal sein.
Wenn jemand von seinem Werdegang her wirklich der Stärke der Währung, aber vor allen Dingen auch dem Gut der Unabhängigkeit der Deutschen Bundesbank und damit auch der Unabhängigkeit der Europäischen Zentralbank verpflichtet ist, dann gehört Herr Weidmann zu der Gruppe der Menschen, die das sind.
BM Westerwelle: Wenn ich mir noch erlauben darf, das hinzuzufügen: Herr Weidmann kommt auch aus der Bundesbank. Das sollte man vielleicht fairerweise wirklich noch einmal berücksichtigen.
Mittwoch, 16. Februar 2011
Secretary of State
Thank you all very much and good afternoon. It is a pleasure, once again, to be back on the campus of the George Washington University, a place that I have spent quite a bit of time in all different settings over the last now nearly 20 years. I’d like especially to thank President Knapp and Provost Lerman, because this is a great opportunity for me to address such a significant issue, and one which deserves the attention of citizens, governments, and I know is drawing that attention. And perhaps today in my remarks, we can begin a much more vigorous debate that will respond to the needs that we have been watching in real time on our television sets.
A few minutes after midnight on January 28th, the internet went dark across Egypt. During the previous four days, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had marched to demand a new government. And the world, on TVs, laptops, cell phones, and smart phones, had followed every single step. Pictures and videos from Egypt flooded the web. On Facebook and Twitter, journalists posted on-the-spot reports. Protestors coordinated their next moves. And citizens of all stripes shared their hopes and fears about this pivotal moment in the history of their country.
Millions worldwide answered in real time, “You are not alone and we are with you.” Then the government pulled the plug. Cell phone service was cut off, TV satellite signals were jammed, and internet access was blocked for nearly the entire population. The government did not want the people to communicate with each other and it did not want the press to communicate with the public. It certainly did not want the world to watch.
The events in Egypt recalled another protest movement 18 months earlier in Iran, when thousands marched after disputed elections. Their protestors also used websites to organize. A video taken by cell phone showed a young woman named Neda killed by a member of the paramilitary forces, and within hours, that video was being watched by people everywhere.
The Iranian authorities used technology as well. The Revolutionary Guard stalked members of the Green Movement by tracking their online profiles. And like Egypt, for a time, the government shut down the internet and mobile networks altogether. After the authorities raided homes, attacked university dorms, made mass arrests, tortured and fired shots into crowds, the protests ended.
In Egypt, however, the story ended differently. The protests continued despite the internet shutdown. People organized marches through flyers and word of mouth and used dial-up modems and fax machines to communicate with the world. After five days, the government relented and Egypt came back online. The authorities then sought to use the internet to control the protests by ordering mobile companies to send out pro-government text messages, and by arresting bloggers and those who organized the protests online. But 18 days after the protests began, the government failed and the president resigned.
What happened in Egypt and what happened in Iran, which this week is once again using violence against protestors seeking basic freedoms, was about a great deal more than the internet. In each case, people protested because of deep frustrations with the political and economic conditions of their lives. They stood and marched and chanted and the authorities tracked and blocked and arrested them. The internet did not do any of those things; people did. In both of these countries, the ways that citizens and the authorities used the internet reflected the power of connection technologies on the one hand as an accelerant of political, social, and economic change, and on the other hand as a means to stifle or extinguish that change.
There is a debate currently underway in some circles about whether the internet is a force for liberation or repression. But I think that debate is largely beside the point. Egypt isn’t inspiring people because they communicated using Twitter. It is inspiring because people came together and persisted in demanding a better future. Iran isn’t awful because the authorities used Facebook to shadow and capture members of the opposition. Iran is awful because it is a government that routinely violates the rights of its people.
So it is our values that cause these actions to inspire or outrage us, our sense of human dignity, the rights that flow from it, and the principles that ground it. And it is these values that ought to drive us to think about the road ahead. Two billion people are now online, nearly a third of humankind. We hail from every corner of the world, live under every form of government, and subscribe to every system of beliefs. And increasingly, we are turning to the internet to conduct important aspects of our lives.
The internet has become the public space of the 21st century – the world’s town square, classroom, marketplace, coffeehouse, and nightclub. We all shape and are shaped by what happens there, all 2 billion of us and counting. And that presents a challenge. To maintain an internet that delivers the greatest possible benefits to the world, we need to have a serious conversation about the principles that will guide us, what rules exist and should not exist and why, what behaviors should be encouraged or discouraged and how.
The goal is not to tell people how to use the internet any more than we ought to tell people how to use any public square, whether it’s Tahrir Square or Times Square. The value of these spaces derives from the variety of activities people can pursue in them, from holding a rally to selling their vegetables, to having a private conversation. These spaces provide an open platform, and so does the internet. It does not serve any particular agenda, and it never should. But if people around the world are going come together every day online and have a safe and productive experience, we need a shared vision to guide us.
One year ago, I offered a starting point for that vision by calling for a global commitment to internet freedom, to protect human rights online as we do offline. The rights of individuals to express their views freely, petition their leaders, worship according to their beliefs – these rights are universal, whether they are exercised in a public square or on an individual blog. The freedoms to assemble and associate also apply in cyberspace. In our time, people are as likely to come together to pursue common interests online as in a church or a labor hall.
Together, the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online comprise what I’ve called the freedom to connect. The United States supports this freedom for people everywhere, and we have called on other nations to do the same. Because we want people to have the chance to exercise this freedom. We also support expanding the number of people who have access to the internet. And because the internet must work evenly and reliably for it to have value, we support the multi-stakeholder system that governs the internet today, which has consistently kept it up and running through all manner of interruptions across networks, borders, and regions.
In the year since my speech, people worldwide have continued to use the internet to solve shared problems and expose public corruption, from the people in Russia who tracked wildfires online and organized a volunteer firefighting squad, to the children in Syria who used Facebook to reveal abuse by their teachers, to the internet campaign in China that helps parents find their missing children.
At the same time, the internet continues to be restrained in a myriad of ways. In China, the government censors content and redirects search requests to error pages. In Burma, independent news sites have been taken down with distributed denial of service attacks. In Cuba, the government is trying to create a national intranet, while not allowing their citizens to access the global internet. In Vietnam, bloggers who criticize the government are arrested and abused. In Iran, the authorities block opposition and media websites, target social media, and steal identifying information about their own people in order to hunt them down.
These actions reflect a landscape that is complex and combustible, and sure to become more so in the coming years as billions of more people connect to the internet. The choices we make today will determine what the internet looks like in the future. Businesses have to choose whether and how to enter markets where internet freedom is limited. People have to choose how to act online, what information to share and with whom, which ideas to voice and how to voice them. Governments have to choose to live up to their commitments to protect free expression, assembly, and association.
For the United States, the choice is clear. On the spectrum of internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness. Now, we recognize that an open internet comes with challenges. It calls for ground rules to protect against wrongdoing and harm. And internet freedom raises tensions, like all freedoms do. But we believe the benefits far exceed the costs.
And today, I’d like to discuss several of the challenges we must confront as we seek to protect and defend a free and open internet. Now, I’m the first to say that neither I nor the United States Government has all the answers. We’re not sure we have all the questions. But we are committed to asking the questions, to helping lead a conversation, and to defending not just universal principles but the interests of our people and our partners.
The first challenge is achieving both liberty and security. Liberty and security are often presented as equal and opposite; the more you have of one, the less you have of the other. In fact, I believe they make it each other possible. Without security, liberty is fragile. Without liberty, security is oppressive. The challenge is finding the proper measure: enough security to enable our freedoms, but not so much or so little as to endanger them.
Finding this proper measure for the internet is critical because the qualities that make the internet a force for unprecedented progress – its openness, its leveling effect, its reach and speed – also enable wrongdoing on an unprecedented scale. Terrorists and extremist groups use the internet to recruit members, and plot and carry out attacks. Human traffickers use the internet to find and lure new victims into modern-day slavery. Child pornographers use the internet to exploit children. Hackers break into financial institutions, cell phone networks, and personal email accounts.
So we need successful strategies for combating these threats and more without constricting the openness that is the internet’s greatest attribute. The United States is aggressively tracking and deterring criminals and terrorists online. We are investing in our nation’s cyber-security, both to prevent cyber-incidents and to lessen their impact. We are cooperating with other countries to fight transnational crime in cyber-space. The United States Government invests in helping other nations build their own law enforcement capacity. We have also ratified the Budapest Cybercrime Convention, which sets out the steps countries must take to ensure that the internet is not misused by criminals and terrorists while still protecting the liberties of our own citizens.
In our vigorous effort to prevent attacks or apprehend criminals, we retain a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms. The United States is determined to stop terrorism and criminal activity online and offline, and in both spheres we are committed to pursuing these goals in accordance with our laws and values.
Now, others have taken a different approach. Security is often invoked as a justification for harsh crackdowns on freedom. Now, this tactic is not new to the digital age, but it has new resonance as the internet has given governments new capacities for tracking and punishing human rights advocates and political dissidents. Governments that arrest bloggers, pry into the peaceful activities of their citizens, and limit their access to the internet may claim to be seeking security. In fact, they may even mean it as they define it. But they are taking the wrong path. Those who clamp down on internet freedom may be able to hold back the full expression of their people’s yearnings for a while, but not forever.
The second challenge is protecting both transparency and confidentiality. The internet’s strong culture of transparency derives from its power to make information of all kinds available instantly. But in addition to being a public space, the internet is also a channel for private communications. And for that to continue, there must be protection for confidential communication online. Think of all the ways in which people and organizations rely on confidential communications to do their jobs. Businesses hold confidential conversations when they’re developing new products to stay ahead of their competitors. Journalists keep the details of some sources confidential to protect them from exposure or retribution. And governments also rely on confidential communication online as well as offline. The existence of connection technologies may make it harder to maintain confidentiality, but it does not alter the need for it.
Now, I know that government confidentiality has been a topic of debate during the past few months because of WikiLeaks, but it’s been a false debate in many ways. Fundamentally, the WikiLeaks incident began with an act of theft. Government documents were stolen, just the same as if they had been smuggled out in a briefcase. Some have suggested that this theft was justified because governments have a responsibility to conduct all of our work out in the open in the full view of our citizens. I respectfully disagree. The United States could neither provide for our citizens’ security nor promote the cause of human rights and democracy around the world if we had to make public every step of our efforts. Confidential communication gives our government the opportunity to do work that could not be done otherwise.
Consider our work with former Soviet states to secure loose nuclear material. By keeping the details confidential, we make it less likely that terrorists or criminals will find the nuclear material and steal it for their own purposes. Or consider the content of the documents that WikiLeaks made public. Without commenting on the authenticity of any particular documents, we can observe that many of the cables released by WikiLeaks relate to human rights work carried on around the world. Our diplomats closely collaborate with activists, journalists, and citizens to challenge the misdeeds of oppressive governments. It is dangerous work. By publishing diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks exposed people to even greater risk.
For operations like these, confidentiality is essential, especially in the internet age when dangerous information can be sent around the world with the click of a keystroke. But of course, governments also have a duty to be transparent. We govern with the consent of the people, and that consent must be informed to be meaningful. So we must be judicious about when we close off our work to the public, and we must review our standards frequently to make sure they are rigorous. In the United States, we have laws designed to ensure that the government makes its work open to the people, and the Obama Administration has also launched an unprecedented initiative to put government data online, to encourage citizen participation, and to generally increase the openness of government.
The U.S. Government’s ability to protect America, to secure the liberties of our people, and to support the rights and freedoms of others around the world depends on maintaining a balance between what’s public and what should and must remain out of the public domain. The scale should and will always be tipped in favor of openness, but tipping the scale over completely serves no one’s interests. Let me be clear. I said that the WikiLeaks incident began with a theft, just as if it had been executed by smuggling papers in a briefcase. The fact that WikiLeaks used the internet is not the reason we criticized its actions. WikiLeaks does not challenge our commitment to internet freedom.
And one final word on this matter: There were reports in the days following these leaks that the United States Government intervened to coerce private companies to deny service to WikiLeaks. That is not the case. Now, some politicians and pundits publicly called for companies to disassociate from WikiLeaks, while others criticized them for doing so. Public officials are part of our country’s public debates, but there is a line between expressing views and coercing conduct. Business decisions that private companies may have taken to enforce their own values or policies regarding WikiLeaks were not at the direction of the Obama Administration.
A third challenge is protecting free expression while fostering tolerance and civility. I don’t need to tell this audience that the internet is home to every kind of speech – false, offensive, incendiary, innovative, truthful, and beautiful.
The multitude of opinions and ideas that crowd the internet is both a result of its openness and a reflection of our human diversity. Online, everyone has a voice. And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects the freedom of expression for all. But what we say has consequences. Hateful or defamatory words can inflame hostilities, deepen divisions, and provoke violence. On the internet, this power is heightened. Intolerant speech is often amplified and impossible to retract. Of course, the internet also provides a unique space for people to bridge their differences and build trust and understanding.
Some take the view that, to encourage tolerance, some hateful ideas must be silenced by governments. We believe that efforts to curb the content of speech rarely succeed and often become an excuse to violate freedom of expression. Instead, as it has historically been proven time and time again, the better answer to offensive speech is more speech. People can and should speak out against intolerance and hatred. By exposing ideas to debate, those with merit tend to be strengthened, while weak and false ideas tend to fade away; perhaps not instantly, but eventually.
Now, this approach does not immediately discredit every hateful idea or convince every bigot to reverse his thinking. But we have determined as a society that it is far more effective than any other alternative approach. Deleting writing, blocking content, arresting speakers – these actions suppress words, but they do not touch the underlying ideas. They simply drive people with those ideas to the fringes, where their convictions can deepen, unchallenged.
Last summer, Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, made a trip to Dachau and Auschwitz with a delegation of American imams and Muslim leaders. Many of them had previously denied the Holocaust, and none of them had ever denounced Holocaust denial. But by visiting the concentration camps, they displayed a willingness to consider a different view. And the trip had a real impact. They prayed together, and they signed messages of peace, and many of those messages in the visitors books were written in Arabic. At the end of the trip, they read a statement that they wrote and signed together condemning without reservation Holocaust denial and all other forms of anti-Semitism.
The marketplace of ideas worked. Now, these leaders had not been arrested for their previous stance or ordered to remain silent. Their mosques were not shut down. The state did not compel them with force. Others appealed to them with facts. And their speech was dealt with through the speech of others.
The United States does restrict certain kinds of speech in accordance with the rule of law and our international obligations. We have rules about libel and slander, defamation, and speech that incites imminent violence. But we enforce these rules transparently, and citizens have the right to appeal how they are applied. And we don’t restrict speech even if the majority of people find it offensive. History, after all, is full of examples of ideas that were banned for reasons that we now see as wrong. People were punished for denying the divine right of kings, or suggesting that people should be treated equally regardless of race, gender, or religion. These restrictions might have reflected the dominant view at the time, and variations on these restrictions are still in force in places around the world.
But when it comes to online speech, the United States has chosen not to depart from our time-tested principles. We urge our people to speak with civility, to recognize the power and reach that their words can have online. We’ve seen in our own country tragic examples of how online bullying can have terrible consequences. Those of us in government should lead by example, in the tone we set and the ideas we champion. But leadership also means empowering people to make their own choices, rather than intervening and taking those choices away. We protect free speech with the force of law, and we appeal to the force of reason to win out over hate.
Now, these three large principles are not always easy to advance at once. They raise tensions, and they pose challenges. But we do not have to choose among them. Liberty and security, transparency and confidentiality, freedom of expression and tolerance – these all make up the foundation of a free, open, and secure society as well as a free, open, and secure internet where universal human rights are respected, and which provides a space for greater progress and prosperity over the long run.
Now, some countries are trying a different approach, abridging rights online and working to erect permanent walls between different activities – economic exchanges, political discussions, religious expressions, and social interactions. They want to keep what they like and suppress what they don’t. But this is no easy task. Search engines connect businesses to new customers, and they also attract users because they deliver and organize news and information. Social networking sites aren’t only places where friends share photos; they also share political views and build support for social causes or reach out to professional contacts to collaborate on new business opportunities.
Walls that divide the internet, that block political content, or ban broad categories of expression, or allow certain forms of peaceful assembly but prohibit others, or intimidate people from expressing their ideas are far easier to erect than to maintain. Not just because people using human ingenuity find ways around them and through them but because there isn’t an economic internet and a social internet and a political internet; there’s just the internet. And maintaining barriers that attempt to change this reality entails a variety of costs – moral, political, and economic. Countries may be able to absorb these costs for a time, but we believe they are unsustainable in the long run. There are opportunity costs for trying to be open for business but closed for free expression – costs to a nation’s education system, its political stability, its social mobility, and its economic potential.
When countries curtail internet freedom, they place limits on their economic future. Their young people don’t have full access to the conversations and debates happening in the world or exposure to the kind of free inquiry that spurs people to question old ways of doing and invent new ones. And barring criticism of officials makes governments more susceptible to corruption, which create economic distortions with long-term effects. Freedom of thought and the level playing field made possible by the rule of law are part of what fuels innovation economies.
So it’s not surprising that the European-American Business Council, a group of more than 70 companies, made a strong public support statement last week for internet freedom. If you invest in countries with aggressive censorship and surveillance policies, your website could be shut down without warning, your servers hacked by the government, your designs stolen, or your staff threatened with arrest or expulsion for failing to comply with a politically motivated order. The risks to your bottom line and to your integrity will at some point outweigh the potential rewards, especially if there are market opportunities elsewhere.
Now, some have pointed to a few countries, particularly China, that appears to stand out as an exception, a place where internet censorship is high and economic growth is strong. Clearly, many businesses are willing to endure restrictive internet policies to gain access to those markets, and in the short term, even perhaps in the medium term, those governments may succeed in maintaining a segmented internet. But those restrictions will have long-term costs that threaten one day to become a noose that restrains growth and development.
There are political costs as well. Consider Tunisia, where online economic activity was an important part of the country’s ties with Europe while online censorship was on par with China and Iran, the effort to divide the economic internet from the “everything else” internet in Tunisia could not be sustained. People, especially young people, found ways to use connection technologies to organize and share grievances, which, as we know, helped fuel a movement that led to revolutionary change. In Syria, too, the government is trying to negotiate a non-negotiable contradiction. Just last week, it lifted a ban on Facebook and YouTube for the first time in three years, and yesterday they convicted a teenage girl of espionage and sentenced her to five years in prison for the political opinions she expressed on her blog.
This, too, is unsustainable. The demand for access to platforms of expression cannot be satisfied when using them lands you in prison. We believe that governments who have erected barriers to internet freedom, whether they’re technical filters or censorship regimes or attacks on those who exercise their rights to expression and assembly online, will eventually find themselves boxed in. They will face a dictator’s dilemma and will have to choose between letting the walls fall or paying the price to keep them standing, which means both doubling down on a losing hand by resorting to greater oppression and enduring the escalating opportunity cost of missing out on the ideas that have been blocked and people who have been disappeared.
I urge countries everywhere instead to join us in the bet we have made, a bet that an open internet will lead to stronger, more prosperous countries. At its core, it’s an extension of the bet that the United States has been making for more than 200 years, that open societies give rise to the most lasting progress, that the rule of law is the firmest foundation for justice and peace, and that innovation thrives where ideas of all kinds are aired and explored. This is not a bet on computers or mobile phones. It’s a bet on people. We’re confident that together with those partners in government and people around the world who are making the same bet by hewing to universal rights that underpin open societies, we’ll preserve the internet as an open space for all. And that will pay long-term gains for our shared progress and prosperity. The United States will continue to promote an internet where people’s rights are protected and that it is open to innovation, interoperable all over the world, secure enough to hold people’s trust, and reliable enough to support their work.
In the past year, we have welcomed the emergence of a global coalition of countries, businesses, civil society groups, and digital activists seeking to advance these goals. We have found strong partners in several governments worldwide, and we’ve been encouraged by the work of the Global Network Initiative, which brings together companies, academics, and NGOs to work together to solve the challenges we are facing, like how to handle government requests for censorship or how to decide whether to sell technologies that could be used to violate rights or how to handle privacy issues in the context of cloud computing. We need strong corporate partners that have made principled, meaningful commitments to internet freedom as we work together to advance this common cause.
We realize that in order to be meaningful, online freedoms must carry over into real-world activism. That’s why we are working through our Civil Society 2.0 initiative to connect NGOs and advocates with technology and training that will magnify their impact. We are also committed to continuing our conversation with people everywhere around the world. Last week, you may have heard, we launched Twitter feeds in Arabic and Farsi, adding to the ones we already have in French and Spanish. We’ll start similar ones in Chinese, Russian, and Hindi. This is enabling us to have real-time, two-way conversations with people wherever there is a connection that governments do not block.
Our commitment to internet freedom is a commitment to the rights of people, and we are matching that with our actions. Monitoring and responding to threats to internet freedom has become part of the daily work of our diplomats and development experts. They are working to advance internet freedom on the ground at our embassies and missions around the world. The United States continues to help people in oppressive internet environments get around filters, stay one step ahead of the censors, the hackers, and the thugs who beat them up or imprison them for what they say online.
While the rights we seek to protect and support are clear, the various ways that these rights are violated are increasingly complex. I know some have criticized us for not pouring funding into a single technology, but we believe there is no silver bullet in the struggle against internet repression. There’s no app for that. (Laughter.) Start working, those of you out there. (Laughter.) And accordingly, we are taking a comprehensive and innovative approach, one that matches our diplomacy with technology, secure distribution networks for tools, and direct support for those on the front lines.
In the last three years, we have awarded more than $20 million in competitive grants through an open process, including interagency evaluation by technical and policy experts to support a burgeoning group of technologists and activists working at the cutting edge of the fight against internet repression. This year, we will award more than $25 million in additional funding. We are taking a venture capital-style approach, supporting a portfolio of technologies, tools, and training, and adapting as more users shift to mobile devices. We have our ear to the ground, talking to digital activists about where they need help, and our diversified approach means we’re able to adapt the range of threats that they face. We support multiple tools, so if repressive governments figure out how to target one, others are available. And we invest in the cutting edge because we know that repressive governments are constantly innovating their methods of oppression and we intend to stay ahead of them.
Likewise, we are leading the push to strengthen cyber security and online innovation, building capacity in developing countries, championing open and interoperable standards and enhancing international cooperation to respond to cyber threats. Deputy Secretary of Defense Lynn gave a speech on this issue just yesterday. All these efforts build on a decade of work to sustain an internet that is open, secure, and reliable. And in the coming year, the Administration will complete an international strategy for cyberspace, charting the course to continue this work into the future.
This is a foreign policy priority for us, one that will only increase in importance in the coming years. That’s why I’ve created the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, to enhance our work on cyber security and other issues and facilitate cooperation across the State Department and with other government agencies. I’ve named Christopher Painter, formerly senior director for cyber security at the National Security Council and a leader in the field for 20 years, to head this new office.
The dramatic increase in internet users during the past 10 years has been remarkable to witness. But that was just the opening act. In the next 20 years, nearly 5 billion people will join the network. It is those users who will decide the future.
So we are playing for the long game. Unlike much of what happens online, progress on this front will be measured in years, not seconds. The course we chart today will determine whether those who follow us will get the chance to experience the freedom, security, and prosperity of an open internet.
As we look ahead, let us remember that internet freedom isn’t about any one particular activity online. It’s about ensuring that the internet remains a space where activities of all kinds can take place, from grand, ground-breaking, historic campaigns to the small, ordinary acts that people engage in every day.
We want to keep the internet open for the protestor using social media to organize a march in Egypt; the college student emailing her family photos of her semester abroad; the lawyer in Vietnam blogging to expose corruption; the teenager in the United States who is bullied and finds words of support online; for the small business owner in Kenya using mobile banking to manage her profits; the philosopher in China reading academic journals for her dissertation; the scientist in Brazil sharing data in real time with colleagues overseas; and the billions and billions of interactions with the internet every single day as people communicate with loved ones, follow the news, do their jobs, and participate in the debates shaping their world.
Internet freedom is about defending the space in which all these things occur so that it remains not just for the students here today, but your successors and all who come after you. This is one of the grand challenges of our time. We are engaged in a vigorous effort against those who we have always stood against, who wish to stifle and repress, to come forward with their version of reality and to accept none other. We enlist your help on behalf of this struggle. It’s a struggle for human rights, it’s a struggle for human freedom, and it’s a struggle for human dignity.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
Dienstag, 15. Februar 2011
South Court Auditorium10:59 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat. I figured that I’d give Jay one more taste of freedom -- (laughter) -- before we lock him in a room with all of you, so I’m here to do a little downfield blocking for him. Before I take a few questions, let me say a few words about the budget we put out yesterday.
Just like every family in America, the federal government has to do two things at once. It has to live within its means while still investing in the future. If you’re a family trying to cut back, you might skip going out to dinner, you might put off a vacation. But you wouldn’t want to sacrifice saving for your kids’ college education or making key repairs in your house. So you cut back on what you can’t afford to focus on what you can’t do without.
And that’s what we’ve done with this year’s budget. When I took office, I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term. Our budget meets that pledge and puts us on a path to pay for what we spend by the middle of the decade.
As a start, it freezes domestic discretionary spending over the next five years, which would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and bring annual domestic spending to its lowest share of the economy since Dwight Eisenhower.
Now, some of the savings will come through less waste and more efficiency. To take just one example, we’ll give -- we'll save billions of dollars by getting rid of 14,000 office buildings, lots, and government-owned properties that we no longer need. And to make sure special interests are not larding up legislation with special projects, I’ve pledged to veto any bills that contain earmarks.
Still, even as we cut waste and inefficiency, this budget freeze will also require us to make some tough choices. It will mean freezing the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years. It will mean cutting things I care about deeply, like community action programs for low-income communities. And we have some conservation programs that are going to be scaled back. These are all programs that I wouldn’t be cutting if we were in a better fiscal situation. But we're not.
We also know that cutting annual domestic spending alone won’t be enough to meet our long-term fiscal challenges. That’s what the bipartisan fiscal commission concluded; that’s what I've concluded. And that's why I’m eager to tackle excessive spending wherever we find it -– in domestic spending, but also in defense spending, health care spending, and spending that is embedded in the tax code.
Some of this spending we’ve begun to tackle in this budget -– like the $78 billion that Secretary Gates identified in defense cuts. But to get where we need to go we’re going to have to do more. We’ll have to bring down health care costs further, including in programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficits. I believe we should strengthen Social Security for future generations, and I think we can do that without slashing benefits or putting current retirees at risk. And I’m willing to work with everybody on Capitol Hill to simplify the individual tax code for all Americans.
All of these steps are going to be difficult. And that’s why all of them will require Democrats, independents, and Republicans to work together. I recognize that there are going to be plenty of arguments in the months to come, and everybody is going to have to give a little bit. But when it comes to difficult choices about our budget and our priorities, we have found common ground before. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill came together to save Social Security. Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress eventually found a way to settle their differences and balance the budget. And many Democrats and Republicans in Congress today came together in December to pass a tax cut that has made Americans’ paychecks a little bigger this year and will spur on additional economic growth this year.
So I believe we can find this common ground, but we're going to have to work. And we owe the American people a government that lives within its means while still investing in our future -- in areas like education, innovation, and infrastructure that will help us attract new jobs and businesses to our shores. That’s the principle that should drive this debate in the coming months. I believe that’s how America will win the future in the coming years.
So with that, let me take a few questions. And I'm going to start off with Ben Feller of AP.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. You’ve been talking a lot about the need for tough choices in your budget, but your plan does not address the long-term crushing costs of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid -- the real drivers of long-term debt. Can you explain that? Where is your leadership on that issue and when are we going to see your plan?
And if I may, sir, on the foreign front, the uprising in Egypt has helped prompt protests in Bahrain, in Yemen, and Iran. I'm wondering how you balance your push for freedoms in those places against the instability that could really endanger U.S. interests.
THE PRESIDENT: On the budget, what my budget does is to put forward some tough choices, some significant spending cuts, so that by the middle of this decade our annual spending will match our annual revenues. We will not be adding more to the national debt. So, to use a -- sort of an analogy that families are familiar with, we're not going to be running up the credit card any more. That's important -- and that's hard to do. But it’s necessary to do. And I think that the American people understand that.
At the same time, we're going to be making some key investments in places like education, and science and technology, research and development that the American people understand is required to win the future. So what we've done is we've taken a scalpel to the discretionary budget rather than a machete.
Now, I said in the State of the Union and I'll repeat, that side of the ledger only accounts for about 12 percent of our budget. So we've got a whole bunch of other stuff that we're going to have to do, including dealing with entitlements.
Now, you talked about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The truth is Social Security is not the huge contributor to the deficit that the other two entitlements are.
I'm confident we can get Social Security done in the same way that Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill were able to get it done, by parties coming together, making some modest adjustments. I think we can avoid slashing benefits, and I think we can make it stable and stronger for not only this generation but for the next generation.
Medicare and Medicaid are huge problems because health care costs are rising even as the population is getting older. And so what I've said is that I'm prepared to work with Democrats and Republicans to start dealing with that in a serious way. We made a down payment on that with health care reform last year. That's part of what health care reform was about. The projected deficits are going to be about $250 billion lower over the next 10 years than they otherwise would have been because of health care reform, and they’ll be a trillion dollars lower than they otherwise would have been if we hadn’t done health care reform for the following decade.
But we're still going to have to do more. So what I've said is that if you look at the history of how these deals get done, typically it’s not because there’s an Obama plan out there; it’s because Democrats and Republicans are both committed to tackling this issue in a serious way.
And so what we've done is we've been very specific in terms of how to stabilize the discretionary budget, how to make sure that we're not adding additional debt by 2015. And then let’s together, Democrats and Republicans, tackle these long-term problems in a way that I think will ensure our fiscal health and, at the same time, ensure that we're making investments in the future.
Q But when is that happening?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're going to be in discussions over the next several months. I mean this is going to be a negotiation process. And the key thing that I think the American people want to see is that all sides are serious about it and all sides are willing to give a little bit, and that there’s a genuine spirit of compromise as opposed to people being interested in scoring political points.
Now, we did that in December during the lame duck on the tax cut issue. Both sides had to give. And there were folks in my party who were not happy, and there were folks in the Republican Party who were not happy. And my suspicion is, is that we’re going to be able to do the same thing if we have that same attitude with respect to entitlements.
But the thing I want to emphasize is nobody is more mindful than me that entitlements are going to be a key part of this issue -- as is tax reform. I want to simplify rates. And I want to, at the same time, make sure that we have the same amount of money coming in as going out.
Those are big, tough negotiations, and I suspect that there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs in the months to come before we finally get to that solution. But just as a lot of people were skeptical about us being able to deal with the tax cuts that we did in December but we ended up getting it done, I’m confident that we can get this done as well.
Now, with respect to the situation in the Middle East, obviously, there’s still a lot of work to be done in Egypt itself, but what we’ve seen so far is positive. The military council that is in charge has reaffirmed its treaties with countries like Israel and international treaties. It has met with the opposition, and the opposition has felt that it is serious about moving towards fair and free elections. Egypt is going to require help in building democratic institutions and also in strengthening an economy that's taken a hit as a consequence of what happened. But so far at least, we’re seeing the right signals coming out of Egypt.
There are ramifications, though, throughout the region. And I think my administration’s approach is the approach that jibes with how most Americans think about this region, which is that each country is different, each country has its own traditions; America can’t dictate how they run their societies, but there are certain universal principles that we adhere to. One of them is we don't believe in violence as a way of -- and coercion -- as a way of maintaining control. And so we think it’s very important that in all the protests that we’re seeing in -- throughout the region that governments respond to peaceful protesters peacefully.
The second principle that we believe in strongly is in the right to express your opinions, the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly that allows people to share their grievances with the government and to express themselves in ways that hopefully will over time meet their needs.
And so we have sent a strong message to our allies in the region, saying let’s look at Egypt’s example as opposed to Iran’s example. I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt when, in fact, they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully in Iran.
And I also think that an important lesson -- and I mentioned this last week -- that we can draw from this is real change in these societies is not going to happen because of terrorism; it’s not going to happen because you go around killing innocents -- it’s going to happen because people come together and apply moral force to a situation. That’s what garners international support. That’s what garners internal support. That’s how you bring about lasting change.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, what concerns do you have about instability, especially in Saudi Arabia, as the demonstrations spread? Do you see -- foresee any effects on oil prices? And talking about Iran, can you comment about the unrest there more? What is your message to the Iranian people -- in light of there was some criticism that your administration didn’t speak out strongly enough after their last -- the demonstrations in Iran after their elections? Excuse me.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay. Well, first of all, on Iran, we were clear then and we are clear now that what has been true in Egypt should be true in Iran, which is that people should be able to express their opinions and their grievances and seek a more responsive government. What's been different is the Iranian government’s response, which is to shoot people and beat people and arrest people.
And my hope and expectation is, is that we’re going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedoms and a more representative government, understanding that America cannot ultimately dictate what happens inside of Iran any more than it could inside of Egypt. Ultimately these are sovereign countries that are going to have to make their own decisions. What we can do is lend moral support to those who are seeking a better life for themselves.
Obviously we’re concerned about stability throughout the region. Each country is different. The message that we’ve sent even before the demonstrations in Egypt has been, to friend and foe alike, that the world is changing; that you have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity, and that if you are governing these countries, you’ve got to get out ahead of change. You can’t be behind the curve.
And so I think that the thing that will actually achieve stability in that region is if young people, if ordinary folks end up feeling that there are pathways for them to feed their families, get a decent job, get an education, aspire to a better life. And the more steps these governments are taking to provide these avenues for mobility and opportunity, the more stable these countries are.
You can’t maintain power through coercion. At some level, in any society, there has to be consent. And that’s particularly true in this new era where people can communicate not just through some centralized government or a state-run TV, but they can get on a smart phone or a Twitter account and mobilize hundreds of thousands of people.
My belief is that, as a consequence of what’s happening in Tunisia and Egypt, governments in that region are starting to understand this. And my hope is, is that they can operate in a way that is responsive to this hunger for change but always do so in a way that doesn’t lead to violence.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Actually, I'm going to have to get my glasses out to read these --
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a bad sign there, Chip. (Laughter.)
Q A little fine print -- a little fine print in the budget, Mr. President. You said that this budget is not going to add to the credit card as of about the middle of the decade. And as Robert Gibbs might say, I'm not a budget expert and I'm not an economist, but if you could just explain to me how you can say that when, if you look on page 171, which I'm sure you’ve read -- (laughter) -- it is the central page in this -- the deficits go from $1.1 trillion down to $768 billion, and they go down again all the way to $607 billion in 2015, and then they start to creep up again, and by 2021, it’s at $774 billion. And the total over those 10 years, the total debt is $7.2 trillion on top of the $14 trillion we already have. How can you say that we’re living within our means?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s -- let me be clear on what I'm saying, because I'm not suggesting that we don’t have to do more. We still have all this accumulated debt as a consequence of the recession and as a consequence of a series of decisions that were made over the last decade. We’ve piled up, we’ve racked up a whole bunch of debt. And there is a lot of interest on that debt.
So, in the same way that if you’ve got a credit card and you’ve got a big balance, you may not be adding to principal -- you’ve still got all that interest that you’ve got to pay. Well, we’ve got a big problem in terms of accumulated interest that we’re paying, and that’s why we’re going to have to whittle down further the debt that’s already been accumulated. So that’s problem number one.
And problem number two we already talked about, which is rising health care costs and programs like Medicaid and Medicare are going to -- once you get past this decade, going to start zooming up again as a consequence of the population getting older and health care costs going up more rapidly than incomes and wages and revenues are going up.
So you’ve got those two big problems. What we’ve done is to try to take this in stages. What we say in our budget is let’s get control of our discretionary budget to make sure that whatever it is that we’re spending on an annual basis we’re also taking in a similar amount. That’s step number one.
Step number two is going to make -- is going to be how do we make sure that we’re taking on these long-term drivers and how do we start whittling down the debt. And that’s going to require entitlement reform and it’s going to require tax reform.
And in order to accomplish those two things, we’re going to have to have a spirit of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. And I think that’s possible. I think that’s what the American people are looking for. But what I think is important to do is not discount the tough choices that are required just to stabilize the situation. It doesn’t solve it, but it stabilizes it. And if we can get that done, that starts introducing this concept of us being able to, in a serious way, cooperate to meet this fiscal challenge. And that will lay the predicate for us being able to solve some of these big problems over the course of the next couple of years as well.
So, again, I just want to repeat, the first step in this budget is to make sure that we’re stabilizing the current situation. The second step is going to be to make sure that we’re taking on some of these long-term drivers. But we’ve got to get control of the short-term deficit as well, and people are going to be looking for a signal for that, and the choices that we have made are some pretty tough choices -- which is why I think you have been seeing some grumblings not just from the other party but also from my own party about some of the decisions that we make.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Everything you have talked about -- tax reform, the entitlement reform, two parties coming together just happening in December in your fiscal commission. You had a majority consensus to do all this. It has now been shelved. It seems that you have not taken -- I guess my question is what was the point of the fiscal commission? If you have this moment where you had Tom Coburn, your conservative friend in the United States Senate, sign on to this deal; Judd Gregg was also on this thing; you had Dick Durbin, your good friend from Illinois, Democrat -- everything you just described in the answer to Chip and the answer to Ben just happened. Why not grab it?
THE PRESIDENT: The notion that it has been shelved I think is incorrect. It still provides a framework for a conversation.
Part of the challenge here is that this town -- let’s face it, you guys are pretty impatient. If something doesn’t happen today, then the assumption is it’s just not going to happen. Right? I’ve had this conversation for that last two years about every single issue that we worked on, whether it was health care or "don't ask, don't tell," on Egypt, right? We’ve had this monumental change over the last three weeks -- well, why did it take three weeks? (Laughter.) So I think that there’s a tendency for us to assume that if it didn’t happen today it’s not going to happen.
Well, the fiscal commission put out a framework. I agree with much of the framework; I disagree with some of the framework. It is true that it got 11 votes, and that was a positive sign. What's also true is, for example, is, is that the chairman of the House Republican budgeteers didn’t sign on. He’s got a little bit of juice when it comes to trying to get an eventual budget done, so he’s got concerns. So I’m going to have to have a conversation with him, what would he like to see happen.
I’m going to have to have a conversation with those Democrats who didn’t vote for it. There are some issues in there that as a matter of principle I don't agree with, where I think they didn’t go far enough or they went too far. So this is going to be a process in which each side, both in -- in both chambers of Congress go back and forth and start trying to whittle their differences down until we arrive at something that has an actual change of passage.
And that's my goal. I mean, my goal here is to actually solve the problem. It’s not to get a good headline on the first day. My goal is, is that a year from now or two years from now, people look back and say, you know what, we actually started making progress on this issue.
Q What do you say, though -- it looks like, no, you first; no, you first -- and nobody -- everybody says --
THE PRESIDENT: But there will --
Q -- but nobody wants to talk about --
THE PRESIDENT: Chuck, there was this -- this was the same criticism people had right after the midterm election. If you had polled the press room and the conventional wisdom in Washington after the midterm, the assumption was there's no way we were going to end up getting a tax deal that got the majority of both Democrats and Republicans. It was impossible, right? And we got it done.
So this is not a matter of you go first or I go first. This is a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go, and then ultimately getting in that boat at the same time so it doesn’t tip over. And I think that can happen.
Julianna Goldman. There you are.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Your budget relies on revenue from tax increases to multinational corporations that ship jobs overseas and on increases on the oil and gas industry. You’ve been calling on this for years. And if you couldn’t get it through a Democratic Congress, why do you think you’ll be able to get it through now? And also doesn’t it blunt your push for deficit-neutral corporate tax reform?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I continue to believe I’m right. (Laughter.) So we’re going to try again. I think what’s different is everybody says now that they're really serious about the deficit. Well, if you’re really serious about the deficit -- not just spending, but you’re serious about the deficit overall -- then part of what you have to look at is unjustifiable spending through the tax code, through tax breaks that do not make us more competitive, do not create jobs here in the United States of America.
And the two examples you cite I think most economists would look at and they’d say these aren’t contributing to our long-term economic growth. And if they're not, why are we letting some folks pay lower taxes than other folks who are creating jobs here in the United States and are investing? Why are we not investing in the energy sources of the future, just the ones in the past, particularly if the energy sources of the past are highly profitable right now and don't need a tax break?
So I think what may have changed is if we are going to get serious about deficit reduction and debt reduction, then we’ve got to look at all the sources of deficit and debt. We can’t be just trying to pick and choose and getting 100 percent of our way.
The same is true, by the way, for Democrats. I mean, there are some provisions in this budget that are hard for me to take. You’ve got cities around the country and states around the country that are having a tremendously difficult time trying to balance their own budgets because of fallen revenue. They’ve got greater demands because folks have lost their jobs; the housing market is still in a tough way in a lot of these places. And yet part of what this budget says is we’re going to reduce Community Development Block Grants by 10 percent. That’s not something I'd like to do. But -- and if it had come up a year ago or two years ago, I would have said no. Under these new circumstances, I'm saying yes to that. And so my expectation is, is that everybody is going to have to make those same sorts of compromises.
Now, with respect to corporate tax reform, the whole concept of corporate tax reform is to simplify, eliminate loopholes, treat everybody fairly. That is entirely consistent with saying, for example, that we shouldn’t provide special treatment to the oil industry when they’ve been making huge profits and can afford to further invest in their companies without special tax breaks that are different from what somebody else gets.
Q -- you can't eliminate those --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what is absolutely true is that it’s going to be difficult to achieve serious corporate tax reform if the formula is, lower our tax rates and let us keep all our special loopholes. If that’s the formula, then we’re not going to get it done. I wouldn’t sign such a bill, and I don’t think the American people would sign such a bill.
If you’re a small business person out on Main Street, and you’re paying your taxes, and you find out that you’ve got some big company with billions of dollars in far-flung businesses all across the world, and they’re paying a fraction of what you’re paying in taxes, you’d be pretty irritated -- and rightfully so.
And so the whole idea of corporate reform -- corporate tax reform -- is, yes, let’s lower everybody’s rates so American businesses are competitive with businesses all around the world; but in order to pay for it, to make sure that it doesn’t add to our deficit, let’s also make sure that these special interest loopholes that a lot of lobbyists have been working very hard on to get into the tax code -- let’s get rid of those as well.
All right. April Ryan. Caught you by surprise, April.
Q You did, sir. Thank you. Mr. President, I want to focus in on the least of these. You started your career of service as a community organizer and now we are hearing from people like -- organizations like the CBC is saying rebuilding our economy on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans is something that is simply not acceptable, like the cuts to the Community Service Block Grants, Pell Grants, heating oil assistance, and freezing salaries of federal workers. Now, Roderick Harrison, of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, says it’s not good to make these types of cuts at a time of recession, instead of doing it at a time of recovery.
And also I need to ask you, have you been placing calls for your friend, Rahm Emanuel, for his mayoral campaign in Chicago? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I’ll take the last question first. I don’t have to make calls for Rahm Emanuel. He seems to be doing just fine on his own. And he’s been very busy shoveling snow out there. (Laughter.) I’ve been very impressed with that. I never saw him shoveling around here. (Laughter.)
Let me use Pell Grants as an example of how we’re approaching these difficult budget choices in a way that is sustainable but preserves our core commitment to expanding opportunity. When I came into office I said I wanted to once again have America have the highest graduation rates, college graduation rates, of any country in the world -- that we had been slipping. And so I significantly increased the Pell Grant program by tens of billions of dollars. And so millions of young people are going to have opportunities through the Pell Grant program that they didn’t before, and the size of the Pell Grant itself went up.
What we also did, partly because we were in a recessionary situation and so more people were having to go back to school as opposed to work, what we also did was, for example, say that you can get Pell Grants for summer school. Now we’re in a budget crunch. The take-up rate on the Pell Grant program has skyrocketed. The costs have gone up significantly. If we continue on this pace, sooner or later what's going to happen is we’re just going to have to chop off eligibility. We’ll just have to say, that's it, we can’t do this anymore, it’s too expensive.
So instead what we said was how do we trim, how do we take a scalpel to the Pell Grant program, make sure that we keep the increase for each Pell Grant, make sure that the young people who are being served by the Pell Grant program are still being served, but, for example, on the summer school thing, let’s eliminate that. That will save us some money, but the core functions of the program are sustained. That's how we’re approaching all these cuts.
On the LIHEAP program, the home heating assistance program, we doubled the home heating assistance program when I first came into office, in part because there was a huge energy spike, and so folks -- if we had just kept it at the same level, folks would have been in real trouble. Energy prices have now gone down, but the costs of the program have stayed the same. So what we’ve said is, well, let’s go back to a more sustainable level. If it turns out that once again you see a huge energy spike, then we can revisit it. But let’s not just assume because it’s at a $5 billion level that each year we’re going to sustain it a $5 billion level regardless of what’s happening on the energy front.
That doesn’t mean that these aren’t still tough cuts -- because there are always more people who could use some help across the country than we have resources. And so it’s still a tough decision, and I understand people’s frustrations with some of these decisions. Having said that, my goal is to make sure that we’re looking after the vulnerable; we’re looking after the disabled; we’re looking after our seniors; we’re making sure that our education system is serving our kids so that they can compete in the 21st century; we’re investing in the future, and doing that in a way that's sustainable and that we’re paying for -- as opposed to having these huge imbalances where there are some things that aren’t working that we’re paying a lot of money for; there’s some things that are underfunded. We’re trying to make adjustments so that we’ve got a sustainable budget that works for us over the long term.
And by the way, there are just some things that just aren’t working at all, so we’ve eliminated a couple hundred programs in this budget. On the education front, we’re consolidating from 33 programs to 11 programs. There is waste and inefficiency there that is long overdue, and we identify a number of these programs that just don't work. Let’s take that money out of those programs that don't work, and put in money -- that money in programs that do.
Q -- say is the President feeling our pain, especially as you were a community organizer --
THE PRESIDENT: I -- look, I definitely feel folks’ pain.
Somebody is doing a book about the 10 letters that I get every day, and they came by to talk to me yesterday. And they said, what’s the overwhelming impression that you get when you read these 10 letters a day, and what I told them is I'm so inspired by the strength and resilience of the American people, but sometimes I'm also just frustrated by the number of people out there who are struggling, and you want to help every single one individually. You almost feel like you want to be a case worker and just start picking up the phone and advocating for each of these people who are working hard, trying to do right by their families; oftentimes, through no fault of their own, they’ve had a tough time, particularly over these last couple of years.
So, yes, it’s frustrating. But my job is to make sure that we’re focused over the long term: Where is it that we need to go? And the most important thing I can do as President is make sure that we’re living within our means, getting a budget that is sustainable, investing in the future and growing the economy. If I do that, then that’s probably the most help I can give to the most number of people.
Q Thanks, Mr. President. House Republicans, as you know, want to start cutting now, want to start cutting this year’s budget. Are you willing to work with them in the next few weeks so as to avoid a government shutdown? There’s been talk of a down payment on budget cuts that they would like to make for this year’s budget.
And also, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the attempts to get American diplomat Ray Davis freed from Pakistan. Some have criticized the administration for putting pressure too publicly on what is essentially a weak government, and I’m wondering if you could walk us through that process. Thanks.
THE PRESIDENT: My goal is to work with the Republicans, both on the continuing resolution -- and for those who are watching that don’t know Washingtonese, the CR is a continuing resolution, a way to just keep government going when you don’t have an overall budget settled. And we didn’t settle our overall budget from last year, so this is carryover business from last year, funding vital government functions this year.
So I want to work with everybody, Democrats and Republicans, to get that resolved. I think it is important to make sure that we don’t try to make a series of symbolic cuts this year that could endanger the recovery. So that’s point number one.
What I’m going to be looking for is some common sense that the recovery is still fragile; we passed this tax cut package precisely to make sure that people had more money in their pockets, that their paychecks were larger, were provided these tax credits and incentives for businesses. But if the steps that we take then prompt thousands of layoffs in state or local government, or core vital functions of government aren’t performed properly, well, that could also have a dampening impact on our recovery as well.
So my measure is going to be are we doing things in a sensible way, meeting core functions, not endangering our recovery. In some cases, like defense, for example, Secretary Gates has already testified if we’re operating -- even operating under the current continuing resolution is putting significant strains on our ability to make sure our troops have what they need to perform their missions in Afghanistan. Further slashes would impair our ability to meet our mission.
And so we’ve got to be careful. Again, let’s use a scalpel; let’s not use a machete. And if we do that, there should be no reason at all for a government shutdown. And I think people should be careful about being too loose in terms of talking about a government shutdown, because this has -- this is not an abstraction. People don’t get their Social Security checks. They don’t get their veterans payments. Basic functions shut down. And it -- that, also, would have a adverse effect on our economic recovery. It would be destabilizing at a time when, I think, everybody is hopeful that we can start growing this economy quicker.
So I’m looking forward to having a conversation. But the key here is for people to be practical and not to score political points. That’s true for all of us. And I think if we take that approach we can navigate the situation short term and then deal with the problem long term.
With respect to Mr. Davis, our diplomat in Pakistan, we’ve got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is -- has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future, and that is if our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution.
We respect it with respect to diplomats who are here. We expect Pakistan, that's a signatory and recognize Mr. Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same convention.
And the reason this is an important principle is if it starts being fair game on our ambassadors around the world, including in dangerous places, where we may have differences with those governments, and our ambassadors or our various embassy personnel are having to deliver tough messages to countries where we disagree with them on X, Y, Z, and they start being vulnerable to prosecution locally, that’s untenable. It means they can’t do their job. And that’s why we respect these conventions, and every country should as well.
So we’re going to be continuing to work with the Pakistani government to get this person released. And obviously part of -- for those who aren’t familiar with the background on this, a couple of Pakistanis were killed in a incident between Mr. Davis within -- in Pakistan. So obviously, we’re concerned about the loss of life. We’re not callous about that. But there’s a broader principle at stake that I think we have to uphold.
Q How serious have your threats been to the Pakistani government if they don't hand him over?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m not going to discuss the specific exchanges that we’ve had. But we’ve been very firm about this being an important priority.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I want to go back to Egypt because there was some perception around the world that maybe you were too cautious during that crisis and were kind of a step behind the protesters. I know that, as you said, there was dramatic change in three weeks, and some of us wanted it to go even faster than that. But having said that, I realize it’s a complicated situation. It was evolving rapidly. But now as these protests grow throughout the Mideast and North Africa -- you said before your message to the governments involved was make sure you’re not violent with peaceful protesters. But what’s your message to the protesters? Do you want them to taste freedom? Or do you want them to taste freedom only if it will also bring stability to our interests in the region?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, without revisiting all the events over the last three weeks, I think history will end up recording that at every juncture in the situation in Egypt that we were on the right side of history. What we didn't do was pretend that we could dictate the outcome in Egypt, because we can’t. So we were very mindful that it was important for this to remain an Egyptian event; that the United States did not become the issue, but that we sent out a very clear message that we believed in an orderly transition, a meaningful transition, and a transition that needed to happen not later, but sooner. And we were consistent on that message throughout.
Particularly if you look at my statements, I started talking about reform two weeks or two-and-a-half weeks before Mr. Mubarak ultimately stepped down. And at each juncture I think we calibrated it just about right. And I would suggest that part of the test is that what we ended up seeing was a peaceful transition, relatively little violence, and relatively little, if any, anti-American sentiment, or anti-Israel sentiment, or anti-Western sentiment. And I think that testifies the fact that in a complicated situation, we got it about right.
My message I think to demonstrators going forward is your aspirations for greater opportunity, for the ability to speak your mind, for a free press, those are absolutely aspirations we support.
As was true in Egypt, ultimately what happens in each of these countries will be determined by the citizens of those countries. And even as we uphold these universal values, we do want to make sure that transitions do not degenerate into chaos and violence. That’s not just good for us; it’s good for those countries. The history of successful transitions to democracy have generally been ones in which peaceful protests led to dialogue, led to discussion, led to reform, and ultimately led to democracy.
And that’s true in countries like Eastern Europe. That was also true in countries like Indonesia, a majority Muslim country that went through some of these similar transitions but didn’t end up doing it in such a chaotic fashion that it ended up dividing the societies fundamentally.
Q But has it improved the chances of something like Mideast peace, or has it made it more complicated in your mind?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it offers an opportunity as well as a challenge. I think the opportunity is that when you have the kinds of people who were in Tahrir Square, feeling that they have hope and they have opportunity, then they’re less likely to channel all their frustrations into anti-Israel sentiment or anti-Western sentiment, because they see the prospect of building their own country. That’s a positive.
The challenge is that democracy is messy. So there -- and if you’re trying to negotiate with a democracy, you don’t just have one person to negotiate with; you have to negotiate with a wider range of views.
But I like the odds of actually getting a better outcome in the former circumstance than in the latter.
All right. Mike Emanuel.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. The number one concern for many Americans right now is jobs. Taking a look at your budget, there are tax hikes proposed for energy, for higher-income people, and also for replenishing the state unemployment funds. Do you worry about the impact on jobs, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, actually, if you look at that budget, there’s a whole bunch of stuff in there for job creation. I think some folks noted, for example, our infrastructure proposals -- which would create millions of jobs around the country -- our investments in research and development and clean energy have the potential for creating job growth in industries of the future.
My belief that the high-end tax cuts for -- or the Bush tax cuts for the high-end of the population -- folks like me -- my belief is, is that that doesn’t in any way impede job growth. And most economists agree.
We had this debate in December. Now, we compromised in order to achieve an overall package that reduced taxes for all Americans, and so I believe -- I continue to believe that was a smart compromise. But when it comes to over the long term, maintaining tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, when that will mean additional deficits of a trillion dollars, if you're serious about deficit reduction, you don't do that.
And as I said, I think most economists -- even ones that tend to lean to the right or are more conservative -- would agree that that's not -- that's not the best way for us to approach deficit reduction and debt reduction.
So I do think it’s important, as we think about corporate tax reform, as we think about individual tax reform, to try to keep taxes as simple as possible and as low as possible. But we also have to acknowledge that, in the same way that families have to pay for what they buy, government has to pay for what it buys. And if we believe that it’s important for us to have a strong military, that doesn’t come for free. We’ve got to pay for it. If we think that we have to take care of our veterans when they come home -- and not just salute on Memorial Day but we actually have to work with folks who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury -- well, that requires services that are very labor-intensive and expensive.
If we think it’s important that our senior citizens continue to enjoy health care in their golden years, that costs money. If we think that after a flood we help out our neighbors and our fellow citizens so that they can recover, we’ve got to pay for it.
So the circumstance that's changed -- earlier Julianna asked why I think I might get a deal. I think some of the questions here generally have centered about what's going to be different this time. My hope is that what's different this time is, is we have an adult conversation where everybody says here’s what's important and here’s how we’re going to pay for it.
Now, there are going to be some significant disagreements about what people think is important. And then that's how democracy should work. And at the margins I think that I'll end up having to compromise on some things. Hopefully others will have that same spirit.
Q As part of that adult conversation, sir, what if they say deeper spending cuts before you consider tax hikes?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it just depends on what exactly you’re talking about. And I think that there should be a full, open debate with the American people: Are we willing to cut millions of young people off when it comes to student loans that help kids and families on their college education? Are we only serious about education in the abstract, but when it’s the concrete we’re not willing to put the money into it? If we’re cutting infant formula to poor kids, is that who we are as a people?
I mean, we’re going to have to have those debates -- particularly if it turns out that making those cuts doesn’t really make a big dent in the long-term debt and deficits, then I think the American people may conclude let’s have a more balanced approach. But that’s what we’re going to be talking about over the next couple months. As I said, I know everybody would like to see it get resolved today. It probably will not be. (Laughter.) That’s a fair prediction.
All right, I’m going to take one last question here. Jackie Calmes.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I’d almost given up there.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, don’t give up. (Laughter.)
Q You’ve correctly suggested that the media can be impatient about seeing you -- seeing both sides come to a deal, but this is your third budget, your third year of your presidency. You’ve said many times that you’d rather be a one-party -- one-term President if it means you’ve done the hard things that need to be done. Now, I know you’re not going to stand there and invite Republicans to the negotiating table today to start hashing it all out, but why not? And since you’re not, though, what more are you doing to build the spirit of cooperation you mentioned earlier needs to happen before there is bipartisanship?
And finally, do you think the markets will wait two years?
THE PRESIDENT: I should have written all this down, Jackie. (Laughter.) I’m running out of room here in my brain.
Q I’m happy to repeat my question. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me just speak to this generally. It’s true that this is my third budget. The first two budgets were in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, so we had a different set of priorities. And I said it at the time -- in each of those budgets, what I said was, the deficit’s going up and we are compiling some additional debt, but the reason is because it is so important for us to avoid going into a depression or having a longer recession than is necessary.
Because the most important thing that we had to do in order to limit the amount of increased debt and bigger deficits is to grow the economy some more. So that was our priority. That was our focus.
This third budget reflects a change in focus. The economy is now growing again. People are more hopeful. And we’ve created more than a million jobs over the last year. Employers are starting to hire again, and businesses are starting to invest again. And in that environment, now that we’re out of the depths of the crisis, we have to look at these long-term problems and these medium-term problems in a much more urgent and a much more serious way.
Now, in terms of what I’m doing with the Republicans, I’m having conversations with them and Democratic leadership. I did before this budget was released and I will do so afterwards. And I probably will not give you a play-by-play of every negotiation that takes place. I expect that all sides will have to do a little bit of posturing on television and speak to their constituencies, and rally the troops and so forth. But ultimately, what we need is a reasonable, responsible, and initially, probably, somewhat quiet and toned-down conversation about, all right, where can we compromise and get something done.
And I’m confident that will be the spirit that congressional leaders take over the coming months, because I don’t think anybody wants to see our recovery derailed. And all of us agree that we have to cut spending, and all of us agree that we have to get our deficits under control and our debt under control. And all of us agree that part of it has to be entitlements.
So there’s a framework there -- that speaks, by the way, again, to the point I made with you, Chuck, about the commission. I think the commission changed the conversation. I think they gave us a basic framework, and within that framework we’re going to have to have some tough conversations and the devil is going to be in the details.
But, look, I was glad to see yesterday Republican leaders say, how come you didn’t talk about entitlements? I think that’s progress, because what we had been hearing made it sound as if we just slashed deeper on education or other provisions in domestic spending that somehow that alone was going to solve the problem. So I welcomed -- I think it was significant progress that there is an interest on all sides on those issues.
In terms of the markets, I think what the markets want to see is progress. The markets understand that we didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to get out overnight. What they want to see is that we have the capacity to work together. If they see us chipping away at this problem in a serious way, even if we haven’t solved a hundred percent of it all in one fell swoop, then that will provide more confidence that Washington can work.
And more than anything, that’s not just what the markets want; that’s what the American people want. They just want some confirmation that this place can work. And I think it can.
All right. Thank you, everybody.
12:01 P.M. EST