Former President Barack Obama stepped back into the political fray on Friday, delivering a blistering rebuke of President Trump and the Republican Party while signaling how he plans to campaign on behalf of Democrats ahead of November’s midterm elections, which he called more important than any he could remember.
“These are extraordinary times, and they are dangerous times,” he said.
Speaking at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Obama said Trump is “capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years” and accused Republicans adopting a politics of fear and anger. “Over the past few decades, the politics of division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party,” he said. And he accused Republicans in Congress of abdicating their responsibilities and failing to safeguard democratic institutions in pursuit of an agenda aimed at protecting powerful interests.
Obama ended on a more optimistic note. We have been through much darker times than these,” he said, urging his young audience to vote. “In the end,” he said, “the threat to our democracy doesn’t just come from Donald Trump or the current batch of Republicans in Congress or the Koch brothers and their lobbyists or too much compromise from Democrats or Russian hacking. The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism.”
Here are a couple of key quotes from the speech on the economy and fiscal policy:
On the economy: "By the time I left office, household income was near its all-time high, and the uninsured rate had hit an all-time low, and wages were rising and poverty rates were falling. I mention all this just so when you hear how great the economy is doing right now, let's just remember when this recovery started. I’m glad it’s continued, but when you hear about this economic miracle that's been going on, when the job numbers come out, monthly job numbers, and suddenly Republicans are saying it's a miracle, I have to kind of remind them, actually, those job numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016."
On tax cuts and the deficit: “With Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, without any checks or balances whatsoever, they’ve provided another $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to people like me, who I promise don’t need it — and don’t even pretend to pay for them. This is supposed to be the party, supposedly, of fiscal conservatism. Suddenly deficits do not matter, even though just two years ago, when the deficit was lower, they said I couldn't afford to help working families or seniors on Medicare because the deficit was an existential crisis. What changed?"
On the 2018 Democratic agenda: “Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage, they’re running on good new ideas like Medicare for all, giving workers seats on corporate boards, reversing the most egregious corporate tax cuts to make sure college students graduate.”