Deficit and gridlock
Rising health care costs are a major factor driving national spending. Mandatory health care programs are expected to double to 10 percent of the economy by 2037, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Obama, despite campaign promises, was unable to enact a long-term solution to budget deficits. To trim the deficit, Republicans have fought for spending cuts, while Obama has pushed for a mix of reduced spending and increased taxes. The battle brought the nation to the brink of a credit default last year before Obama and Congress agreed to trim future spending by almost $1 trillion, with an additional $1.2 trillion over the next decade. Obama reiterated his view that taxpayers earning $250,000 or more should no longer receive the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush.
Obama's recipe for fiscal reform is a package that "reduces our deficit, keeps taxes low for middle-class families but asks wealthier individuals like me to pay a little bit more."
Obama said finding jobs for older Americans, who were hit hard by the recession, is a priority. "The most important thing I can do is grow the economy as a whole," he said. But for older workers it's also important that they get job training, chances to pair up with employers for part-time work to build their résumés, and retraining through community colleges that get input from businesses that are hiring. The Ohio woman he met found work in a new field — technology — after finishing a short course.
"The key to all of this is helping employers and the public at large understand what an incredible asset older workers are," he said, adding that he's become more sensitive to the issue as his own hair has turned grayer.
Like many in his generation, Obama, 51, has seen the challenge of caring for older relatives. "It is an enormous strain on the family," he said. It's an enormous strain on the person who is receiving care."
Obama's maternal grandmother lived in her Honolulu apartment until her death, frail from various illnesses, the president said, but unwilling to give up her independence. He added, "Wherever we can help people stay independent, they are better off and the costs to society as a whole are greatly reduced."
Tamara Lytle is a Washington-based freelance reporter and writer.
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