Drawing on language from his re-election campaign, President Barack Obama used his inaugural address to set out a promise to preserve programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
The Wall Street Journal: Obama Vows Aggressive Agenda
With specifics not usually offered in inaugural addresses, Mr. Obama promised to preserve government health-care programs, expand rights for women and gay couples, and press for gun controls, overhauls of the tax code and immigration laws, as well as climate-change measures (Lee, 1/21).
The Associated Press: Obama Stands His Ground On Fiscal Debates
But it was the paragraph that followed in his inaugural address that foreshadowed what's to come -; more hard bargaining and more last-minute deals driven by Obama's own conviction that he now wields an upper hand. "We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future," he said. "The commitments we make to each other -; through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security -; these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great." This was the language of his re-election campaign (Kuhnhenn, 1/22).
The New York Times: Obama Offers Liberal Vision: 'We Must Act'
On a day that echoed with refrains from the civil rights era and tributes to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Obama dispensed with the post-partisan appeals of four years ago to lay out a forceful vision of advancing gay rights, showing more tolerance toward illegal immigrants, preserving the social welfare safety net and acting to stop climate change (Baker, 1/21).
Los Angeles Times: In Obama's Inaugural Speech, A Sweeping Liberal Vision
But Obama made clear he views government as essential to fix the nation's problems and to guarantee the security of its citizens, reaffirming Democratic ideology stretching from the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. "Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative," he said. "They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great." The remarks were an allusion to one of the fiercest arguments of the presidential campaign -; when Republican nominee Mitt Romney described 47% of Americans, Obama supporters, as overly reliant on government -; as well as to attacks on entitlement programs during recent budget battles in Congress (West and Parsons, 1/21).
Politico: President Obama's Second Term: Return Of The Liberal
President Barack Obama's second inaugural address was the most liberal speech he has delivered as president -; a blunt summons to wage war on poverty, defend entitlements for the middle class, end "perpetual war" overseas and move past the calibrated progressive agenda of his first term. … In a challenge to the GOP, Obama mentioned the country's $16.4 trillion debt load once and then, only to announce his stalwart opposition to slashing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (Thrush, 1/21).
Modern Healthcare: Obama Sees 'Hard Choices' On Health Costs
President Barack Obama used his second inaugural address to underline his promise to reduce federal healthcare costs without cutting benefits. In an address light on healthcare references, he never mentioned his signature healthcare law, which launches its major provisions next year. Obama's speech echoed campaign trail comments that while changes are needed to keep Medicare and Medicaid solvent, they should not impact beneficiaries. … In the run-up to another round of discussions on changes to the federal entitlement programs, Obama framed the federal healthcare programs in the sharp terms of a divisive election that turned in part on Republicans' proposed changes to the federal entitlement programs (Daly, 1/21).
Politico: Obama Dodges 'Hard Choices' On Entitlements
President Barack Obama insisted four years ago that the nation must make "hard decisions" to preserve entitlement programs. But on Monday, the "hard choices" he spoke of on health care and the deficit came with a major caveat: He's not willing to give up much (Budoff Brown, 1/22).
Medpage Today: Obama Highlights Health Issues In Inauguration
Health care received a couple of direct mentions from President Obama in his inauguration speech Monday, but he stood up for entitlement programs amid ongoing calls for changes. ... Obama seemed to reference changes for the programs that some say would only shift costs or add burdens to beneficiaries. For example, Republicans in Congress have called for transforming Medicaid into a block grant program or raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67. Rep. Jim McDermott, MD (D-Wash.), told MedPage Today Monday the president was trying in his speech to inspire hope we can come together to accomplish the nation's goals- including providing healthcare for those who need it (Pittman, 1/21).
From the Republican perspective --
Lexington Herald: Sen. Mitch McConnell Says Medicare, Social Security Must Change To Fix U.S. Debt
The nation's debt is its biggest problem, and the only way to fix it is to make changes in entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said Friday. McConnell, speaking to several hundred people during Commerce Lexington's Public Policy Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency, said those changes should include raising eligibility ages over time. "Only one thing can save this country, and that's to get a handle on this deficit and debt issue," said McConnell, the Senate minority leader. "No action means the demise" of entitlement programs, he said. "We have to assure they will be there for future generations" (Brammer, 1/21).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.