Weekly remarks: GOP's Scott Brown vs. Obama; jobs vs. healthcare
Hello, I’m United States Sen. Scott Brown from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
When the people of my state elected me in January, they sent more than a senator to Washington – they sent a message. Across party lines, the voters told politicians in Washington to get its priorities right.
And from my travels and conversation with people throughout this country, they told me that they want their president and Congress to focus on creating jobs and reviving America’s economy. Instead, for more than a year now, we have seen a bitter, destructive and endless drive to completely transform America’s healthcare system.
In January of last year, unemployment hit 7.2% and our economy was hurting badly. But, early in President Obama’s term, he and the Democratic leadership of Congress made takeover of healthcare their first priority.
Today, times are even tougher across our nation when it comes to our economy. Nearly one in 10 Americans are still out of work. And still, the president and Congress are focused on ramming through their healthcare bill, whatever it takes, whatever the cost.
Maybe you remember what President Obama promised in his State of the Union address. He said....
...he was going to finally focus on jobs and the economy for the remainder of this year. I applauded him for that. Well, here it is, it’s almost spring. And what is he out there talking about again? That same 2,700-page, multi-trillion dollar healthcare legislation.
So, an entire year has gone to waste. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and many more jobs are in danger. Even now, the president still hasn't gotten the message.
Somehow, the greater the public opposition to the healthcare bill, the more determined they seem to force it on us anyway. Their attitude shows Washington at its very worst – the presumption that they know best, and they’re going to get their way whether the American people like it or not.
And, when politicians start thinking like that, they don’t let anything get in their way – not public opinion, not the rules of fair play, not even their own promises.
They pledged transparency. Instead, we have a healthcare bill tainted by secrecy, concealed cost, and full of backroom deals – and that’s just not right. They should do better. The American people expect more.
They pledged a true bipartisan effort. Instead, they have resorted to bending the rules, and they now intend to seize control of healthcare in America on a strict party-line vote.
In speech after speech on his healthcare plan, the president has tried to convince us that what he is proposing will be good for America. But, how can it be good for America if it raises taxes by a half-trillion dollars and costs a trillion dollars or more to implement? In addition, how can it be good if it takes another half a trillion dollars away from seniors on Medicare, and still includes all the backroom deals you have been hearing about for months?
Well, for the past year or more, the new establishment in Washington has tried again and again to sell this plan to the American people. But the Americans aren't buying it, and for good reason.
And now, what’s going on is a last, desperate power play. They actually tell us that passing the bill is necessary, if only to prove that something can get done in Washington.
Well, I haven’t been here very long, but I can tell you this much already: Nothing has distracted the attention and energy of the nation’s capital more than this disastrous detour. And, the surest way to return to the people’s business is to listen to the people themselves:
We need to drop this whole scheme of federally controlled healthcare, start over, and work together on real reforms at the state level that will contain costs and won’t leave America trillions of dollars deeper in debt.
This, above all, was the message that the people of my state sent to the president and the Congress in the election over a month ago.
You know some of my Democratic colleagues, you know, are being leaned on mighty hard right now. Speaker Pelosi and others are handing down their marching orders, telling them to vote for this bill no matter what.
Rarely have elected leaders been so intent on defying the public will. For many members of Congress, the time for choosing is near – do what the party leadership demands, or do what the people have asked you to do. If my colleagues don’t mind some advice from a newcomer, I’d suggest going with the will of the people.
After all, from the very beginning of this debate, the American people have called it correctly. In every part of the country, Republicans and Democrats have agreed on serious, straightforward, commonsense healthcare reform. They expect us in Washington to do the same – working together, acting fairly and by the rules, and staying focused on the need to make the American economy as strong as it can be.
That is the business that brought me here on an unexpected journey to Washington. And, it’s the responsibility of everyone sent here to serve our country. We can do better – and I challenge my colleagues and the president to do just that. I’m Sen. Scott Brown and thank you very much for listening. ###
Lost in the news of the week was a headline that ought to be a source of concern for every American. It said, “Many Nations Passing U.S. in Education.” Now, debates in Washington tend to be consumed with the politics of the moment: who’s up in the daily polls; whose party stands to gain in November. But what matters to you – what matters to our country – is not what happens in the next election, but what we do to lift up the next generation. And the fact is, there are few issues that speak more directly to our long term success as a nation than issues concerning the education we provide to our children.Our prosperity in the 20th century was fueled by an education system that helped grow the middle class and unleash the talents of our people more fully and widely than at any time in our history. We built schools and focused on the teaching of math and science. We helped a generation of veterans go to college through the GI Bill. We led the globe in producing college graduates, and in turn we led in producing ground-breaking technologies and scientific discoveries that lifted living standards and set us apart as the world’s engine of innovation.
Of course, other nations recognize this, and are looking to gain an edge in the global marketplace by investing in better schools, supporting teachers, and committing to clear standards that will produce graduates with more skills. Our competitors understand that the nation that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow. Yet, too often we have failed to make inroads in reforming and strengthening our public education system – the debate mired in worn arguments hurled across entrenched divides.
As a result, over the last few decades, we’ve lost ground. One assessment shows American 15 year olds no longer even near the top in math and science when compared to their peers around the world. As referenced in the news report I mentioned, we’ve now fallen behind most wealthy countries in our high school graduation rates. And while we once led the world in the proportion of college graduates we produced, today we no longer do.
Not only does that risk our leadership as a nation, it consigns millions of Americans to a lesser future. For we know that the level of education a person attains is increasingly a prerequisite for success and a predictor of the income that person will earn throughout his or her life. Beyond the economic statistics is a less tangible but no less painful reality: unless we take action – unless we step up – there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential.
I don’t accept that future for them. And I don’t accept that future for the United States of America. That’s why we’re engaged in a historic effort to redeem and improve our public schools: to raise the expectations for our students and for ourselves, to recognize and reward excellence, to improve performance in troubled schools, and to give our kids and our country the best chance to succeed in a changing world.
Under the leadership of an outstanding Education secretary, Arne Duncan, we launched a Race to the Top, through which states compete for funding by committing to reform and raising standards, by rewarding good teaching, by supporting the development of better assessments to measure results, and by emphasizing math and science to help prepare children for college and careers.
And on Monday, my administration will send to Congress our blueprint for an updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act to overhaul No Child Left Behind. What this plan recognizes is that while the federal government can play a leading role in encouraging the reforms and high standards we need, the impetus for that change will come from states, and from local schools and school districts. So, yes, we set a high bar – but we also provide educators the flexibility to reach it.
Under these guidelines, schools that achieve excellence or show real progress will be rewarded, and local districts will be encouraged to commit to change in schools that are clearly letting their students down. For the majority of schools that fall in between – schools that do well but could do better – we will encourage continuous improvement to help keep our young people on track for a bright future: prepared for the jobs of the 21st century. And because the most important factor in a child’s success is the person standing at the front of the classroom, we will better prepare teachers, support teachers, and encourage teachers to stay in the field. In short, we’ll treat the people who educate our sons and daughters like the professionals they are.
Through this plan we are setting an ambitious goal: all students should graduate from high school prepared for college and a career – no matter who you are or where you come from. Achieving this goal will be difficult. It will take time. And it will require the skills, talents, and dedication of many: principals, teachers, parents, students. But this effort is essential for our children and for our country. And while there will always be those cynics who claim it can’t be done, at our best, we know that America has always risen to the challenges that we’ve faced. This challenge is no different.
As a nation, we are engaged in many important endeavors: improving the economy, reforming the healthcare system, encouraging innovation in energy and other growth industries of the 21st century. But our success in these efforts – and our success in the future as a people – will ultimately depend on what happens long before an entrepreneur opens his doors, or a nurse walks the rounds, or a scientist steps into her laboratory. Our future is determined each and every day, when our children enter the classroom, ready to learn and brimming with promise. It’s that promise we must help them fulfill. Thank you. ####
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Photos: Getty Images; Associated Press; Chuck Kennedy / White House.