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Weekly remarks: Lamar Alexander for the GOP, Obama for himself

April 25, 2009 |  3:00 am

The White House at dawnr

The Republican Party's weekly remarks today are made by Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. President Obama's comments appear below. The GOP talks this week about the need to grow the nation's nuclear power industry, while Obama discusses the need to reform the way Washington works.

Sen. Lamar Alexander:

Do you remember a few years ago when our Congress got mad at France and banned French fries in the House of Representatives cafeteria?

We Americans always have had a love-hate relationship with the French. Which was why it was so galling last month when the Democratic Congress passed a budget with such big deficits that it makes the United States literally ineligible to join France in the European Union.

Now of course we don’t want to be in the European Union. We’re the United States of America. But French deficits are lower than ours, and their president has been running around sounding like a Republican -- lecturing our president about spending so much.

Now the debate in Congress is shifting to the size of your electric and gasoline bills and to climate change.  So guess who has one of the lowest electric rates in Western Europe and the second lowest carbon emissions iRepublican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennesseen the entire European Union.

It’s France again.

And what’s more, they’re doing it with a technology we invented and have been reluctant to use: nuclear power.

Thirty years ago, the contrary French became reliant on nuclear power when others wouldn’t. Today, nuclear plants provide 80 percent of their electricity. They even sell electricity to Germany, whose politicians built windmills and solar panels and promised not to build nuclear plants. 

Which was exactly the attitude in the United States between 1979 and 2008 – when not one new nuclear plant was built. Still, nuclear, which supplies just 20% of all U.S. electricity, provides 70% of our pollution-free electricity.

So you’d think that if Democrats want to talk about energy and climate change and clean air, they’d put American-made nuclear power front and center. Instead, their answer is billions in subsidies for renewable energy from the sun, the wind and the earth.

Well, we Republicans like renewable energy, too. 

We proposed a new Manhattan Project – like the one in World War II – to find ways to make....

...solar power cost-competitive and to improve advanced biofuels. But today, renewable electricity from the sun, the wind and the earth provides only about 1 1/2% of America’s electricity.  Double it or triple it, and we still don’t have very much.

So there is a potentially a dangerous energy gap between the renewable electricity we want and the reliable electricity we must have.

To close that gap, Republicans say start with conservation and efficiency. We have so much electricity at night, for example, we could electrify half our cars and trucks and plug them in while we sleep without building one new power plant.

On that, Republicans and Democrats agree. 

But when it comes to producing more energy, we disagree.

When Republicans say, build 100 new nuclear power plants during the next twenty years, Democrats say, no place to put the used nuclear fuel.

We say, recycle the fuel -- the way France does. They say, no we can’t.

We say,how about another Manhattan Project to remove carbon from coal plant emissions?  Imaginary, they say.

We say, for a bridge to a clean energy future, find more natural gas and oil offshore.  Farmers, homeowners and factories must have the natural gas. And more of the oil we’ll still need should be ours, instead of sending billions overseas.

They can’t wait to put another ban on offshore drilling.

We say incentives.  They say mandates.

We say, keep prices down. Democrats say, put a big new national sales tax on electric bills and gasoline.

We both want a clean energy future, but here’s the real difference: Republicans want to find more American energy, and use less.

Democrats want to use less – but they really don’t want to find much more.

They talk about President Kennedy sending a man to the moon. Their energy proposals wouldn’t get America halfway to the moon.

We Republicans didn’t like it when Democrats passed a budget that gave the French bragging rights on deficits. So we’re not about to let the French also outdo us on electric and gasoline bills, clean air and climate change.

We say find more American energy and use less. Energy that’s as clean as possible, as reliable as possible, and at as low a cost as possible. And one place to start is with 100 more nuclear plants.” 

Audio of Alexander's remarks is available here.    ###

Weekly Remarks by President Obama


Good morning. Over the last three months, my administration has taken aggressive action to confront an historic economic crisis. As we do everything that we can to create jobs and get our economy moving, we’re also building a new foundation for lasting prosperity – a foundation that invests in quality education, lowers healthcare costs, and develops new sources of energy powered by new jobs and industries.

One of the pillars of that foundation must be fiscal discipline. We came into office facing a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion for this year alone, and the cost of confronting our economic crisis is high. But we cannot settle for a future of rising deficits and debts that our children cannot pay.

All across America, families are tightening their belts and making hard choices. Now, Washington must show that same sense of responsibility. That is why we have identified $2 trillion in deficit reductions over the next decade, while taking on the special-interest spending that doesn’t advance the people's interests.

But we must also recognize that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking. So much of our government was built to deal with different challenges from a different era. Too often, the result is wasteful spending, bloated programs, and inefficient results.

Democrat Barack Obama speaks to credit card company executives in the White House while adviser Lawrence Summers doesn't listen

It’s time to fundamentally change the way that we do business in Washington. To help build a new foundation for the 21st century, we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative.

That will demand new thinking and a new sense of responsibility for every dollar that is spent.

Earlier this week, I held my first Cabinet meeting and sent a clear message: cut what doesn’t work. Already, we’ve identified substantial savings.

And in the days and weeks ahead, we will continue going through the budget line by line, and we’ll identify more than 100 programs that will be cut or eliminated.

But we can’t stop there. We need to go further, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to reforming government. That’s why I’m announcing several steps that my administration will take in the weeks ahead to restore fiscal discipline while making our government work better.

First, we need to adhere to the basic principlethat new tax or entitlement policies should be paid for. This principle – known as PAYGO – helped transform large deficits into surpluses in the 1990s. Now, we must restore that sense of fiscal discipline. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass PAYGO legislation like a bill that will be introduced by Congressman Baron Hill, so that government acts the same way any responsible family does in setting its budget.

Second, we’ll create new incentives to reduce wasteful spending and to invest in what works. We don’t want agencies to protect bloated budgets – we want them to promote effective programs. So the idea is simple: agencies that identify savings will get to keep a portion of those savings to invest in programs that work. The result will be a smaller budget, and a more effective government.

Third, we’ll look for ideas from the bottom up. After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers – not just management. That’s why we’ll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We’ll put the suggestions that work into practice.

And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective.

And finally, we will reach beyond the halls of government. Many businesses have innovative ways of using technology to save money, and many experts have new ideas to make government work more efficiently. Government can – and must – learn from them.

So later this year, we will host a forum on reforming government for the 21st century, so that we’re also guided by voices that come from outside of Washington.

We cannot sustain deficits that mortgage our children’s future, nor tolerate wasteful inefficiency. Government has a responsibility to spend the people's money wisely, and to serve the people effectively.

I will work every single day that I am president to live up to that responsibility, and to transform ourgovernment so that is held to a higher standard of performance on behalf of the American people. Thank you.    ###

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Photo credits: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press (White House at dawn); Office of Sen. Alexander; Getty Images (Obama addresses credit card company execs while Lawrence Summers snoozes).

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