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Remarks by the President and the Vice President at Opening of Fiscal Responsibility Summit
Vice President Joe Biden: Mr. President, I want to begin by thanking all of you for being here today. Represented in this room — with notable exception is some of my old friends — what’s represented here in this room are the finest minds in the country, representing a wide range of views across the political, ideological and academic spectrum. And today we’re asking you to help us begin to tackle the challenges of our nation’s long-term fiscal situation.
We explore — we are going to explore how we got where we are and begin to debate where we need to head. We hope this summit will generate a healthy debate, because we truly believe that the best course is — to arrive at the best answers is to have that debate. It won’t be easy, to state the obvious.
I think we all know that we have inherited unprecedented budget deficits. And this has made all the more difficult the nearly unprecedented economic challenges the country is facing today.
So the problem will not be solved overnight — that’s news to no one in this room. But we want to be clear: As we take the steps that we must to get through the crisis we’re in now, we will not lose sight of the long term. We will not lose sight of the need to tackle unmet needs for health care reform, to deal with the energy policy that we need, and so many other challenges that are going to determine what the 21st century looks like. We must be direct with the American people about the budget difficulties and the choices we have to make. And we should be straightforward with them throughout this whole process.
I have always believed that in the toughest moments we are presented with the greatest opportunities as a nation. There’s no question this is a very tough moment. But it’s also a real opportunity to both put our economy back on track and restore fiscal responsibility — and that’s why we need all of you.
Our first speaker will be Dr. Mark Zandi. Dr. Zandi is the chief economist and cofounder of Moody’s Economic — excuse me — Moody’s Economy.com, where he directs the company’s research and consulting activities. He’s one of the best big picture guys in the business. His most recent book, “Financial Shock,” was widely praised for its lucid explanation of the housing bust. What’s less well known about Mark is that he donated the royalties from that book to a fund to invest in low-wealth neighborhoods. He was also an economic advisor to John McCain’s campaign. And I’m glad he’s here with us today.
Following Mark will be Robert Greenstein, founder and executive director of the invaluable Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Bob and the Center are very well known to us, as they have been the go-to resource for consistently reliable analysis on matters of budgets and fiscal policy at every level of government. Bob