On February 24th, President Obama addressed the joint sessions of Congress for the first time in a 52-minute speech.
Obama’s national address focused heavily on economic issues. He discussed bank bailouts, saying that government assistance would be necessary, but must be controlled.
“When we learn that a major bank has serious problems,” he said in his Feb. 24 speech, “we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.”
Obama also took a swipe at Wall Street and what he called the irresponsible behavior of economic institutions.
“Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached and holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions,” he said. “I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending … This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks.”
As for health care, Obama was brief. Although he did not touch on the specifics of his plan, he said that his goal is “quality, affordable health care for every American.”
The president will release his budget on Feb. 26, and said that it will include more specific plans for health care reform start-up funds, as well as setting aside money to extend benefits to people who have lost their jobs.
“The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform,” he said.
Obama added, “Let there be no doubt: Health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.”
Medicare reform was also mentioned as the president vowed to “root out the waste and fraud and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier” and has led to the growing cost of the program.
The president also mentioned the creation of a tax-free universal savings account program, which many analysts say might be a way to reform Social Security – a growing concern as more and more citizens reach retirement, and fewer young people have jobs.
To read more about how the Obama administration’s plans may affect your practice, click here.